Clando (Sunday, 2010 November 21)

November 21, 2010

Working here as a volunteer with the Organization is a 24/7 job — you don’t "go to work", you "take leave". And leave is scarce. You get 24 days a year "for free"; you get to travel sometimes for committee meetings; you get a week off for training with other volunteers; and there’s a new policy of "mental health days" which maybe gets you a few more. Altogether it’s maybe 40ish days a year, which Respected Directress keeps saying is a lot of vacation, except it’s not vacation, it’s weekends, and it’s hardly any weekends. Which is fine; we’re here with the Organization to suffer, and if things were too easy we’d be unhappy.

Nevertheless, to make up the difference a bit, there’s a volunteer tradition of something called "clando", which means leaving your post without officially taking leave. Apparently the more accomplished volunteers have managed to leave the country without notifying anyone. The Organization tends to frown upon such things, not least because of safety concerns — if there’s an emergency, they need to know where you are fast. But Cameroon’s a pretty safe place, right? So what’s the big deal?

I’ve been hesitant to write about my experiences flouting the rules, despite the fact that this blog explicitly violates the rules, but I just realized that the worst they can do is send me home, So, screw it. Plus, other volunteers are posting fucking Youtube videos!

This past weekend I was at a party in Bangou, followed by a cultural ceremony called the Zeuh Dance, which is apparently "performed" exactly once by a chief to honor his departed father. I say "performed" despite the fact that it wasn’t a thing he specifically did, but maybe something he put on. A large number of people danced while more-or-less walking around in a circle, and other people fired guns. (Traditional guns. This seems to be a pattern here in the West.) It was a lot less impressive than I was hoping it would be, but maybe I was just too tired from being up too late the night before.

Wrote to myself that night, the night of the dance party:

19 nov 2010

Party at Bangou. All the Cameroonians are gone. It’s 1 AM, roughly 3:30 AM in the Cameroonian context. Mostly sober now. Music is still going on, still loud, and a few PVCs are still dancing to it.

Stood on the balcony here at Xxx’s. Looked down for a while at the bobbing and weaving below, the Americans spinning and dancing to a jazzy swing tune. Four of them, two nominally attached. Looked up at the horizon, where there were maybe a dozen points of light, few enough that you could count ’em. A fluorescent light maybe at a lycee or something, a radio tower with blinking red lights, maybe a private residence here and there. Looked down again, saw the four Americans again. Realized that for better or worse, they’re my family now, so better get used to it.

Which isn’t like "man, fuck these guys for being in my family". It’s more like a recognition of an existing fact. Then there was more drinking and a few aborted attempts at dominoes — it seems like actually finishing a game of any kind at a party just doesn’t seem to work — and then I went to sleep on my sleeping pad, which has a leak or something, but did the trick. Dreamt about something warm and pleasant, perhaps failing my students. Woke up with the other volunteers. Watched the ceremony. Risked traveling at night to get home Saturday night instead of Sunday morning. Collapsed, woke up Sunday due to "the boys" knocking at my door.

There is a video that some people talked about at the party. It’s pretty funny to me. Not sure what you will think of it. You know you’re an *Organization* volunteer in Africa when… My favorite line is: "Spiders are no longer your enemy, but your trusted ally in the constant battle against bugs."

Other news: the poule de Dieu stopped by for a visit again today. She scratched around a little for crumbs, and "the boys" chased her out after she tried to sit on one of the armchairs. I’ve been thinking about what the logistics of keeping her would be, what that would even mean. Could she stay in the other bedroom? Should I build a coop for her, like mom thinks?

It’s past my bedtime, otherwise I’d post a panorama of the view from the balcony in Bangou, or write about how amazing the well was. Later, I guess…

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