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Sister (Friday, 2011 June 24)

June 24th, 2011

I know I haven’t been writing much lately. I’ve been traveling a lot and the other thing is I just haven’t been as stressed out recently, maybe because I’ve been traveling a lot. And if I’m not stressed, I don’t write as much.

One of the more tiring things about this country is being around people who don’t really get it. Maybe it’s Westernization; I don’t think it’s the language because my host family in Bafia is as reassuring as the family I’m among right now, the "family" of an Anglophone lady named Barbara who started a conversation with me on the way down to Yaoundé. She’s about my age, married, no kids, job with a bank, and the "rest" of her family is in Yaoundé; this is just a bonus offshoot. She’s my big sister now, and I’m her little brother. Her "sister" Patience is a teacher and her "mother" Thèrese is a vice principal in a bilingual high school here in Bafoussam. Everyone knows about Organization Volunteers and how we work; a Volunteer named Jill was here once. I’m picking up a bit of Pidgin, the grammar of which could probably be written on the back of a business card, but the vocab of which is a little slower going. "Hear" can mean "to understand". "Chop" is "food" or "to eat". Thus Timothy’s nickname for Jake, "Boss Man Go Chop". Also, a great phrase to know in Pidgin: "Ah go chop your pussy, na?" "I’m gonna eat your cat, OK?" We’re breaking open a bottle of wine now, which dovetails nicely with the last week of Hilton Happy Hours, sachets, and box wine. I’m gonna spend the night here; as "mom" says, "An African house is never too small."

Passed through Bafia a week ago to see if I could see the new stage, and to see my host family. Nadege just composed the Bac, I’m rooting for her. Interesting cultural side note, Nadege used "air guillemets" when we were talking about a certain Volunteer and his "host sister"/ex-girlfriend. Astride is still.. Astride, and Hyacenthe and Christelle are still there. My host family got a new stagiaire, who was sick while I was there, and once I got chased off the grounds of the training center, I retreated into the role of protective family member. Our new stagiaire is like a part of my family now, just as thoroughly as Barbara. The new stagiaire says Astride just keeps telling her about all the guys from the stage that she wants to have sex with. Some things never change!

At first I was a bit skeptical of the new stage, but what I saw of them on balance gave me a certain amount of confidence. They’re about to embark on site visit, and we got a couple near us (including the redhead Preston), so I might be able to show the new kids around the block. I’m excited to see how this all plays out! We need more nerds in my region.

I spent the last week in Yaoundé for Mid-Service, a set of medical tests that revealed only that I haven’t been trying hard enough to get intestinal parasites. We’re all very disappointed. After Jenny performed it drunkenly once on me, I’ve started wearing my hair in a braid, which looks slightly less ridiculous than the ponytail I have been wearing since I got here, and slightly less "aging ungracefully" than the hair-down style I default to otherwise.

One other somewhat interesting thing is the weird American that apparently passed through Foumban (tourist destination in the West) and was unable to purchase some traditional art pieces because he was refused. Two different Foumban art vendors have contacted me to ask me if I can act as an intermediary. The American in question called me and spoke to me a little in a French with an accent I couldn’t figure out at all, like the kind of accent you might expect to find on a German used to American English who was trying to learn French. He asked to speak only French so he could improve his French — which wasn’t too bad; verb conjugations were very fluid and there were no awkward pauses. Maybe he was reciting a preprepared speech. The whole situation tweaks me in a bad way — something doesn’t add up here. Both vendors? An American with a distinctly non-American French accent? Someone who was unable to buy something? I’m terribly uneasy, already trying to limit the damage and trying to figure out the "angle". Some kind of reverse-419? Who’s conning who? But for the moment I have very little information so all I can do is wait.

So all in all it’s life as usual in Cameroon. Summer vacation is the best! Lots of love to you all 🙂

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