Smell you later (Saturday, 2010 August 21)

August 21, 2010

Lots happened in the last few days, the conclusion of which is my installation here at my post. We’re all officially Volunteers (with a capital V). Let’s try to break it down a bit.

One: the impending.

Somehow, and I have no idea how really, I went from "fucking tired of these stagiaires" to "I am about to lose these people who are fairly important to me". This made the final few days before swearing-in/departure fairly ominous and morose. The only real obligations I had were packing and trying to hang out, when possible, with the stagiaires I liked the best. I had mixed sccess with the latter, but I guess the truth is there never are enough last days. Jenny writes, "I can honestly say that if we were stranded on an island I would not vote anyone off."

It’s strange indeed that I had such a change of heart, but I guess I should have seen it coming. I didn’t think I had space in my heart for 43 strangers, so now I’m left wondering who got bumped off the list.

Two: the ceremoning.

Swearing-in happened Thursday morning "as planned", with the following notable exceptions.

  1. The DJ had a set of electronic sounds that he liked to add at random to the event. Did you ever have a toy gun with 7 firing noises? Those were the sounds. So, for example: someone would be making a speech into the mike. "Long live the cooperation between Cameroon and the United States of America!" "[Whistling noise. Explosion.]" It was like fireworks I guess?
  2. Jenny was selected to give a speech in French. She did excellently, thanking the families for having taught us how to cook, to eat, to do laundry, but unfortunately, they didn’t teach us to carry things on our heads. She ended with advice to us: "Be courageous, be adaptive, and [puts on sunglasses] be superstars."
  3. My host family wasn’t at the swearing-in that I could tell. They got to the follow-up luncheon late (so, much like my real family). Claude later apologized profusely, possibly because Lindsay chewed him the fuck out.

The morning of, I got to watch my host father back a pickup into the wall surrounding my host family’s house, which is made of cinder blocks. Francis found this pretty amusing, but for fear that the cinder blocks would fall, decided to push the ones that looked impending.. which caused a large section of wall to fall and shatter. As they were falling, Francis turned to me and said, "Fuck!" in English. Good times.

After the ceremonies, I spent a little time with my family, but not too much, because there was:

Three: the partyening.

One of our number apparently had the great idea to book a bunch of rooms at the local hotel to enable us to celebrate in style, not have to go back home to our host families, and possibly hook up without going into a cornfield. I left my host family early to see how things went, and though they took a while to get started, ended up being a pretty good time. Highlights include:

  1. Significant amounts of delicious gossip about who was likely to hook up with who, who was dancing scandalously with which host sister, etc. This is not interesting at all unless you’re in the social group so I’ll spare you. However, if you’re my stagemate and you hook up with someone, feel free to tell me via email.
  2. Serious Man-Chat with Timothy about our respective memberships in the Lonely Hearts Club. Our last conversations with our respective significant others were a little stilted and I think we’re taking it a little too seriously. Jessica W. says "Don’t borrow trouble" and also "Don’t act like douchebags, because you guys aren’t." I think part of the anxiety was caused by the impending move, feeling stressed, wanting to be comforted. But now we’re here at post, there are no threats to our relationships for hours around so I guess we win by default?
  3. Dancing. The song "Fuck the Pain Away" by the Peaches came up about thirty times. Subtle reference to the film "Lost in Translation" or a simple lack of musical taste? You be the judge. What else is in the teaches of Peaches?
  4. A certain amount of chauvinism.
  1. "Poisson brassé" or grilled fish with Jenny and Allison.
  2. Some rooms even had air conditioning or running water. I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the AC so I just sweat bullets for the few hours I actually tried to sleep.

Sadly, someone’s camera got stolen during all the fun times. Possibly also a wallet, although I think not?

Four: the departening.

And so it came to pass that we dragged our asses out of bed and got everything together to depart. Group 1 to the East and the Far North left first, heading for Yaounde to crash for the night. Group 2 (the rest of us) hung out for a few hours until the bus showed up, and then piled in with all our stuff and headed for the West. My family came to see me off; Claude cried a little bit when he hugged me, but then he and Lindsay started smooching. Being a privileged third party in a relationship makes me think of Jenn and Johnny back home (naturally, there are differences).

As the bus started to ply its way along the road West, with the peppy local pop music or whatever blaring out of the speakers, someone said "So long Bafia!" Timothy: "Yeah, smell ya later."

Something about these bus rides with their terribly cheerful music and the rolling green hills always makes me think of movie montages. This time, though, the music changed to a tape of 80s classics, and then after that it became Michael Jackson. Riding in a coach bus to a soundtrack like that makes it easy to forget you’re in Africa for minutes at a time.

Eventually got to my post with only a little heartache and with a certain amount of money in my pocket. House is still totally empty. I’m going shopping today for a start — hopefully get some buckets and some chairs up in this joint. Internet is feeble but workable. Waking up cold is a welcome change of pace, but maybe I’ll get a blanket too.

I feel like there’s a lot more I wanted to say when this was all happening, but I didn’t get time and now I’m running late so I guess it’ll have to do. Wish you were here, etc.

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