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I could hear Cecile and Juliet talking in the adjoining hotel room. I went in and we gossiped about the womanizing of our male co-workers. Eventually we all gathered at Mary-Paul's. Bienvenu is indeed sick. The union reps, Juliet, Magloire and I finally got on the road. I was home in time to wash the floor before Dagmar arrived. We visited the kids. Dagmar fascinated by their baby pet monkey. We ate at Perjero's. Stefan sat down and told me he'd just caught his girlfriend of 4 years with a 40 year old married man. He doesn't want to understand.
Fantastic day: Since Dagmar is visiting, we accompanied Kanaga and Marious to Kane to inform the chief of the aides meeting next Sunday. We stopped at their village homes, were feed by Marious' Grandparents, visited Kanaga's palm plantation. Dagmar has a similar job in the North, so she found the forest, muddy roads, and fruits all new. We came back to eat Kanga, then went to hear live ballaphones. Touristy day with some work accomplished. Kanaga and Marious hung out with us all evening, cool guys, not sure if they expected to be paid more than gas and drinks.
I choose to take the day off. With the aides meetings on Sundays, I haven't had a full day at home in weeks. The day wasn't long enough. I spent the morning with Dagmar before accompanying her to the bus. I visited Solange. I ate steamed green beans and read. Mimi and Bellva visited, informing me that Solange had taken her friend to the hospital to have her baby. Bellva looked at the figures in the batiks on my wall and declared them junju. Mimi told her they were her father and Bellva quickly said "no they don't have shoes".
I was happily reading when Magloire called inviting me out. We ended up going to the wedding reception Materne invited us to with the understanding that we'd meet, greet, drink a beer and come home. They were in the road discussing chairs and I said we should just enter. But when we walked in there were 300 people seated outside in a large horseshoe and I understood the discussion of chairs. I was seated front row in a living room armchair. Soon after the lights were arranged the buffet started. Viper! The director of ONADEF tried to work ignorant magic.
I'm enjoying life here again. I just re-read August words and saw that I experienced more conflict and frustration than I'd realized that's intensified by the fact that I'm constantly discussing sexual relations, either hearing adulterous stories or doing aides education. Today we held an aides meeting in Kane. I don't say much at these meetings. I do a short introduction after the Chief and a local health worker then I sit down and leave the rest to the taxi-men. They explain and answer questions. I'm very proud. I enjoy spending the day with them; they're kind, dependable, smart, amusing.
I'd agreed with the consultant from Mifed that I'd work with her today and tomorrow on re-writing the economic questionnaire before she takes it to another city. I tried calling from our office before traveling to Yaoundé. It ends up the Mifed office has moved and nobody had told me. Bienvenu asked about the report I'm writing for him. I told him he's always too busy to talk. He said he had time now, just needed to finish with 2 people waiting for him. I sat at my desk for an hour and then realized he'd left the office.
I convinced Dagmar to come with me to the new Mifed office, she'd never met the people in the head office. I tried calling everyone's cell phones before heading out. The consultant called back telling me sorry but she'd already copied the questionnaire and there was no need to come. We went anyway just to see the office. It's spacious, multi-leveled and has beautiful views. The consultant was rude and I won't be working with them anymore. The new office is near Select bakery where Dagmar and I stopped on the way back to get whole wheat bread and ice-cream.
It's stunning how life shifts sometimes from one small moment. Time slipped by in chunks as I sat dazed wondering how to react, as if I had an actual, rational choice to recognize the cause and effect, to acknowledge the moment that has passed, to accept the shift within me, fishing deep within for the evidence and once found, I did have a real choice that I so wanted to ignore but privately embarrassed I choose the safest most responsible route. I feel overwhelmingly altered, fallible and humbled. Jeanah gave me a hug before knowing how badly I needed it.
The Peace Corps lab tech is on vacation so I was sent by taxi down to the Central Laboratory in downtown Yaoundé to have my blood drawn. The place was clean and efficient and after drawing half a vile I was sent on my way. I wandered in a few shops before going back to OmniSport where I was informed that after I'd left they'd turned the form over and realized they needed to take 2 viles of my blood. A PC car took me back when they went out for a back brace for April. Other things going on….
I was packing my bag when I heard that Robert had called a meeting for everyone there at 10am. We thought it was about the new ambassador's visit the previous day. But in fact he wanted to take a moment to talk about the 3rd anniversary of 9/11. We need to be careful, keep eyes and ears open. I was standing next to Dagmar who'd had an office in WTC.
Back home in Akonolinga, I found out that Bienvenu had been assaulted by a blunt object to the forehead in Yaoundé an hour after he'd dropped me off last night.
