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I spent the whole day at home working on my laptop and cleaning every corner of the kitchen, then made some food and it got dirty again. I hate that. I used up my hard drive experimenting with photo formats. I typed July words and played scrabble for over an hour with the same old sample set. I stepped out to the boutique and chatted with my fish mama. She mentioned last week when I was eating breakfast someone commented that a white shouldn't be eating beans. I didn't even bother responding. She was proud! She's always been my protector.
I was restless, the electricity was out and there was light coming through the windows so at 1am I stepped out to appreciate the full moon. The sky was white, covered with a thick layer of high clouds and still I could see clearly by the power of the moon. I felt the height and the weight of the dome of our atmosphere.
The peer education & aides seminar finished today with everyone's presentations. 5 hours zoomed by. Everyone had to explain 2 things they'd learned and the range of new knowledge was impressive.
I should find sleep easily tonight.
We're in Abem for Union Training. Bienvenu played Songo during lunch with the man from Fang Bilone. I went over to watch. He'd been losing. A discussion broke out in Patois. The conclusion was translated. If Bienvenu lost the next game, the man from FangBiloune would take me home as his hostage, his wife. I asked which is it, hostage or wife? I was informed, very matter of factly that it's the same thing. Bienvenu ignored the chatter completely, stayed focused on the game. After winning by a long shot he sighed heavily and shook my hand with a smile.
I've spent my first night in the bush at someone's house. I spent the night in a bed with Cecile under a mosquito net. The open edge between the walls and roof magnified the night sounds. There's an unusual bird sound, an owl or woodpecker. People move around silently, the birds, crickets and roosters still overpowering the sounds of human movement. Wood is being chopped somewhere; buckets are filled with water and placed in bathrooms, smoke from cook fires starting to rise. I sit out front on a tree trunk waiting to see what will happen next, waiting for instructions.
Ha Ha ha… but I like her. Oh hee hee.
I know how he campaigns against people with vicious bitter insults. I haven't felt so ostracized, such a victim of fleeting focused meanness since I was 14. Refusing to sit around acting like I didn't hear it, walking into and out of a hushed room of 5 ‘friends', I got dressed and left early.
The swearing in ceremony for the new group of volunteers was very formal and touching. Most pcvs went back to Yaoundé, I hung back with Shannon and Adam for a calm night with the new volunteers.
It was cold and raining in Mbalmayo when I woke, I stayed snuggled in bed for another hour after Shannon said goodbye and left. I traveled back to Yaoundé, read my e-mail, printed some documents, submitted a request for certificates, watched a volunteer slideshow. A huge group went to happy hour at the Hilton. Andy, asking for peace by talking about unrelated topics wanted me to have dinner with him and Michelle. So I went back to meet them just before he flew off the handle at an administrator. Ah his drama. I came back early, am ready to crash.
Just walked back in the door, happy to be home. Several people wanted me to stay another night in Yaoundé, go to a party tonight, continue to hang out. But I was tired of sitting around for hours on end. My house needs cleaning, my life needs new order – like exercise and diet. At Inter-Voyage in Yaoundé I ran into half a dozen people I know, including the man from Fang Bilone who'd tried to win me in a game of Songo. He informed me that there will be a training of bank auditors in his town later this month.
Sunday morning at my laptop, it's quiet time that I enjoy. I spent the evening last night reading Midnight's Children and was inspired by his rich language, creative images and inter-woven characters. It takes enormous concentration for me not to miss anything. I should write a long page of stream of conscious fiction everyday on top of my 100 words. I want to spend another day in bed reading.
I sent Stefan a birthday text message but I don't know if he got it or not, I'm not even sure where he is today - London? Chicago? So very far!
There's a remarkable amount of commentary among western intellectual culture regarding the lack of development that persists in Africa and while their bathroom habits leads to an unfortunate amount of disease, the balance with the natural world is overwhelming. Weeds engulf broken down cars. It appears that the natural world of plants and wild animals will win more often here. Out in a poor rural village, I'll see dozens of different awesome butterflies. I get upset at the trees cruising by on trucks. But foreigners are buying. The developed world is completely cemented and we've chased away the glorious butterflies.
My closest girlfriend is suffering because she's found proof that her husband is trying to take on a second wife. Both people are central to my life here. I think of what I'd put up with and find that I've refused 4 serious marriage proposals in my life. Early the men weren't strong enough, not able to care for me. Then love came when we were both too immature to shoulder all that comes with it. Now men I meet want to control/ care for me. But I've already learned to care for myself. I just need good equal company.
