June 16, 2009

A week to go . . .

Wow, it's unbelievable but we only have a week left in Cameroon! Time seems not to fly until you are right upon something and then it flies at full speed! Still so much to do with organizing, packing, shopping for gifts, saying goodbye to people, etc. We had our last visit to the village on Sunday and that was sad, but when everyone started begging for money from me I knew it was time to go! I'm satisfied that we had a good 6 months in the village and we have many friends there who will welcome us back in the future. We said goodbye to the chief and his family, and everyone else from Madame Bernadette the avocado woman (who I paid to stay in the hospital last fall and who has been--needlessly--thanking me ever since) to some of Linden's classmates, who received clothes that Linden doesn't need to take home with her. It's the hardest to leave the children, so many of them following our car and being so sweet when we stopped to say goodbye. Batoula is a struggling village (let's not even get into the politics that are ripping the place apart) but also a village with strength, beauty, and lots of charm.
I gave one final exam last Friday which I am now grading and will give the other this Friday. I'm disappointed that so many students identified Plessy vs. Ferguson as being the name of a female character (Plessy Ferguson) in Nella Larsen's Passing. Many of the students just were not paying attention even when they showed up. But I had a wonderful time discussing Mama Day (Gloria Naylor) with some of the students and those moments were worthwhile. A few weeks ago, after reading Passing and The Bluest Eye, I showed a class the film Imitation of Life (1934) and EVERYONE turned out for that. And thanks to Elvis the projector worked! Everyone was totally engrossed by the film and some told me how "beautiful" they thought it was. I think it was just special for them to see a film on the "big screen." It provoked lots of discussion about passing, race, class, gender, etc. Students also debated what it means to be a good mother. For them, it seemed that the film was less about race than about motherhood and family (and this is in fact how Hollywood wished to portray it and how the novel is--more centered on the white mother and daughter). Since "passing" is not much of an issue here in Cameroon--although some black women do use products to make their skin lighter--the students were less focussed on that than on the other behaviors of the characters.
The other class read both Their Eyes Were Watching God and Mama Day, both of which have hurricane scenes at the end. The students had never heard of a hurricane and some had trouble believing that a storm could be so destructive. One of them said Hurston is clearly exaggerating! (yes, I told them about Katrina.) They were all in agreement that Janie should have made due with her first husband, and it was hard to get them to see that Hurston wants to depict a woman who evolves into a complete person, with a voice and choices of her own. Not that Cameroonian women are subservient to men in the ways we might think in the west--far from it. They have power and voice! But this is a society where marriage is considered hard work that it is shameful to abandon no matter what. They thought Janie should stay with Logan--wow--and could only surmise that she left him purely because of his "ugly head." (By the way, I have revealed that I am divorced to only a very select few of people here.)
The refrigerator is broken as are the lights in the bathroom, so it really is time to get going. I am going to add some photos of our trip last week to Seme Beach (Limbe) where we had gone already twice. This time, we took along friends and were a group of 11 for four days: Scott, Linden, me, Maman Martine, Guy, Gorgine, Vanessa, Tracey, Ambit, Elvis, and Geraldine. I wanted to give them a special gift and that was it. We had a fabulous time although Elvis ended up in the hospital (not serious) and the car broke down and then when it was at the shop it was crashed into by another car! Holy cow, it was a Cameroonian adventure.

May 29, 2009

Accidental Tourists

When we left the US last August, my primary goal for the year was to get us home alive. Not because it is much more dangerous here than in Cleveland, let's face it. I have a much lower chance of getting raped here and petty crime (in terms of pickpocketing, etc.) is not a problem. Okay, there are road bandits. But my main concern was disease, in particular the feared mamba snake (not to be confused with the delicious mambo chocolate bar), of which we have seen none although there was a sighting from our car but I was too busy fretting about something else to see it. Anyway. . . . since we are coming the end of our stay, I'm ready to wrap up the list of illnesses which hurt but did not kill us.
Linden: bizarro skin rash all over. Had a shot of cortisone and some pills and it disappeared; three very high fevers over a few days, none of which were malaria (called "fever"), and one of which sent her to the hospital in Dschang for a night; another rash, not to be discussed; vomiting during the second night of our stay; skin completely peeled off her hands and feet, like a snake, that girl.
Marie: Vomiting during our second night here; big, fat black and purple bruise on her butt from falling on Mount Cameroon; two djigger infestations in toes; two "catepiller" insects peeing in her eyes (first right, then left); big infection in left foot; sprained ankle from falling down stairs after a rain; hurt arm and shoulder from being hit by a motorcycle in Dschang (not serious enough to warrant the trouble--and I mean trouble--of going to the hospital).
I have just asked LInden if she remembers more illnesses I've had and she said "shoe fever." Okay, I did buy a lot of shoes here--cast-offs from Europe and really cheap!!
I believe that we will get home alive. After all, Linden's were illnesses that she could just as well have had at home (well, hopefully not the vomiting) and mine were often self-induced from my favorite past-times, falling and not watching where I am going.
We are heading out now to Te-Claire, our favorite restaurant, where Gertrude is the server and Linden is nicknamed "Gertrude II" because she likes to help out. It is pouring rain. Hopefully, we will arrive in one piece.
By the way, Barcelona won the soccer match against Manchester. Yippee!! Barcelona has a Cameroonian player (Eto) and is the favored team here. He made the first goal! The Party House was rockin'! Also, SDF (the social democrats and major opposition to Paul Biya and the RDPC Party) had a big rally here a few days ago. Cool. The Party House was NOT rockin' for that!

