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The trip was longer, dustier, bumpier than I'd imagined. I sat in the front row jump seat behind the grate between two men in hooded jackets with the strings pulled tight, exposing only their eyes, nose and mouth to the dust. The Prime Minister's motorcade passed. Dusk fell and we slowed passing dozens of lumber trucks. Richard called as I was pulling into town. It was very welcoming to enter a room full of volunteer friends sitting down for dinner at "Stanley's Palace" surrounded by large bright murals. Stanley's an 80-year-old volunteer teaching creative writing at the university in NangaEboko.
Not much time to write today. I walked with Annie down to her house this morning for a tour of town. I slipped and fell in front of everyone as we were greeting her landlord. We returned to the university campus and cooked eggs for everyone. We played scrabble and had a meeting reviewing all our activities. We went into town for dinner. The restaurant owner apologized for the scrawny chicken; the Prime Minister's entourage had emptied the town. We went dancing to live music. We left after a gendarme took Cheryl and Richard's IDs and caused a big scene.
My intention was to go all the way home to Akonolinga tonight. By the time I got to the case and posted September, it was raining really hard, I was starving and absolutely filthy from the open car on the dusty road. I'm talking dust up my nose, in my ears, caked on my face, in the creases of my wrists and ankles. My tee shirt looks like I was rolling in the road. Nonetheless the return trip was faster and more pleasant since 6 of us traveled back together. They've ordered me a chicken sandwich over at the Kaeley.
When I got home from Yaoundé this afternoon I went right to bed and took a several hour nap. I have a head cold, probably from allergies. My voice for 2 days has been horse and raspy. I don't know when I'll get my energy and motivation back. Instead of writing I read, for once in my life plowing through books. I have nothing good to eat here at home. I'm hoping the hunger wont hit me too strong. And if I go to bed again so early in the evening, will I be able to sleep the night through?
back in the swing with SAIMED. We went to the General Assembly of the CVECA in Koum, where I will now start working with the management committee and loan assessments. The actual meeting was a little boring because it was all in patois. One bank member declared me his wife. I told him to talk to my beau-pere. He brought me a steam of green bananas and a bag of oranges (also green) as the first contributions in a dowry. We stopped at Elanga's (the Cashier of Koum and treasurer of ATM) on the way home for a second meal.
My head was draining through my nose this morning. By late morning at work all my energy was sucked out of me. After a nap I had a pounding headache. Then the rain came. The sun had been so hot early this morning and the sky had been grumbling for hours. The thunderous rain came quickly with a strong wind and flooded the gutter onto the lawn. I opened my door and it was forced wide open by the wind and the glorious rain splattered the hearth of my house. I climbed back into bed, my sinus headache had cleared.
So much time in bed yesterday my back hurts, my neck stiff. The dawn sun is golden warm. A small velvet red bird with black wings flew by. I stepped out before 7am to get coffee at the boutique. There're streams of kids headed to school. A group of children crowded around David's gate. They're waiting for him to pull out in his car.
I've locked myself into the empty compound. The electricity is out and the world is very dark. Next door used to be full of teenagers and crying babies. It's odd to be here all alone.
I finally went to visit solange and the kids. She asked where I've been and I had to admit that when I wasn't in the office I've been home just a few blocks away all week, sleeping off my cold, reading books, napping. Lola made me French fries and fried ripe plantains. I felt spoiled. Bellva is sick and grumpy wanting to be babied in her mother's arms. We talked of Juliet. I think Solange is hurt at how Juliet abandoned her. The suspicion is that Juliet is pregnant even if she denies it. We'll have to wait and see.
My energy is back. I worked on an old story which got my blood pumping further. I tried to send my propane tank to be replaced in town by moto. It came back empty. After the rain I walked into town, visited Peter, went to market. I cut open a large fruit growing in the Nnoma's abandoned garden and discovered squash. It smelled like pumpkin. I ran out and bought sugar and margarine and cooked it. Bienvenu chewed Papi out for taking his motorcycle, without a license or permission. He's the father figure to all the teenagers in his house.
I had a lovely lovely day
(I know it'll be better this way)
My head feels so clear
Fresh squash that isn't washed down with beer
I wrote. I danced alone like a fairy in my living room. I read stories I wrote years ago and again found myself surprised at what I've produced. Clearly I have to do something about that. I cooked. I visited, kids crawling over me laughing, taunting, coming back for more. Home by dusk I fell into another novel. My belly empty, sleep creeping on. The phone never rang but it's clearly better this way.
