Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pas le meme chose

I made a short list of things, here in Cameroon that I think I understand but translated or given an american meaning, they're not the same. Pas le meme chose. ....

Men hold hands here. It's a friendship thing not a romantic gesture. Homosexuality is actually illegal.

Just because there is a price tag on an item, which price tags really aren't the norm, it doesn't mean the price isn't negotiable.

While having a beer... and someone says "Are you well?" In Cameroon you should say back "No man, no well or me chest be well" Otherwise if you say that you're well then the person will ask you to make him well too. As in buy him a beer. A girls night out has a different meaning too. If a girl is alone having a drink, she is most likely a prostitute. Smoking a cigarette.. probably a prositute. If I go out with a group of girls, no guys, we're probably all prostitutes.

There was two people in front of me at the teller desk at the bank the other day. Unconsiously thinking back to the countless times I'd waited in line at a bank in the states, I'm thinking that it's going to be a 2 minute wait. Silly me. It took 30 minutes before I was at the teller counter.

Cameroonians are very friendly. They always say hello and shake everyone's hands when they enter a room, ask how your family is, etc. People always ssay "bon appetit" when you're eating. Very friendly. But there are other things they say that in the states would seem extremely rude. Like when you're eating lunch, and someone says "hey where's my part? where's my lunch?" Or in refering to food, clothes, items around the house, or anything people would say.. "Could I have that?". Why not ask right? If you've put on weight, they'll always say something about that, but it's not an insult.

You can say anyone is your sister or brother. I do it all the time, it's just easier saying that trevor is my brother instead of my friend who comes over and hangs out at my house. Cameroonians call people their brothers or sisters all the time too. I think that's why it took some of us so long to figure out just how many siblings were in our homestay families. So you just have to ask "is this your vraiment sister?" meaning true sister.

Food is another pas le meme chose. Cameroonians eat tapioca, but it's not a desert. It's made out of manioc, I think, but it tastes like a cold grainy soup with sugar and peanuts. Couscous is also very popular here, I think I've talked about it before. It's not middle eastern couscous, but a glooey pasty ball of mashed up manioc. Manioc is a root plant here, with no nutritional value that I know of, and is very filling.

On another note, I'm not sure if this has come across in my blogs or not, but I really really like living in Cameroon. I love the east province, people here are wonderful and i'm starting to crave cameroonian food (the other day I had juice from a hibicus that was sweetended and ice cold, it was amazing). I'm really happy being here and just incase I haven't extended this invitation formally, anyone at anytime is more than welcome to visit. It wouldn't be your typical vacation, but I promise it would be an experience.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sounds of Cameroon

In an attempt to draw the best and most accurate picture of cameroon, I thought I'd let you know what it sounds like here. Lets start off in the morning. 1am, 1:30am, 1:33am, 1:34am.. who ever said that roosters crow when the sun comes up was completey wrong. I think they actually sleep from around 8pm to 12pm, and then commence driving me insane sometime after midnight and throughout the day. They're so loud I swear the run right up to my window and "cock-a-doodle-doo". It's not a pleasant sound really.

At 4:30am the prayers at the mosque start. It's so dead quiet at that time, that I can hear crystal clear the prayer called from a half a mile away. It's pretty cool. They also pray at night, around 7:30 I think. I can hear it everytime.

The pigs at the pig farm directly outside my bathroom window (yeah it smells), they get fed at 7pm. This is no cute Babe or Wilber from charlette's web having breakfast... no, it's more like a screeching and whinning and it sounds revolting.

Ducks usually come out in the morning, hang out waddling around on my roof throughout the day. These are big ducks, must not be the brightest in the flock because they fly in and crash on my tin roof. It sounds like someone's is up there trying to break in (that's often how people break into houses here)scares the crap out of me. When the little birds walk around up there, it only sounds like mice crawling in my ceiling. Not that much more comforting. But what is comforting is when I think about how I nice roasted and laquered ducks would taste along with a side of cranberry and beet greens. Sounds lovely right?

The sun comes up at 6:30 everyday, so does every cameroonian, way before that even. I always hear kids, they're outside 20 hours a day. The median age here is 19. Pretty young, 40% of the population is uner the age of 14 years old.. lots of kids. They laughplay, scream, cry. I have never been around so many kids. Cameroonians LOVE to laugh too. Often, they like to argue too. Music plays all day here.Celine dion, bryan adams, cameroonian pop, traditional cameroonian music, chris brown you name it. News radio is usually on. If you're neighbor is blaring music or their tv, that means you need to turn yours up louder. Dogs are another loud animal, they're all street dogs. Gangs of dogs that probably have made a bad decision to be involved with another dog at one point that may or maynot have rabies. Not nice dogs.

