Friday, January 17, 2014

Treking about Cameroon

We complain about travel in America.  We complain and we really, really shouldn't.  You don't know pain.  You know not suffering.

You guys remember that time I had my host family kids stay with me?  Well when I took them back down south we all had to ride on the train.  Since I was buying their way, I bought us all second class tickets.  In the future, I'll choose jumping into a bear pit over this option.  It is an overnight train that is a minimum of 12 hours.  Do you know how second class works?  They just sell as many tickets as possible.  I'm not convinced there is any sort of limit.  We pushed and shoved our way through the eight second class cars looking for anywhere we could find space.  All the seats were taken.  People were laying on the floors beneath.  Even the connectors between cars were full.  There was only standing room in the aisles.  Some lovely humans scrunched up and provided we four with a single seat.  I gave it to the kids and sat on our luggage in the aisle being pushed around every five minutes by someone trying to get by.  This went on for half past eternity before I gave up.  I left those children and paid some exorbitant fee to whomever and was allowed entry into the dining car where I slept on a table.  I came here to live the life of Africans.  The contract was a little fuzzy on which sort of Africans and I've since decided it doesn't include second class ones.

Point is that I felt some weird sort of uncomfort in the luxury of the States.  I was picked up from the airport in a car and had my own seat!  ALL MINE!  I'm pretty sure I fidgeted in it the whole way not knowing what to do with myself.  Driving around on my own left me with the constant compulsion to pull over and try to pick people up.  Here a car ride means four people in the front and four in the back.  At least.  This does not count children who are non-entities and can be shovel anywhere.  Yes, in trunks, but not so often.  You just pray you don't get the bitch sit and have to share with the driver.  I'll say truly that this is the one time I find myself ok with malnutrition.

We'll toss out the full 24 hours I spent in airports and planes to get back to Africa.  Sure I didn't sleep a wink either way.  On the way home it was complete glee that kept me up (plus a desire to watch every film I'd never heard of before).  On the way back it was the anxiety of "Why the hell did I get on this plane?  I know exactly what's waiting for me this time!".  No, it was that train ride.  I paid for the sleeper car to share with three other Cameroonians; price doesn't matter for some things even if I still barely slept.  I had to be up by 4:30 to make sure I caught my stop.  Then pile into a car per above instructions for a couple hours.  Then hire a couple of motorcycles (loaded with 100 plus pounds of baggage) and another hour.  Oh and don't forget we aren't exactly on freeways.  Yes, some of it was paved--pothole ridden naturally--but the majority wasn't.  It's dry season so basically the entirety of this affair involved eating dust and gaining that special layer of Africa I'll be keeping for the next year.  It protects against the tireless sun.  Airplane, train, car, motorcycle.  I actually could add a boat into the trek if I wanted.  I don't.

I've learned a lot about myself living here.  One of those things is that if I'm ever going to work in Africa again, they are providing me with a goddamn car.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Time to meet the Family

Alright, it's about time I show you the folks I'm living with.  I may have explained to some of you that I live in a house in an enclosed compound.  My landlord has a few houses in the compound as well where he lives with his two wives and five kids.  Took me forever to figure out which kids actually belonged in the house though... and even longer to figure out their names.

Here we go!

Here's a group photo missing only the wives.  And one baby.
The tall guy above (seriously like seven foot something) is Al-hadji Awal.  I introduce him as the king of the place.  Then myself as the prince.  He laughs off being king, but confirms my own royalty.

OUMI!  She may be the most adorable thing in the world.  She was terrified of me for the longest time, but now she's learned to walk and regularly walks inside all on her own in the search for candies.  Oumi is probably not her real name, but that's all I've discovered so far.

On the left we have the oldest girl, Halima.  She's pretty awesome and speaks pretty good French.  Only occasionally does she creepy things like touch my chest and call me beautiful.  The kid on the right is Nafi or Nafissatou.  She lives in abject fear of me.  Panics if I touches her and cries immediately if left alone with me.  I'll be a great dad one day.

This is Ou-est-lei or something like that.  She's the youngest wife and speaks decent French.  This is relatively unnecessary as no matter what I say, I'm served fish in oily sauce with mashed grain paste.  Also the subject of that terrifying exorcism. No longer possessed, hooray!

Here's the older wife.  She likely has a name too, but I've no idea what it might be.  She does not speak French.  But she seems nice and smiles at me a lot.

Boss Al-hadji with his tiniest, Nafi.  There is another kid on the way though to replace you Nafi.  Then you'll be left all alone with me.  Hahahaha.

Here we have the oldest boy, Ismaila.  He's a good kid, but really quiet.  Sometimes he just sits in a chair and stares at me while I read.  It's like bonding.

And finally Riz.  Can't forget Riz.  Don't let this picture fool you, he is the devil incarnate.  I rarely call him Riz, but like to alternate between the French equivalents for Hard-headed, Devil, Demon, Tiny Thief, or whatever else seems appropriate at the time.  He's a crafty one.  And a lady-killer.  I see a lot of me in him.

He must be stopped.

Well there's my family.  They are a good crew.  Always looking out for me and keeping me company.  I missed them while I was away. Not more than I miss pizza while I'm here, but hey.