Standfast (Saturday, 2011 October 8)

October 8, 2011

Today’s the start of "standfast", our state of heightened awareness due to elections. Naturally, I’m tipsy, just got back from drinking with M. Teukeu (have I told you about M. Teukeu? Only my FAVORITE CAMEROONIAN EVER including my host family) and my neighbors (all teachers, so like family). M. Teukeu somehow got appointed to an electoral commission or something. He’s going to be leaving tomorrow bright and early to make sure the elections are conducted fairly, while I’m going to be sleeping until at least 8 AM, probably later, and then correcting papers until I no longer care about anything (i.e. probably Monday). Did you know I’m a contact Volunteer? Well, I am, charged with the duty of ensuring the security of my village (me and my postmate) as well as neighboring villages (Charmayne, Kim), and also bigger cities than us (Liz, Kalika). So let’s talk security.

Standfast is like level 1 of a list of "shit is happening" states. It’s like code yellow. It means "stay in your stupid village and try not to do anything stupid". Our standfast (this time) is going to go until around the 24th, during which time the elections will hopefully have concluded safely with everyone satisfied with the way there were performed (spoiler: the current president is going to win). But maybe things won’t be that simple. Maybe there’ll be some riots or even a real political action, in which case, please be aware that: After standfast is "consolidation". Consolidation means "get together with nearby volunteers so if we have to send cars to find your inebriated ass, it’s at least straightforward for us". If we get to consolidation, it’s pretty much a ticking time bomb, because at that point we’re in someone else’s house (unless we consolidate at my house, in which case I’m good), we’re living out of our backpacks and showering in a pit latrine, and we’re running out of money and it basically comes down to: do we go back to post and try to continue our lives? OR do we evacuate this fucking hole-in-the-ground, leave them to sort out their issues and continue with our lives? We can’t punt this question forward forever — if (as Mike said) it’s a coup, then no big deal, give it a few days and we’ll be back before breakfast. But after X days, it becomes a civil war, and the Organization is very, very concerned with the safety of its Volunteers. So either we’ll let it go and return to state 0 ("normal") or we’ll go to state 3, Evacuation, which involves everybody going home, or some subset of Volunteers going home, probably carried to the airport in those giant Range Rovers the Organization drives amidst gunfire and riots.

I’m not concerned, of course. M. Teukeu (in numerous discussions on the subject — and despite my fictional writings, I’m not encouraging locals towards armed revolution) has quite reasonably pointed out that this country loves peace, and that peace is one of the foremost concerns for people like him. He doesn’t want to live through another génocide Bamiléké where people watch their own families being killed/raped in front of their eyes. And as much as I want to get out of this country, I can’t blame him. Nor can I blame the other Volunteers (i.e. every single one I’ve asked except for me and Jenny Wang) who are eager to finish/start their work in this country and have nothing to gain from an evacuation except frustrated ambitions. I’m the only one who wants to go home, who wants to pack it in and start with my Real life. Because this isn’t, it turns out, what I’m here on this earth to do. I’m here to write software, believe it or not, and the extent of what I can do here is therefore kind of limited.

(Can I take a minute, therefore, to talk about France? I’m scanning the "génocide Bamiléké" page that I linked to and among other things it says (in French) that "According to Shanda Tonme, the silence about the genocide is explained by the privileged position occupied by France in today’s world and the lack of patriotism on the part of Cameroon’s leaders". OK, sure. Pop quiz: who the fuck cares about France? Seriously. Do you think their political might is worth a damn? How about their economic prowess? No. The only thing I care about chez the French is their wine. So why the fuck, where the fuck do Cameroonians get this idea that the French are this global power? Movers-and-shakers? Fuck, stop speaking French and just listen for once.)

So here’s where shit might get real, but for the benefit of all the other Volunteers who don’t want to go home, I hope it kind of doesn’t actually get real. I hope it remains as placid and peaceful as it normally does in this country. I hope that for their sakes, as little changes tomorrow, the 9th, the elections, as has changed in the last thirty years. (Paul Biya. Isn’t it interesting? Cameroon being a democracy with a political head who’s had power for thirty years, who is still considered "the last of Africa’s ‘strong man’ dictators".) And in the meantime I’m correcting my feuilles, the tests from the last half-week of exams, for the first sequence. Only five more repeats of this bullshit, and then I’m home free..

P.S. Got an MP3 for you! I’ll try to rip it and hopefully upload it tomorrow, amidst all the grading.

[Edit: so incoherent when I blog drunk. M. Teukeu spent the night here because he normally lives far but has to supervise elections here in my village.]

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