Mount Cameroon (Tuesday, 2011 December 27)

December 28, 2011

Haven’t written in a while. It’s been busy; since coming back from the Maroc I’ve been back to post, then to a wedding, then, in a fit of senselessness, to Mount Cameroon. A bunch of people climbed it last year, and although I was never really interested in going up there, word on the street was that it’s hell, but worth it for the descent on the other side (lava fields and crap). Apparently dry season is the best time to climb Mount Cameroon, which for Education Volunteers means Winter Break. Everyone else in my stage has either already climbed it or had no interest in climbing it, so I was unable to convince any Volunteers to come with. Instead I went with Boris. Boris has some weird male-ego bullshit going on, and so it was important to him that we prove that we were very strong, and especially that we were stronger than the group of women, including my postmate, who had made the journey a few weeks ago.

I will spare you the details of just how the trip went. I will tell you that we didn’t make it to the top, due to some kind of foodborne illness afflicting both me and Boris. We turned around about the middle of the second day, and managed to get back to Buea, the nearest city, by nightfall. Over the two days of hiking, I got to listen patiently to Boris as he talked, variously, about: how strong he was, how strong we were, how weak I was, (after he threw up) how weak he was, and finally about how strong we were. Then: the singing. Francophones singing English songs generally involves a lot of mumbling and guesswork. "We Are The World" is not improved by such treatment.

One way or another we got down without my stabbing him and then crashed at Allison’s. Allison’s brother and his wife are in town for a couple weeks, and we got down in time for Christmas. When in Rome, make Romanade, so me and Boris joined them for Christmas on the Beach in Limbe. Nice place.

Boris recently bought a CD of Nigerian music. Cameroonians are often quite eager to play music, sometimes even when other music is already playing. Accordingly, we got to introduce Allison’s family to the latest musical craze — the equivalent of their Top 40 being played to death across the nation — which is to say that if you know anyone in Cameroon at all right now, they are probably hearing this song (hi Lauren’s mom!). It’s called "Chop My Money" by Nigerian band P-Square (so-named because its members are the brothers Peter and Paul). The lyrics do rely a little bit on some cultural background — in this part of the world, purchasing things for someone is a completely legitimate way to earn their affection. The bigger the purchase, the more the affection. "Chop" is Pidgin for "to eat" or "food", and so a girlfriend might legitimately be expected to chop your money. Which seems like a bad thing, but the singer of this particular song is saying that he is completely willing and even eager for the object of his affection to chop his money, because she’s so beautiful and he has so much money ("Cos I get ‘am plenty").

Uploaded: 01 – P-Square – Chop My Money.mp3 (MPEG ADTS, layer III, v1, 128 kbps, 44.1 kHz, JntStereo, 4.0 MiB)

I’ve also been reading REAMDE, by Neal Stephenson (thanks Allison!). I’m not quite finished with it yet, and as such I’m a little hesitant to say very much. I will say that in my opinion, REAMDE may sometimes look like Stephenson but is not Stephenson. Which is to say it’s more like Tom Clancy. The review says that each Stephenson book is completely unlike the others — which is true to an extent. But there’s always at least one big idea which is to an extent the spine of each work — whether it’s the Metaverse, post-national United States, cryptography, platonic ideals, or gold — and in REAMDE the spine of the work is just a simple adventure thriller. Cryptonomicon is the comparison I keep coming back to — which is also a great yarn, but a nerd yarn, mostly about nerds. In REAMDE the nerds are almost peripheral to the story. Example: "REAMDE" is the title of the book and for a while it seems like it’ll be a plot point. Spoiler alert: It’s not. The writing is also tangibly different — thorough, meticulous, almost plodding. I’m enjoying it all the same, of course — but it’s not really what I was expecting.

Other than that I found myself interacting quite politely and with kindness and friendship to a student at the lycée, which hasn’t happened since the beginning of my service. Guess I had a refreshing vacation.

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