Election Day. Everything is closed by law, everything –offices, the market, stores, restaurants, neighborhood shops and call-boxes. I wanted to walk through the shut down town with Solange but she had to first cook and then braid her neighbor's hair. Mr. Nnoma found me at home and invited me for a beer. We went to Olivier's house, behind the boutique to drink on residential property. It's the fist time in over a month that I've gone drinking but it was good to spend time with Mr. Nnoma. I know his high reputation in town better than I know him personally.
Here I am in Africa with a bloody cold that won't go away. No taste for anything, no smell, sinuses that swell, drain and clog again. Lucky that it's citrus season, fresh mandarins everywhere. 6 for 20 cents. But it isn't curing me. Clouds come and go in the sky and linger longer in my head. I've heard citronella tea may help. Tomorrow I'll pick some of the long leaves and try it.
The frogs and crickets sing a repetitive lullaby. The crickets have more stamina. .
The fluorescent light has become so familiar. .
I've started day dreaming more of home.
A Frenchman from CIDR and Collins arrived on a mission to evaluate the current state of the micro-finance network of CVECAs. We had an introductory meeting this morning before they set out to Edou.
Four high school students came over this afternoon to study English. For the most part, I felt them out to learn their levels and figure out how we should work together. They find me hard to understand in English but we discovered several ways I can help them supplement their classes in school and get them talking. My cold continues but my head is clearer tonight.
My belly is hungry, my mouth and head aren't really. I miss taste. I want just a few bites of many things. My head sick, my belly homesick. I day dream of Italian thin crust pizza, French crepes, NY deli ham & cheese, Michigan sweet corn, dark cherries, green grapes, French vanilla ice cream or mint chocolate chip, tuna casserole, everything bagels, smoked salmon, pad Thai, lemongrass, pumpkin ravioli, pesto chicken sandwich, cheddar cheese, strawberries, soybeans, sushi, red leaf lettuce, Caesar salad, blue cheese burgers, buttered rye toast, portabella mushrooms, Doritos, root beer floats, malted milkshake, cottage cheese, cauliflower, broccoli…
The sky is drab white, it's drizzling without any soul. Just a blank rainy afternoon, fading slowly into a cold black night. The electricity is out so the house is filled with deep shadows. I can't sit and read. I can't go stroll through town. I walked around the empty compound, made some fresh lemonade. I ate a kola nut to give me some energy since I'm not tired enough to sleep. I'm not focused enough to write. Yes I'm completely bored. A good movie would be perfect right about now or a video game or something else utterly distracting.
The day passed quickly. I hate it when Saturdays slip away so easily. Papi came over to study English. We worked through exercises he did in class last week without understanding any of it. I was amazed to see how many typos there were in the quiz he was given. It took me awhile to figure out "ude" meant "use".
I also finally made progress on an article I've been writing in my head for months. It helps to put the words on paper! It started as a jumbled mess but at least now I have something to work with.
I turned on loud music, emptied all my closets and shelves, moved everything, sorted out the trash, rearranged. It took most of the day. The salon is still a mess, I still have papers to file but I'm much happier with things. Late afternoon I went over to visit Solange. She braided my hair and we hung out with other women until night fell. Then we went inside and watched the end of an episode of 24 and Maid in Manhattan on Cannal+. Yes their cable has been fixed. It was a real treat, even though it was in French.
I'm cranky because I'm bored but I don't feel like doing anything. Snot cough ache. And it's seriously cold. I have socks on. All day on the line, my clothes are still wet. Without any energy I come home but the endless solitude weighs me down even further. But I'm too lethargic to interact. Hot ginger chai is warming my throat. I wish I weren't so lazy. I could at least start writing more interesting words. Been thinking about NYC (lunchtime in SOHO) and LA (highways and sand) recently. Life back then very far away – but closer than I've thought.
I was in the kitchen this afternoon when I heard feet shuffling. There were 3 taximen outside my door: Tester, Kanaga, Essama. The spokesman, Kanaga announced there was a problem that they wanted to discuss. "Should we discuss it here?" He asked reminding me to invite them inside. The problem was they don't like to leave things unfinished. We need to finish and continue the SPA AIDES project. I agreed to come to their meeting Saturday to plan the final steps of the project. I'm very encouraged. ATM is still moving forward. They started their weekly meetings again last Saturday.
I'm back out there in the world from the political talk with John, the delegate of agriculture, this morning and noting that he's well read and obsessed with spies (the most important nugget that the price of Cameroonian coco is high and farmers are making money they should save) to Mde Na this evening revealing her long standing affair with Perjero and promising to crush peanuts with a stone to make me a years supply of peanut butter when I leave. Just the idea of it warmed my heart. We drank Peter's gin and tonics. She has stories to tell.
Economizing on the sugar, I can taste it when my beignet mama is running low on sugar. Each day they're a little less sweet.
