Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Puddles to Swallow a Car, and Friends to Fill a Heart

Dear all,

Speaking of much-anticipated travel... The rainy season is coming to close - the passing giant thunderstorm only lasted 20 minutes, and there are even some days now when it doesn't rain at all. There are, of course, still roads with huge, sloppy, and wet impasses (through which we still pass), but their number is dwindling. **As soon as I find time and a good Internet connection, I will upload pictures of today's road-forging. It was crazy to look out of my 30┬░-from-the-vertical slanted door and find myself staring directly into, from 1 foot away, a deep watery hole. We were completely surrounded by UNCHARTED WATERS (do I dramatize??!), and I really don't know how we managed to pick the twisting, rolling, underwater route that kept the car dry inside.** I no longer have to fear wearing my khaki pants to work (it always rained on my way home, and I invariably arrived at the door with red mud-spotted slacks for the first two months), or will see the miserable and unfortunate sous-quartier in the valley behind the house, regularly drowned by daily torrents. As dry as we were in our house on high, it was impossible to be entirely comfortable, knowing that the hidden poor residents of Bastos - our neighbors - were busy keeping pillows and backpacks from floating out of their houses.

In any case, the dry season is a great time to travel, and we will go to Sabga on Friday for the Ramadan fete. Tomorrow is a mandatory mosque-and-feast day (we have to pray a little to eat a lot...makes G-d's bounty seem awfully large and responsive to piety!), so I will stay home from work and dutifully celebrate. I have lots more travel planned - and although there are new plans, likely to change in the coming weeks, I will refrain from sharing my travel itinerary for the umpteenth, and not the last, time.

The dancing experiences are, as usual, amazing - we went on the Assiko stage again on Friday, this time for an extended 5 minutes or so, and it was so much fun! I actually got nice recognition from the audience members (mostly male), but the only person to come up and give money was a woman (which makes me feel good, in that it was probably somewhat genuine). She gave me 500 CFA, about the equivalent of 1 USD, and actually a decent tip for a dancer here... I know that she was probably commending me more for my guts to don Asskio costume and dance my heart out on stage, than for my professional-quality moves, but I am not arguing or complaining. Alla, Estelle, and I are admittedly a bit of a spectacle - truly the "white girl act", with our bright matching skirts and the announcer's loud pre-performance introductions - but there is no shame in it! We get better every week, and our two dance instructors, Bao and Olivier, are totally committed to our progress. They make us practice at home (but never invite themselves over), call us if we are late (and not to see if we'll meet them for dinner), demand our time and attention (but no money at all), and avert their eyes when we take our pants out from under our voluminous skirts (for no other reason than to ease the movements, and they never suggest otherwise). Everything about our dance instruction could be sketchy - from the small back room with frequent light outages, to the bare feet and dirty potholed floor, to the sexy hip movements themselves - but it is not so. In a city whose nightlife is treacherous and forbidding at worst, unpredictable at best, we have found a haven of good intentions, pure professional interest and joy, and supportive friends! When your greatest concern about night-time safety is settled by wearing socks to protect your pretty little feet, you know that you have found a good place to spend your Friday nights.

I have to go, but I need to share a few notes: This week I saw my first machine gun (why does a machine gun and Guinness beer service, found together in the cybercaf├ę [only Cameroon!], make me uneasy?), our malaria conference issues (my ridiculous Swiss company wants to set fireworks off of the President's Convention Palace, as part of their 4-minute private symposium presentation!!!), and a fantastic weekend with Estelle - swimming, watching an original Cameroonian film with her friend the producer, and really pleasant house visits with friends. I nearly petrified a baby who had never seen a white face before (the crying really makes you feel wretched, even though you know it's normal), but the rest of the house time was so nice and sweet and friendly - that I think it must really be the best way to visit a country. If I knew enough people, I would love to spend all my free time (except for a few hours reserved for the solo mountain climbs) in others' homes, looking at photo albums and playing with their adorable kids.

Love to you all. Please keep your feet clean, so I don't have to worry about you.



Blogger Anny said...

Mara, I'm hunting around for stuff on organize help and this on Puddles to Swallow a Car, and Friends to Fill a Heart has been interesting. I'm developing a course for organize help. Nathan

3:01 PM  

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