People here live with each other in a way that only a small, impoverished town imposes. Your father accidentally killed a man and you end up dating the dead man's daughter, your father's second wife had an affaire with a man who becomes your neighbor, your neighbor is raising your husband's child. The school principals, shopkeepers, cooks, photographers, bus-drivers are all there. The guy who stood you up, the chauffer who ran over your chiken, the guardian who stole your money, they're all still wandering around town. You just have to learn to live with them and they with you.
We scheduled our aides education meetings for 5 villages this morning. Bienvenu wasn't back from Yaoundé yet. He has a full work schedule but he's up to other things as well…
I had a lot to do tonight but now I don't feel like doing any of it. I'm afraid that if I crawl into bed with my book I'll become hungry for the dinner I didn't prepare. Ants invaded my drink. I almost drank them up. I think they like plastic cups. I hate ants, especially those that like plastic cups. Maybe a hot bucket bath will revive me.
I'm too overwhelmed by e-mail to respond immediately. Shannon looked over and asked if I was crying and all I could muster was a wet faced nod. God my heart shifts when people reach out to me!
I came to town with an ATM taxi-men, shopped with him for 10 helmets. It took hours but he went home with serious helmets. I'm not certain they'll wear then but he assured me they're ‘a la mode'.
Anne. Abdoul. Anne.Abdoul. Changed my whole day, my whole mind set. I can't answer you en depth now but I have nothing else en tete.
I closed my eyes, opened my heart and jumped in like a rock star falling into a crowd, being supported, transported by the hands of strangers. I need the assistance of the community to find my way. They can assist me with my basic needs and accept my odd ideas or they can drop me on the ground and stomp on me. I have to trust them. That's what it takes.
I helped 4 new volunteers buy things for their homes today. It was fun negotiating for them but it exhausted me. I've just arrived in Ayos. Waiting for Felice.
We danced until 3am. Armel from Inter-voyage showed up. At 6am Felice's friends came back to get us for breakfast. I hopped into a 4 door car heading to Akonolinga. We picked up people along the way, push started the car each time. Eventually 9 adults were squished in the car (two in the drivers seat) with a young boy in the center, elbows on the edge of the front seats his shoulders bobbing, hips swaying to the music. Nobody else could move.
Family on speaker-phone from the cottage, too much static to hear them all. Baby monkey chez Bienvenu…
The bank is a pail and the money is water in the well to be hauled away and splashed down drains. The sight, the thought of money makes them heady, disrespectful, savage.
Plans disintegrate, quickly restructured. But I'm out of the loop, channels of communication have dried up like the Nyoung in the dry season and paths of cooperation have become overgrown like firefly alley after a week of rain. I withdraw cocooned in my books full of abstract ideas in foreign words. I feel impotent like the omnipresent child expected to follow along and speak only when spoken to.
Au village de Fang Bilone
This is Nico's village also home of the first CVECA. We've come here for a 4 day training for the Internal Auditors. I'm sitting in the Grand Salon of the VP of the CVECA, the home base of the training where we'll eat all our meals. Magloire, Aloys and I have bedrooms here. Bienvenu, Cecile and the 14 CIs have beds in other houses. Fang Biloun is a big village. I'll see more of it tomorrow. The wine is setting in. The man next to me is coming on idiotically strong. I need to retire.
I woke this morning, feeling like I'd just spent my first night in Africa, in a dusty cement box room dimly lit by lantern, with the window boarded up with plywood as thin as bark. I went into the cookhouse and asked where I should relieve myself. I washed in the shower closet without a door. I unpacked onto 3 nails. I just waved at some little girls and they're giggling. There's a constant chatter of different birds, the sky is high and huge, the light fades and brightens in the meeting room with the passing clouds. So much more…
I haven't seen a mirror in several days and I have some spots on my face that may need attention. The training, heavily focused on calculations, sucked up energy. Droopy-eyed love hung over my shoulder. My arms itch, a garden of insect bites. The mama of the house is insulted because I'd told her I'd taste anything and then I refused her palm wine. Her son asked me for a school bag. Teenagers are lined up waiting to see me dance at the empty party. I'm not a Muppet today, not in the mood for putting on a freak show.
Adult Internal Controllers with low levels of formal education from 15 different rural CVECAs were given numbers to copy, 35 operations to record and several formulas and told to create account balances. The light faded. Few could balance it. They stayed fixed trying to find their errors. Several lost sleep. This morning a mistake in the original balance was discovered. Nobody had verified the total they were given. Beinvenu announced that if they don't get this down, the week was a waste, they'd only come here for the meals. The exercise was redone, step by step together, everyone got it.
Inspired by the engulfing pages of Midnight's children, my brain rattles with words and threads interweaving all the colorful characters of my life here, their stories that I discover day by day as if page by page and how they influence my perceptions of history, the world, and my innermost nature. The light-hearted silly disordered words, descriptions and grandiose images that moments ago slipped from my pen are inhibited here by the interface of the keyboard, forcing me to stutter, altering the effect completely of the magical spell of the factitious world of Rushdies Midnight Children that I've just exited.