Dominique has finally come to weed the area outside my door, cut the grass out front with his machete and hack down the long grass that's grown over the shortcut along our wall (my firefly alley). He's working hard. Even at the fanciest gym, you couldn't buy his muscles. His body is refined with the labor of living here; pulling well water, cutting fields with a machete, harvesting and transporting heavy sacks of peanuts or coco.
It rained all night. I fell asleep to it pouring and woke to the rain. Sou, so sad and angry yesterday wearing her rag caba, her hair wild unarranged, dark eyes heavy. I watch her across a cultural divide. want so much to help her but can't. besides just being there, friendly, distracting, wanting better. I can't even start to understand what it's like to have a husband who has the power to say when I'm allowed to leave the house, who can call my father to complain when I answer back. And that's nothing next to what others endure.
After the ATM meeting didn't take place I went to market and visiting in town. Peter wasn't in his shop but I sat with Joe and a visitor talking for over an hour. As I was leaving, a man who traveled with me yesterday wanted to talk and offered me a soda. He was sitting with an electrician I know called ‘Bin Laden'. We discussed culture, the difference between spirit and soul, what it means to be created equal. As the man got drunker the discussion turned into lecture. I came home to cook and Solange visited, a nice treat.
I've had too many visitors this morning. Fist the footballer came over, he's wanting more of my attention, wanting me to be more serious. I'm starting to want him to disappear or at least realize that he's just a simple casual friend. I was happy when the other's arrived, the 15 year old pousse-pousse boy showed up with his friend. But my work was interrupted and we sat staring at each other. Then Sonny came over and lightened things with 8 year old games. Finally I kicked them all out so I could get ready for my trip to Yaoundé.
The SED Steering committee started and I was kicked off in 60 seconds because I'm can't be on 2 committees. Instead of being sent home, Gabby asked to stay and share my experience since I was there already.
We blab on and on about interesting but irrelevant things.
A zero tolerance policy was put into effect by the big man before he left on vacation, he's angry at volunteers who break rules. Two people went out for cigarettes over the weekend without noticing that it's after 1am curfew. I don't believe they'll be sent home but they're in serious trouble.
Our committee got things done in working groups. We scheduled IST and helped put the program report for Washington. We may have a new boss by January. I weighed myself, have lost a few pounds recently which lifted my mood, even though being here in Yaoundé always adds weight with more drink and access to cheese and yummy restaurants. Jeannah read some of my stories, spending most time on the most finished. She laughed some reading the other and sees potential but it needs much work. Useful audience. I'm heading over to the Kaely for a drink. Famous last words.
Grad School research, I spent hours on the internet, just tapped the tip. I just missed the GRE, people took it last weekend but Dave gave me his books for GRE prep. I want to just choose a few programs, create a strategy but I don't have enough info yet. I wish I had access to internet at home. I'm willing to pour myself into this for a few months but a year long process feels impossible. Especially when it's such an impractical choice. I sat outside for hours mining through the info I'd collected, dreaming about different writing programs.
I've been delinquent for 3 or 4 days. Today I got the odds and ends done; some long e-mails, minutes from a meeting months ago, draft of the budget for repeating the women's business seminar, the mailroom, laundry. I didn't leave the peace corps compound until night when I did my provisions shopping on the corner and then went for cocktails next door. And then there's my plan for heading home tomorrow, which was accepted so easily that it confirms Jeannah's classification. Odd that by playing along with what I want someone can make it so obvious they're a player.
Long day. Many meetings, too many projects on the horizon. Caroline came in from Bertoua to plan a women's business seminar that Shannon and I would like to do with her. We got a lot done but it wasn't until after she left that it became clear that she thought it'd be organized by Sylvie and an exact replica of what was done in Yaoundé. Then I met with Bienvenu and he has written proposals to continue the aids work as well as a project with UNICEF to train delinquent minors in town. I scored Mutzig fabric at the Brewery.
It's a cold, grey morning wet from the rain in the night. I need to get going soon so that I'm not late again for the ATM meeting. But before I can leave I need to post what I can of October and print out information on a few more writing programs and gather all my bags of stuff I bought while in Yaoundé this week. It feels like way too much time was wasted at the beginning of the week on the steering committee meeting and then my ‘free time' was jam packed with meetings, errands, logistics and reports.
There's a dog barking up a storm in the distance reminding me it's Halloween. Grandfather was buried two years ago. Now Grandmother rests beside him. I've been working all night on a wild story. A few days ago it was completely out of control, a half created mess I'd first introduced to the page back in LA. I've exhausted myself but I have the story close to the finish line. The florescent lights just went out but the bulb outside only dimmed. Now bugs are being drawn to my computer screen, wandering like cursors before I squish them. Light's back.
The Tip Jar