Marious woke me at 6:30 to tell me that the aides meeting was scheduled for today (not tomorrow) in YemeYeme (not Embolokounou). The team today was completely different from last week. More or less the same information was presented, similar trick questions asked. I could tell they weren't well answered by the disorder that followed. The crowd disruptive, wanting money. The president of the local aides council walked out, later dishing out attitude. The interested man from the health clinic absent. I'm left unsettled. No connections made. The fight against aides is considered to be a means of wealth redistribution.
I slept 12 hours last night, woke with no urgency to get out of bed. By noon I'd had coffee, eaten oatmeal, written in my journal and washed. I went to visit Solange and the kids. Mimi was making Kok, Solange cleaning Verin (a scaly animal with claws and a long strong tail) the kids were waking from naps. It's been ages since I've spent the afternoon sitting with them. Now I have water on the stove and I type by lantern. Lantern season comes with the rains, the electricity was out here the whole time I was in Yaoundé.
I have a new bonne working for me as a test run. I think I've learned a few things from the last two, whose work slowly deteriorated. I'm giving her tons of work to do this week so I can see how well she works, she knows all the jobs expected of her and so the expectations start high. The previous girls got lazy quickly. Later I'll go into town. I haven't done my tour of town in a long time. I want to buy something for Majoe's baby, go to market, check up on Stefan, pay my water bill…
I am calmed again, hopeful, warm, accomplished, have small ideas for the future. Today I don't feel lost or lonely, frustrated or unsettled. I wish I could just leave it at that, just a few simple words.
I got some preparation work done for next week's business training seminar. Solange and Majoe visited briefly. I got past the boring middle of the book I'm reading. I prepared e-mail. Now sleepiness is setting in. All my neighbors are moving in the near future, Mde Nnoma was transferred to a school in Yaoundé. I wonder how new neighbors will change my life.
I did a quick trip to Yaoundé this morning. I needed to pay my Yahoo account and I didn't have my card with me last week when I was there. It ends up there's an internet café across the street from inter-voyage and it wasn't too expensive. They frustrated me a great deal. At first they said that I couldn't get a file off the floppy disc but then they found a way to do it. Then the computer I was working on didn't have Word so I couldn't edit the file I wanted to send. Accomplished the important tasks.
The new girl working for me is really great, she may just work out. She cleans things that I haven't even asked. She finds work to do. She returns from market with my change. She cooks. She's quiet and calm. She wants more money but is willing to convince me by doing more than expected. For a higher salary, she wants to do everything for me – go to market, get water from the well, cook clean, wash my clothes by hand, iron, weed.
The ATM SIDA evaluation meeting went ok. Their discussions get so heated sometimes; it siphons energy quickly.
The icecube shifted in his glass as she sat with him, missing his last breath. I wasn't even there but that's now where my thoughts return after hearing that she now has also left us. Unable to imagine her last breath, all my memories are old and unchanged, her insistence of paying into social security when I was 13 cleaning her house, the constant supply of pettifores during the holidays, her concern over adding and subtracting people form dinner reservations, the way her shoes dropped when she walked, the way she turned her head when Grandfather called her name. Betsy.
I'm procrastinating, fasting, wallowing, wandering; almost calm enough to prepare classes on marketing and budgets – so far from my mind. But if I get it done this afternoon, I can be free for the weekend. I want to e-mail family but I'm not sure what I have to say to them. Like Matern said yesterday, when you loose a grandparent, it's a different kind of funeral, celebrating life and uniting family. It's more a celebration of family, than a completely grievous occasion. Like ghosts of smiles and hugs uniting, my siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles all float through my mind.
At 2pm all I wanted was a hot shower and a nap. It's 11pm and I just had a strong sobbing fit followed by the shower. I'll sleep like a rock. 14 volunteers were in a major car accident today. It stunned us. Add in Susan's birthday, her voice, tears for grandmother, tons of work, other people's stress, Damien's dance project, working all morning, and someone looking me in the eye and repeating 5 times something I can't repeat, recent assaults, Bienvenu's broken nose, and no sleep last night. Coming back alone in the taxi sent me over the edge.
I functioned with an even keel. Calmly, steadily, Shannon and I have gotten everything in order for tomorrow. Handouts copied, flip charts written, exercises planned, objectives bullet pointed. With Andy unexpectedly unavailable we wrote and prepared his sessions as well. We'll be up bright and early tomorrow. The new ambassador will come open the seminar: Business Skills Training for Marginalized Cameroonian Women. We expect a bi-lingual group of 40 from 6 provinces with a diverse range of education. I'm too exhausted to worry.
