So, here I am: back in Cameroon and very quickly falling back into the same routine I was in before I left. My house is a little fuller of American goodies and photos, but it’s also a lot fuller of red dust, dead insects, cobwebs, and wood-dust left for me by my friends the termites. The seasons changed while I was gone, but otherwise, things are the same as I left them. The best way to put it is: it’s a relief to be back.
I know I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been trying to culture myself and read big pieces of literature I’d never read in the US. For the past month or so, I’ve been leisurely working through Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and the other day I found this gem of a dialogue between characters Adam and Samuel about Samuel’s upcoming travels to visit his children:
“You’ve earned it. You’ve worked hard enough on that dust heap of yours.”
“I love that dust heap,” Samuel said. “I love it the way a bitch loves her runty pup. I love every flint, the plow-breaking outcroppings, the thin and barren topsoil, the waterless heart of her. Somewhere in my dust heap there’s a richness.” (Chapter 24, section 1, p. 297)
It’s a begrudging love and one that you have to laugh at yourself for, but this dry season, Batouri is my version of Samuel’s dust heap. I can’t easily explain what it is that I love about Batouri—it’s loud, messy, unpredictable, and far from glamorous, but it’s mine and definitely full of possibility. A lot of the things that I love about it here are the things that make it difficult and frustrating to live in. I’ll be the first to criticize Batouri nine times out of ten, but it remains that I’m possessive, defensive, and loyal to my town to the core. I feel the same way about America. It’s a blessing to be in love with two places that are so different and that offer so many different things.
It was great to be back in America and to spend time with family, friends, bad television, an oven, and a non-foam mattress, but if you’re reading this, I probably saw you, talked to you, or you’ve chatted with my family, so I’d rather save some space in this entry to talk about things that aren’t my vacation. You’d think coming back would be difficult; no one in their right mind would be glad to be without electricity again, right? I feel cleansed and refreshed, though. I’m feeling like I can finish out this last year strong. One last year: that’s all I have left to do and learn everything that I’m missing. I’ve spent more time in Cameroon than I have left on my contract. Mind-blowing. Cue a few long minutes of self-reflection.
Since coming back, things have been calm. School’s are out for break, and everything in town is pretty slow (minus a steady growth of toy vendors that keep popping up everywhere.) I’ve had a few meetings since coming back, but otherwise have mostly spent time trying to catch up on cleaning, catching up with friends, and trying to avoid getting hit by the motos. Oops. My friend tells me December is the month when secret societies who do evil and various spirits/sorcerors try to meet their quota of evil deeds by causing motorcycle and car accidents; I’m attributing the increased number of accidents to people drinking too much because of the holidays and not being able to see well because of the dust. Cultural lesson of the day: superstition holds a special place in the heart of Cameroonians. Whatever the reason for all these accidents, I’m doing a lot more walking than usual. I like the idea of keeping my head attached to the rest of my body. I also like the idea of someday being able to navigate through the nooks and crannies of my neighborhood without having to ask someone what road I need to take home; one year down, and I still get lost trying to get home. Ridiculous. But, back to the realm of work.
I attempted to teach my youth group “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” which was mostly hysterical and adorable, but one of my older kids who’s in the English section of the Bilingual High School mastered it. Little successes, right? The kids are going to sing it at our Christmas party December 27th. We’re going to prepare Cameroonian and American food (American food being tofu and french fries…I’m sure the majority of you are cringing at that,) exchanging gifts of toys and school supplies that I’ve gotten as donations, and singing the song for the parents and government delegates who will hopefully show up. I’m also catching up to speed on the millions of changes that are happening at my host institution (the formation of a support group for people in town with Hypertension and Diabetes, the creation of a “governing council” with three separate arms to ensure that the group doesn’t get swallowed up into the Catholic Mission, the selection of new families to receive donations, change of days for donations, etc.)
On the horizon, I’ve got a big Christmas celebration to look forward to, a New Year’s Eve celebration with coworkers in village, the visit of my bestie from the US, Mid-Service with the other Youth Development Volunteers at the end of January, and serving as a trainer for the new Youth Development Volunteers at their In-Service Training at the end of February. It’s going to be a lot of back-and-forth from Yaounde and beyond, so here’s to hoping that things with transportation start calming down (which they should, since December’s already almost over!) It’s about to be a busy few months, so I’m relishing this last week of quiet and being alone at home!
For those of you who asked while I was home about easy, always appreciated things to send to me when I’m here: Crystal Light, packets of cereal and oatmeal, instant soup packets, instant coffee (bonus points for Starbucks Via!), tea, Ziploc bags, seasoning/sauce packets, photos, dried fruit, magazines, incense. I hope that helps, if not, I’m always happy to talk about what random American items I’m missing badly. Finally, for anyone who may want to know, I bought a second SIM Card for my phone—you can now reach me at either (237)74 05 79 85 or (237)98 82 41 29.