Friday, March 4, 2011

[Let's Pick Up and Go]

Now, I've heard my blog described as 'daunting', but seeing as I've given you a nice long break to catch up, it's time to pick up where we left off.

Saturday, February 12
Our suitcases were all piled up again at SIT by 8 am. Hit up a boulangerie on the way out of town to get lunch (and in my case an ice cream cone too…).
Sleep. Read. Music. Potty break in the bushes on the side of the road—hey, you know what they say: the study abroad group that pees together stays together. While we were taking care of business the driver realized we had a flat tire; he took care of it pretty quickly though. More beautiful countryside once back on the road. At one point we stopped at a checkpoint and children swarmed us, pulling open our windows; they wanted anything and everything we owned, and we (somewhat) appeased them with the silly bands I had on.
Got to our new city, Dschang (pronounced ‘chong’) around three, where we were staying in a lovely hotel for a night. Dinner there, chalax time, girlie-prep-to-go-out-time, bar/nightclub. The going-out was planned by SIT, which was nice normally our curfew is 6:30. At first the club was a bit of a bust—not many young people, creepy dudes, and unknown music—so some people left. You should have seen how our faces lit up a bit later when a Lady Gaga song came on, followed by a whole American medley. Clearly the people there had never seen the electric slide done before. If life were a movie, everyone would have decided to learn it from us and join in; instead we kept awkwardly bumping into everyone.

Sunday, February 13
Host family nerves—wait, didn’t we just do this?! This time, though, we were delivered to our houses. When I walked into the yard I was immediately swarmed with children who had fled their afternoon chores (laundry/dishes outside, washing floor inside) to greet me. I tried to sort out who everyone was, but gave up pretty quickly. The woman who I thought was my host mother ws apparently not, because she just told me that my parents weren’t home (wasn’t for hours that I learned that she’s my host aunt and that one of those kids belongs to the neighbors). Papa was at the village for a funeral, and mom was at work. She’s a “coiffeuse” and has a hair salon with a convenience stand/call box (place to buy phone credits) out front. After learning to eat manioc couscous for lunch (take mush in fingers, dip in sauce, repeat), I was taken to maman at the salon where I was greeted with pure job and a baby. Maman and her helper (Helene) hinted at doing my hair, and the next thing I knew, they were running a comb through my head. They told me it was going to hurt and that I was going to cry. They bought me an orange to soften the blow, but it actually didn’t hurt that badly. It just took forever! 3ish hours? Whew. Meanwhile I couldn’t understand much of the conversation…luckily that was because they were speaking Bahame, and not because my French is horrid. Anyhoo, I’m all braided up and feel so legit, even if I don’t look like myself. Won’t have to wash my hair all week…
As we were finishing up the braids, Papa got back in town and came by, also greeting me with such joy. Walked home with him and learned I’m their 10th student!
When Maman got home, I helped her (read: kept her company) in the kitchen (read: 5x3 shack in the backyard where we build the cookin gfire) with dinner. She stressed that communication is key and asked me right away what foods I do/don’t like. Yay! No omelets here…
Back in the house, I was walking across the room to sit down to eat when my metal plate of spaghetti slid out of my hands and flew across the table and onto the floor. Inner panic; outer calm. I scooped that spaghetti right up off the floor, onto my plate, and into my mouth in front of the kiddos sitting next to me. Nobody blinked an eye.
By dinner I understood that there are 8 family members living at the house: Maman (Veronique), Papa (Jean), Yoyo (f;9), Yaya (m;7; actually a cousin, but raised as own—that’s a true African family for you), Borres (m; 7), Daril (m; 3; my favorite!!); Clara (f; 9 mo), Mimi (f; a bit older than me; Papa’s youngest sister).
The kids are all precious (even if Yoyo begs a lot) and I especially want to steal Daril with his huge eyes, constant laugh, and high pitched laugh.

Monday, February 14
Roosters sent wake up calls a bit earlier than I ordered---4:30, 5:30, and 6:00, and soon very joyful Jesus music could be heard all throughout the house. Maman heated my water for me! First warm water washing IN Cameroon. Also my first ever bucket “shower”. (Turns out the ‘toilet’ also serves as the ‘shower’.) My friend Allison lives literally next door, so after downing my tea and grabbing my ½ baguette to go, with her family’s help, we walked to school together.
1st up? Homestay debriefing. Got to love stories like Rachel’s! Apparently her host coiusin is “madly in love” with her and wants to get married! We have new French teachers and I love mine. Plus we’ve started our next Thematic Seminar lecture theme—Bamiléké tradition/culture (Bamiléké are the most prevalent ethnic group in this region).
Swung by the salon on my way home (yay! We—Allison/Araba/I didn’t get lost!). Helped the kids a bit with their chores and then the asked me to take my camera out, so we took some adorable pics (I’m so grateful that my camera’s working again!!). I finally learned what Ellen meant by “doing homework with children is impossible”. Yeah, it’s really a stressful endeavor. For the most part, though, it’s cute—they love me. And I love them, and the way they call me ‘tata’ (older sister), and the way they want to brush their teeth with me (I mean, they’re just using me for my toothpaste, but still), and the way they greet me excitedly when I get home. I just wish I didn’t have such a heavy work load here in Dschang. Boo.
I helped prep dinner again; I’m sort of embarrassed that the 9 year old knows more about cooking than I do. Cooking with a fire is slow but really peaceful—there in the glowing light, with the surrounding darkness…