Most of the women were waiting for us to open the conference room at 7:30 this morning when we arrived. The Business skills training seminar for Marginalized Cameroonian Women got off to a great start this morning. Shannon and I facilitated the whole day. I gave a long session on creating budgets. We have more work to do to prepare for tomorrow's sessions. It's exhausting engaging 40 women in a bi-lingual setting. The new ambassador came to open the seminar and he charmed the ladies explaining his experiences in Africa and how his whole family is made up of women.
We rocked the house this morning, energized, each doing 2 sessions before lunch. Ice breakers, review, setting goals and objectives, business plans, marketing basics. I used many examples of their actual activities, wanting to open a restaurant, cooking beignets, sewing clothes. I'm surprised that these women are as focused as they are, nobody complaining that it's too much or too fast. Andy is back from Douala and his mission to get christina's passport. He isn't prepared to do his session on record keeping tomorrow morning, so I'm tossing something together. Another long night of preparation… Shannon is exhausted and frustrated.
This morning was hard. Tired, my French was stumbling and my materials a little awkward. Nonetheless, I walked them all through a record keeping, cash book exercise and everyone, all 45 of them got the final answer. After lunch we had an open consulting session and women came to us with their questions and business problems. Then we ran back to Peace Corps because the new ambassador had invited all the volunteers in town to his house for a swim and some dinner. His house is out of this world. He was a pcv and wants us to feel welcome.
I'm going to bed now. There're many people here tonight I'm happy to see. We've just sat and eaten on the back porch and the chatter continues but I'm sure I'll see them all tomorrow as well. The seminar is finally over, it felt a little anticlimactic but the women were so appreciative and truly learned useful things. Many thanked God for the opportunity to be there. There was a teacher in the group who wants to repeat this training in the East. Shannon and I worked so well together we're considering repeating the seminar in each of our towns.
I'm imagining your steps right now. Are you walking into Plymouth Church from the back door? Are you crushing autumn leaves under your long black boots on the lawn of the cemetery? Are you shouting "Gavin!" under your breath from across the room? You are dressed in black, standing somewhere with hunched shoulders. I wish I were there standing beside you, squeezing your hand, holding onto your pinkie. Trying to imagine your steps today reminds me of last January and Bill's funeral. It feels very surreal like some odd snowy dream, so easy to deny from such a distance. Love,
I came home just after dark to an empty compound, all my neighbors moved out during my absence. The Nnoma family moved to Yaoundé and Juliet moved to a house on the other side of town. My water has been shut off. I wonder how having new neighbors will affect my constant battle with the water company. I met Damien and James at Inter-Voyage for a quick drink, hadn't seen them in ages. I offered to help them finish their project with Andy but I don't want to be involved in the financial details. It's wonderful to be back home!
I greeted town today. The roads are dry, it hasn't rained here in days. I picked up the mail. I sat for an hour in Peter's shop. I chatted with the taxi-men in front of SONEL. Many are getting 1000 CFA a day to wear Paul Biya t-shirts. (The election is weeks away and now money is circulating.) I bought some fabric and walked over to see Marie-Noel, my dressmaker. I ordered 3 outfits that she'll sew for $15. I came home, made a tuna melt and read year old magazines. There are families of animals living in my ceiling.
Is it the cloudy atmosphere, the allergies, the antihistamines, the other drugs, the heat and dust, the recent heavy work load, the lack of clear objectives, the up-coming Cameroonian elections, the constant discussion of Bush and how he's killing people, the expectation that I pull communities out of poverty single handedly, people expecting handouts, everyone asking what I brought back for them from Yaoundé or just my mood. Don't know where to point fingers but I'm lackadaisical, I lack motivation, I have no appetite and therefore no energy, I can't solve their problems and I don't even want to try.
I went down to SNEC 2 days ago, they acted surprised that my water had been turned off. Who turned it off? They asked. I paid them the maintenance fee, they corrected my bill, saying how can the counter be 1364–1364 consumed 7? Ah it's the machine jumping, adding in numbers. But now days have passed and they haven't turned it back on. I've been functioning all week without water. I wouldn't have been able to do that so easily without my bonne. Actually I'd be going crazy if she wasn't filling my buckets from the well each day.
I spent another day almost entirely inside. In the morning I got the water turned back on and had an interesting conversation with Bienvenu in the office. He is out and about again now that the plaster is off his fractured nose. I finished one of "the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency" books, then read another. I baked brownies on the stove during the afternoon rain. Then stepped out during a beautiful sunset to fetch Solange to accompany me to pick up my new dresses. I like walking with Solange in the evenings. I'm locked alone into the compound tonight.
The Tip Jar