Last week I had the analogy of falling into a crowd with closed eyes. It takes a collective effort to sustain me, as to discourage me. This morning it clearly occurred to me that I could be working somewhere with people who actually have the will to collaborate, accomplishing much more and earning real money. I've been a volunteer exactly one year! I've another to go but if I'm not getting effective work done I'll be ok moving on sooner. We're going to Abem for a village meeting to talk about aides. I'm sure by nightfall I'll feel more accomplished.
Yesterday was long. The aides meeting in Abem went very well. The Chief's closing words were poignant. Everyone rushed off for the football match in town. Noticing the approaching rain half the crowd ran and half stayed getting completely soaked until the match was stopped. Eventually I walked home.
This morning, ATM was waiting for me in Bienvenu's office to apologize and tell me that they appreciate my work. The staff meeting took all morning. I'm expected to participate in an economic study for the CECA this week. I'm completely drained from my anger, frustration and ranting over the weekend.
The woman from Mifed left me a folder of 10 different questionnaires. It pained me to read them. I'm expected to administer the questionnaire in town along with a handful of interns. But I could have helped a great deal more with writing the questionnaire and designing the study. There are 10 categories but no screener or guidance on who fits into each, the layout bad, questions unclear, important questions missing and questions nobody will answer like how much money they have stashed at home. It appears to be too late in the process to put my expertise to use.
I've washed my hair and gotten dressed. I expect the taxi-men this morning to arrange the team for Zalom on Sunday. There's also an intern coming to meet me for the study for the CECA. We agree that it's hard and badly written but we'll try to get them filled out as best we can. So that's the day ahead.
It's allergy season – grass, rain, mud.
Sunday's football game was rescheduled for yesterday but the other team wasn't informed in time and didn't show up. Should happen tomorrow. The voice talking to Juliet outside is young, wonder who it is.
The elegance and tragedy of Mishima's Spring Snow linger in my altered conscious.
I visited Solange, stunted and confined in her misery while the kids crawled over me giggling, leaving traces of sand on my neck.
The story Juliet told me over dinner last night of her husband's affair with their neighbor still rattles through my thoughts.
Sitting on the stoop casting moon-shadows, enjoying the natural nightlight, Roland sat down next to me checking in on my solitude. Jeanah called needing a pep talk. The halfway mark of our service weighs heavy upon us and is so hard to measure.
Michelle wanted me to come into Yaounde today, planned weeks ago. This morning I didn't really feel like coming in but I needed to get my camera fixed and could use a trip to the bank, so I came. I found screws for the camera at central market but the camera still doesn't work. Major made a serious sideways play, I escaped to the bank, got blocked by rain, made it to the Hilton happy hour, finally met up with 4 other volunteers. We ate back at the Caely. I talked to Roger and discussed our communication problems. Nite nite
Well it's Saturday morning and I have to get home to figure out the team for the aides meeting tomorrow. I have all my laundry with me and the drier isn't working. I threw a sheet in the washer anyway. So I have my wet laundry to pack up, e-mails I want to answer, an empty stomach and I know I need to get to the agency soon or I'll be waiting all afternoon. Since the office wasn't open yesterday I'll have to come back soon to get my PC admin stuff done. I wish the drier was working now…
The day started melancholy, wanting a day to mutter at home. I haven't had a full day at home in ages. We went to Zalom for another aides education meeting au village. It wasn't as animated as last week in Abem but the taxi-men did a great job explaining the essentials and answering questions like "If aides is so dangerous, then why hasn't the white man sent us a vaccine yet?" Right after, Aloys and I set out to catch the end of a rural football league championship match. We got caught in the rain coming back by motor cycle.
Team road trip to Esse, I'm grumpy, excluded by language barriers, needing special consideration so as not to feel ignored, the isolation engulfs me while surrounded by 10 co-workers I've known for a year and considered friends, it eats at me in such a way that I wish to shift the future, for now that I'm neither new nor about to depart, my presence is so inconsequential that I'm muted in the corner while everyone chatters in Ewondo. I'm translated the menu after everyone has been served. I'll remember this day when I'm flooded with their sentimentality upon my departure.
The team came to Esse for a large meeting to launch an extension of the nextwork of CVECAs (small credit unions). The women cooked all morning, the men ran around meeting with the sous-prefect, writing his opening speech and talking about chairs. It was a success. We met at the bar. Then it was announced that the director begs his pardon, he is gravely ill with a headache. His younger brother delivers him his choice girl to his sick bed. It saddens me to realize that this quiet but dynamic young man is acting pimp for the group this week.
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