Good Afternoon, Bon Soir, and Beum Beu Goré as they say here in Nanga Eboko. I have started taking Ewondo (local language) lessons for which Peace Corps will reimburse me. The lessons are given by neighbour, Achille. When I leave this country I will be QUADRILINGUAL. I can just imagine sitting through a job interview back in the states while the interviewer reads through my resumé:
“Oh, I see that you speak several languages. French, okay…Spanish, uh huh…wait! YOU SPEAK EWONDO!? Mr. Banick, this is great, we have been looking for an Ewondo speaker. Its such an important language in the world market. PLEASE accept our offer. How does 2 million per year sound?”
“Of course, Mr. Banick, this is America.”
“6 months vacation per year?”
“Well, I don’t think that’s p-”
“Do you want an Ewondo speaker or not, buddy?”
“yes, um, agreed, 6 months vacation. So can we have you?”
“Ma di coupe. That means I eat chicken, in ewondo. And no, you cant have me, I cant stand working 6 months out of the year, that’s rediculous. Good bye NTANGEN (White man)”
Ah, what an interview that will be. Anyway, back to reality.
Yéyé, the little 3 year old who lives in the house behind mine came up to my door the other day. She was just standing on my porch, seemingly doing nothing, with a completely uninterested look on her face. When all of a sudden, she started to urinate on my door step. She’s just standing there, urinating, on my doorstep, like its nothing. I yell “Yéyé! Qu’est que tu fait? (what are you doing?)” She just stares at me, giving me this look like “what does it look like I’m doing white man? A little privacy please!” When she finished she just walked away, casually, like it was nothing. Does she pee on everyone’s doorstep? Is this a facet of Cameroonian Child Culture that I have yet to discover? No, according to her 5 brothers, she just pees where she wants to. So as I’m trying to clean it, my little cat (named black man) comes over to have a taste…just crazy I tell you, the things that can happen on my front porch. Luckily I removed Black Man (my cat) from the puddle before he got to drink it.
The gender of my cat (named Black Man) has been determined. White Man’s cat is indeed a male. Black Man is a male. Thanks for the gender determination tips GMA and GPA.
I know, you are still waiting for pictures. Here’s the deal: I have no AA batteries for Camera at the moment and the one’s they sell here are too weak to power it. I figure, since Blake will be here 2 weeks from today (WOOOHOOO, its about bloody time), and since he is a professional photographer with a full arsenal of high powered photographic weapons, I will let his pictures do the talking. He is going to take MANY MANY MANY pictures of our grand adventures all over Cameroon, and they will all be posted. You can count on that. Please trust me here. As long as Blake hasn’t screwed up his Visa Application, or lost his Yellow Fever Vaccination card, there should be no problems. Please, don’t screw anything up buddy, please.
What else. Oh, I’m getting really good at carrying buckets of water. Its becoming my daily workout. Trekking down the old dirt path to the water source. The best time to go is around 10 a.m. when kids are at school, otherwise the place is like Water world (the water park). Children everywhere, waiting in line to get water, bathing, cleaning, having water fights, staring at me. One of my buckets is labelled “Laundry” in black marker. I was at the water source the other day when I overheard a little girl tell her friend “see, the white man’s name is ‘Laundry’, its written right there on the bucket.” I had to clarify things for these confused little girls. I can handle being called ‘white man’ all the time, but I will not be known as ‘Laundry.’ That is unacceptable.
Since my house is on the dirt road that leads to the high school, I am treated to a parade of gawking high school students everyday around 3pm as they walk home from school. Some of them just stare at me. Some of them make comments about me which I can hear (Either they think I don’t understand French, I am deaf, or they just don’t care). I hear things like “look, the white man cleans his dishes.” Or “I hear the white man keeps his cat INSIDE the house, like a child.” Or, “who is this WHITE MAN?” Sometimes they just yell “BLANC!” or “WHITE.” I tend to ignore or just stare back at everyone, except for the yellers. I always talk to the yellers. They say “WHITE!” and I say “BLACK! Come over here for a minute.” They are usually a bit taken back by my demands, but they always end up coming over. I give them a little lecture about me having a name, that it isn’t White, or Blanc, just as their name isn’t ‘black’ or ‘noir.’ They listen with open ears, and they are usually very good about calling me Allen every time they see me thereafter. That is one of my Peace Corps projects, and it is quite a success.
My other projects involve cleaning my house (a never ending process, the second I finish, the dishes somehow get dirty again, dust builds up again, and all the stuff I put away has found its way back to where it shouldn’t be. I am a very messy neat freak. My house is either a disaster area or it is immaculate.) I also play a ton of SCRABBLE with my post mates Richard and Stan. We play SCRABBLE all over town, usually at a bar in the company of a cold beer. I also read a ton. There is a great library on the University Campus where I will be teaching that Richard is working on organizing. There is a whole selection of books in English and French, covering all subjects.
I am really enjoying myself in Nanga Eboko. I haven’t really started doing much ‘real peace corps work’ here, but I am quickly realizing that ‘real Peace Corps work’ is the stuff that isn’t ‘Real Peace Corps work.’ It really involves hanging out with the neighbours, knowing the culture, communicating, sharing ideas. People are getting to know me and my culture, and I am getting to know them and their culture. It’s a great exchange and I am learning a lot from it just as they are.
I have IST (In Service Training) week after next. I will be at a hotel for a week, and rumor has it, they will be showing the super bowl there, and there is a swimming pool. That will be FANTASTIC. Five days later, its HELLO BLAKE NOLAN. For the next month after that, it’s the craziest adventure ever embarked upon. You will read and see all about it.