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Vacances (Sunday, 2011 July 10)

July 10th, 2011

I’m writing this from Boris’s apartment in Douala, where I am kicking it for a few days before flying home. I think technically we’re not supposed to be here if we can avoid it, and certainly not while clandoing for a few days to start your vacation early, but Boris is from my village, and he insisted — "At least three days" — so I couldn’t very well refuse, could I? I’m just being a good Cameroonian. That I love cities, and want to get an insider’s view of this one, is just gravy.

I think I packed everything I wanted. I’m a little afraid I’m going to forget something, but it isn’t the same kind of panic that I had when I was preparing to embark on this whole two year adventure. People can mail things, or you can just buy them, and most of the things I brought from home, I don’t use anyhow. I’m a little worried I’ll fail the people who asked me to bring things for them — either Volunteers, who asked me to bring (for example) hard drives, or Cameroonians who asked me to see if I can’t buy on their behalf computers or cameras or whatever. There are a few, the ones I love best, who have asked for adorable things. Sure, Samuel, I’ll bring you a Rubik’s cube! Sure, Guillaine, I’ll get you some hand sanitizer! Whatever you ask!

I’ve been moody the last few days. I don’t think this is the same "I got dumped" blues I’ve been coping with for the last few months — at least, I hope not, since as Allison says, it’s poor form to spend more time moping than the relationship itself lasted. Instead I think it’s a preview of what I’ll have from leaving this place for good in a year. Partly it’s melancholy, even though this time I know I’ll be coming back. Another part is anxiety coming from a voyage into the unknown. Home is familiar, and I tell myself that this will just be like that time in college when seeing the New York skyline again at winter break, I cried. But even familiar means potentially unknown, and nobody likes the unknown, right? (So then why am I a Volunteer?) Let’s be honest — most probable outcome is that I’ll bore people to death with too many stories that start with "In Africa, …". But I worry about fitting in, about being a foreigner even at home. Service changes you — we all agree about this — starting with our liver, but other organs too. And if home is where the heart is…

Of course, this is all coming from someone who usually goes out of his way to be different from other people. And I’m still planning on wearing a boubou on the flight home. So maybe it’s just the more mundane worries of trying to fit everyone and everything into three and a half short weeks. Given an even more finite timespan than normal, I’m even more terrified of a spare moment than usual, with the predictable result that I’ve already double- and triple-booked some days. Shit! This is why I have a calendar! And I just realized I haven’t contacted Garwood at all! What are you doing, comp sci??

This week’s advice: take a deep breath, and think about root beer floats. I’m going to eat and drink so much, guys. I told Barbara I was going to put on at least 10 kg, which is going to take a certain amount of effort, but I think I’m up to the challenge. I’m going to make hamburger smoothies. I’m going to double fist chocolate soy milk and raspberry vinaigrette. It’s going to be the land of roses.

It’s raining here in Douala — rainy season, you know — which is rendering the terrible, soup-like climate downright bearable. We’re in a neighborhood with a slight Fulbe presence and we ate dinner at a restaurant where we sat on a mat on the floor. You can see the airport from the window, and periodically you can hear a plane taking off.

"I’m sorry, mum and dad and bro
I couldn’t stay. I had to go.
To London. With someone.
Before I come undone.
‘Cause where I’m from’s a humdrum town and I don’t want to die."

—Vanilla Swingers, "I’ll Stay Next To You"

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