Saturday, September 17, 2005

Raging Adolescence, Taxi Mayhem, and Romance (ha!)

Dear all,

I think that homestays really are an interesting thing. In one week, one month, or however long it might be, a person has to grow up in and into a new family. It*s like an accelerated child development process - would it be too much if I referenced Piaget here? My first day or two was characterized by timidity and difficulty in expression; but rather than cry like babies do, I just spoke slowly and awkwardly (¨if it pleases you, would it be nice to go to on take a hike today, papa? please will you pass me the water that is in a bottle?¨) My last entry was a window into my three-day parent idolization and adoration phase, when everything was perfect; I was sure that Mother Theresa had been named after my own Maman Therese. Then the storm clouds rolled in...and yesterday (ironically, the first day without rain), my adolescent rebellion and doubt kicked in. Today, I*m a blossoming, fully developed, beautiful, perfectly self-understanding, happy young adult! ...Ahem, as you should well know.

We were spending the day au village - meaning, way out in the fields, where people have no electricity, farm all day and eat only in the night, walk two or three hours to town to sell their goods if they need cash, and basically live the hardest, poorest life I have ever experienced. I still had a good time, because Cameroonians are naturally good hosts, and wouldn*t have it any other way. So there I was, drinking beer with the chief of Fongo-Tongo village, sharing in the TWO excessive dinners that were served to him, and playing with all the kids of the compound. Nonetheless, it was impossible to not notice the regular way of life... In the morning, when I was given a heaping bowl of cous-cous and sauce for breakfast, the kids of the house cracked their teeth on burnt corn kernels, and carefully tucked away a handful for their school lunches. Not knowing if this was socially acceptable - but knowing in my heart that it was necessary, and in my stomach that the last night*s double helping was still filling me up - I snuck handfuls of cous-cous to a baby girl when her mom was out of the room. (I should have known that she wouldn*t be the neatest eater, and when her sticky hands exposed the scheme, and I had to confess. They just laughed.) Then the kids were off to school, and I went into the fields with the chief*s second wife and youngest baby to weed the onion field. Maman was to meet me there at 09.00 to begin the walk back to Dschang.

I had been feeling a bit strange about my relationship with Maman since earlier the previous day; I felt I had portrayed myself as giving a bit too readily (I handed out lots of presents, gave her TUMS and anti-acid meds for her heartburn, every day brought back food for the household, and finally made the mistake of showing her my present bag for the rest of the trip...from which she openly ASKED to take a DVD player, even though they already have one!), and she was taking advantage of me. So, when she didn*t show up until 15.30, I honestly thought that she was trying to abandon me! I was about to cry, I was so homesick... But thankfully the chief*s wife was wise beyond her years (3 kids and a hard life at 25 will do that), and she told me that a woman of means would not go walking with someone if she didn*t want to talk to them...Therese could easily afford a taxi. So we ended up having a wonderfully long walk back, during which she explained that she got stuck at a funeral and couldn*t leave, and, again, that Cameroonians are always late - so get used to it. She treats me with love and care like she does all the other kids, but also trusts that we can get along for ourselves. Good to finally know...I*m just another kid in the family.

I*m glad we didn*t take a taxi. Not only was the walk really nice, but the taxi ride to the village had been horrendous. First of all, picture the most beat-up car you*ve ever seen: doors don*t close, the front seats are tied in with rope, the back doesn*t shut, the sides are stripped of their coverings to reveal a decayed metal skeleton, and the floor is so low that you can feel every sizeable rock pass under your feet...this thing would be as good as smelted at home. Now, stuff 8 people into it: an XL driver, an XL man, and two unfortunate women in front; my curvy Maman, a regular-sized woman, another curvy (and ancient) woman, and myself in the back. I will add that my ancient companion was noshing on a fish from a plastic bag and talking angrily for the whole car ride - spewing fish pieces, bones, and contemptuous words all over me. Ahhhh. I gave up on enjoying the countryside, and slept.

Today I went for my first run (yes, amazing!), and will go soon to say goodbye to the SIT people. I leave for Yaounde tomorrow morning, but will see the SIT students when they come into the city, and will surely be back in Dschang - in November to go to a funeral (amazingly huge, elaborate, joyous affairs here, usually years after a person*s passing, to celebrate and honor a life), and in December with my family. I spoke to the Yaounde parents (Aline and Jonas) yesterday, and they seem really nice. But is this settled young adult going to shrink to a teary infant again? Wa wa wa, on va voir...

There is one other ¨necessary¨ homestay experience, which I forgot to mention. The eldest boy is seriously after me (single American girls are always warned of this) - no doubt because of the intense romantic experiences of washing lettuce, cutting pineapple, and doing origami. The other day he asked me if I would like to marry an African (and, not surprisingly, expressed great interest in marrying a foreigner). I think I am supposed to be impressed with his openness? Or the funky disco dances he keeps doing in front of me?? I dunno.

Lots more love,


P.S. Can*t find the damn apostrophe on the French keyboard. Oops, please pardon my French. :)


Blogger Britt Phillips said...

Technology that took on a hurricane
NEW YORK: While big media covered the mass destruction brought by Hurricane Katrina with helicopter images and satellite weather maps, blogs have been telling stories with similar force, but on a much more ...
Hi, I was just blog surfing and found you! If you are interested, go see my business opportunity for woman related site. It's pretty cool and you may find something of interest.

7:36 AM  
Blogger pai hearts mara more said...

olala...funky african dancing. I think that's a big turn-on. You should go for it! Just be careful not to show him your 'hey boys.' Your adventures sound so exciting. I miss you a lot and look forward to your next post!

4:42 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home