May 24, 2009

Geraldine and Marie getting special pink foot lotion applied, courtosy of Geraldine

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National Day

Okay, it wasn't Independence Day, but National Day. May 20, 1973 is when the Anglophone and Francophone parts of the "Cameroons" decided to solidify their fates as the Republic of Cameroon. Although there is a secessionist movement in the Anglophone part, the country has held together since then. So, there was of course a parade and lots of speeches and awards for the cleanest school and all, and then partying all night. In fact, it is now Sunday and the parties continue. The RDPC Party House is rocking. We cannot get away from P-Square (but why would we want to--it's a great Nigerian band). No One Be Like You, that's my favorite song. I've frankly had enough of "Roll It." Which reminds me, I think that everyone in the Anglophone world should be required to learn some type of Pidgin and why not Cameroonian Pidgin, which is similar in some ways to Nigerian Pidgin? I di be talk Pidgin, no wan talk French. Ha. No One Be Like You, don't forget, and those pickins (from Portuguese, meaning "children") are "stubborn." Everyone in Cameroon says stubborn (tetus) to describe children. Anyway, I had lovely photos of the village and Maman Martine and Maman Julie and Linden in her parade-wear (purple and white with a bow-tie! and she carried the Cameroonian flag!) but I messed up downloading them and LOST them! Can anyone tell me how to retrieve photos? Oh, my.
Our time here is ending and as in all endings things are accelerating. Geraldine is gone for the moment, unfortunately her biological father died, but hopefully she will be back soon because I can chop but I can't cook! We spend lots of time at Restaurant Te Claire, where we know the workers and where they let Linden do stuff in the kitchen. They have great soup and we can watch TV! They give us the telecommande! Lately we are hooked on Beverly Hills 90210 dubbed in French and a British detective show about Inspector Barnaby also dubbed in French.
Amazing news! My students are preparing for class and are participating, at least a few of them! I had a great time teaching last week, The Bluest Eye in one class and Their Eyes Were Watching God in the other. There are a few students I really adore now. Finally! I don't think anyone required them to read novels before!
Here are some wonderful things about Cameroon: the music, the people (SO friendly!), the fabric and women's clothing, that you can go outside and walk down the street and buy whatever you need from an outdoor vendor (flip-flops? No problem! String? no problem? bread? no problem? manicure set? no problem!), that you can speak French without trying to sound elegant and you FIT IN!
In two weeks we will be at Seme Beach, in Limbe, the black sand beach, with Maman Martine, Guy, Gorgine, Vanessa, Tracey, Elvis, Geraldine, Scott, me and Linden. Yep, I decided to take everyone on a four-day vacation. Gorgine has never seen the ocean! I think three rooms will cover it if we hold our breath. I can't wait!

May 18, 2009

Independence Day Approaching

This Wednesday, May 20, is National Day (Independence Day) in Cameroon, which marks the end of French and British colonialism in Cameroon. Yippee! Of course, there will be a parade and parties all day and night. Cameroonians love parades and each town, even small ones (but not villages) have an "esplanade" at some central location from which spectators and important dignitaries can watch the groups parade by. We saw this on "Youth Day" in February, when each school class marched in green uniforms and Linden walked with a special garland representing that she was first in class in the village. This was in Mbouda. Here in Dschang, our balcony over the pharmacy gives us a great view of the festive area. We saw the Women's Day parade from here, although I went with Madame Panka, our landlady, to sit with the hotshots for a while. This Wednesday, school children will again march, and again in uniforms. They will sing and Linden will carry the Cameroonian flag for her school. They chose her to do this so that when she goes back to the States her friends will see how important she was in Cameroon :)
When these parades are upcoming schools basically do nothing but devote themselves to practice marching for the week previous. Our apartment looks out over a primary school and I've seen the kids in beige uniforms marching around the dirt schoolyard more times than I want to think about. