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Sahel (Thursday, 2011 April 14)

April 15th, 2011

Maroua is the capital of the Extreme North region, which (together with the North and the Adamawa regions) are called the "Grand North". The first, best way to access the Grand North is via the train, which goes from Yaoundé to Ngaoundéré, and then buses from there as normal. As you take the bus to Maroua, you can’t help noticing the climate. Outside is not green, as in the Grand South, but instead sandy and beachy. It’s hot in the bus, but assuming you convince a Cameroonian to open a window, the wind blowing in from outside is even hotter, hot and dry, like a blast furnace. Even cold drinks in the Extreme North don’t "sweat" condensation like they do down here; there just isn’t enough moisture in the air. I wish I were able to use words like "Sahel" and "Harmattan" convincingly here, but I’m not. It’s just so hot and so dry. We went through bottle after bottle of water on our trip to Waza National Park (see previous picture), which we saw from the top of our van (!). Jenny took the picture, btw; that’s her in the checkered kerchief at bottom of the picture.

Music was a theme for this trip, starting on the train up to Ngaoundéré with trash80 – "pain fade down" and Ballboy – "I Lost You, But I Found Country Music". I was tasteful with my portable music player, but Cameroonians often fill the silence with music, especially music from their telephones, which prompted Austin to fight back on the bus to Maroua with music from his. We started with the wonderful "Fuck You" by Cee-Lo Green, and then some stuff by Tupac I think. Austin said this song starts with a sample from Star Trek 5, or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, once he shared this bit of information, he told us that he had "broken a Knowledge Egg on your head-piece".

Similarly, on the way to Waza, we felt a need to break into song. Turns out Yaya has some sort of battery-operated portable speakers. First song: La Roux – "Bulletproof". This is the song that kind of got me into all this mess, way back in stage, and so I guess it was fitting that it get me out too. Ashes to ashes and all that. There’s a bunch of other musical selections too. I’ll make you a mixtape sometime. TL;DR: Oh radio! You’re so good at simplifying my complex emotions!

Consensus is that I’m suffering from "[Organization] goggles", a phenomenon where your vision is limited to the 150-200 Americans in the country with you rather than realizing that in fact, there are plenty of fish in the sea, plus other aquatic life if you get really desperate. Sure, maybe. Doesn’t matter what it really is. In the meantime it’s housekeeping, closing all the windows I left open and trying not to feel sheepish or nonplussed, sweeping out and throwing away all the things that mattered to me and replacing them with safe, unimportant things. (Is that too sanitized for you, Esther? I thought it was pretty clear. Send me an email and I’ll translate.)

Also with regard to music:

I’m not the boy I used to be
And although I’ve more or less accepted it
Although I’m no longer trying to change it
I still regret it
I regret it every day

—Ballboy, "I Hate Scotland"

I was startled to find that I didn’t feel that way any more. I don’t regret who I am. I’m more or less exactly who I want to be (for the moment — despite what I said earlier that maybe this isn’t who I want to be). Actually? Honestly, I kick ass. For once I don’t feel like a confused little boy, lost in a world too big to understand. I feel like I understand exactly what’s going on and I am prepared to deal with it.

Other stuff: Red Dwarf episode 103, "Balance of Power". I have all these tests I have to grade, but I keep watching episodes of Chuck (and hey, blogging). Outside, it keeps flirting with rain, and lord, do I need a rainstorm, but at the last minute it always turns away coyly. Turns out I have a hirondelle, "swallow" nest on my veranda. Business as usual, no?

P.S. All my love to Adam, Jen, Jenn, Suzanne, my parents, Aunt Jeanie, and all you wacky characters from back home. I miss you.

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