In between these noises I'm reminded that I live on the African continent. There are so many georgeous birds here, I feel like I'm in a bird santuary. Tons of frogs and crickets or what ever those bugs are, that make it sound like I live in a pond in the country. Yeah well those are here too, but really loud.

When I walk to town/through town I hear "Nassara", "ma blanche" "ma chere" "ma coeur" "watt" and other words and phrases thankfully I don't yet understand in french or in the local language. Translated, it's the white, my white, my darling, my heart, won't you take me to america with you? give me money. i'm going to be your husband yatta yatta yatta. And when I say I hear this in town, I mean I hear it 20 times in 2 hours. It's not all bad though, some people are very polite. And I am white, but if you're going to call me that, don't be rude. Say good evening white. Then I'll say good evening back.

Another noise in town.. when you want to get someone's attention you make a "Ssssss" sound. Kind of like hissing, but without the "H" sound. At first I thought hissing at a waitress, a cab driver, or a vendor is extremely rude. That was before I realized how effective it was. Even the quieteist of hisses will stop a moto driver speeding along to pick you up. I think they can hear it from miles away. The other sound to get someone's attention is a kissing sound. This I definitely hate. I'm not saying everyone yells nassara or hisses, some people say madamn or miss.

This is the golden rule of driving: honk your horn. Driving is mostly moto's here in the east, vehicles are a huge sign saying "important person in the province like the mayor or something, or foreign aid workers, or foreigners in general". There are a few taxi cars but here they're mostly taxi moto's. So anyway, when you pass another moto, honk the horn. Someone's driving too close, honk. Want to pick up a passenger, get some random person's attention walking by, turning a corner, comming up to an interection... honk honk honk. I'm not exagerating when I say my moto driver will honk a dozen times within 2 miles. Sometimes I can't even figure out why. Maybe because if you're happy and you know it you honk otherwise I have no idea.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

minor challenges

So the past 4 days or so we've been without running water. As I so simply said before in my last post, "oh not a problem" there's a well in the front courtyard. It's really not that huge of a problem, it just takes me 3 times as long to do anything. The water's not that clean, so I'll boil it first. To filter the water to drink, I have to wait for it to cool down again. Bucket baths, bucket dish washing, bucket toilet flushing, etc etc, you get the picture.

It did come back on yesterday though! And then there was a huge storm last night that blew out the electricity. It gets dark here at 6:30, really dark. No electricity, no problem, other volunteers live without it all the time. Only difference is that they're prepared for it. I search around for my flashlights, remembered that I think i've lost half of them already, but find one! Turn it on and a couple seconds the batteries die. Instinctively I search for the tv remote to raid the batteries and I remember I don't own a tv. I've got a canteen though, but no kerosine. So in the dark I found one candle in the bottom of my luggage and then my trusty wind up flashlight. I heard from our neighbor that hopefully it will be back on in a few days because the transmitter broke or something along those lines. Most people don't have generators just because they're so expensive and gas isn't cheap either.

Anyway, the best part of the wind up flashlight, well first of all it was a going away gift. And a wonderful one at that! So I brought this rather large windup operation out into town the other night, and my cameroonian friends LOVED IT. We were sitting there talking, and they were just cranking it up (charging it) which is kind of work. But they were determinded to see the green light come on significating that it's fully charged. They think it's entertaining, I think it's beneficial. Then I said I had the adapters to it to charged phones, and they started winding it up even faster.. until the handle broke off. LOL. Everything here is fixable by superglue, I'm really not worried about it, at all. Rechargable anything is still wonderful.

Final challenge of the week/my life here is trying to act like I belong here. When you're visiting/living in a foreign country it's best too put on that "blank expression of competent invisablitly.. which makes you look like you belong there, anywhere, everwhere" I stole that part from a book I'm reading because I think it summed it up pretty nicely. I have to pretend to look like I'm not lost when I have no idea where I am. I need to take that shocked expression off my face when I ask "what's menu du jour?" and they say "monkey". First of all because it's rude to look like digusted and secondly I'll really look foreign. It's almost unnatural to not look people in the eyes when I'm walking down the street but it only causes more comments or invitations for remarks. It's hard walking with determination and calmness when this city seems so busy and unstructured.

Day by day, little by litte. In swahili, Haba na haba, hujaza kibaba. In french peu a peu. In pidgeon, small small catch monkey... I'll get better.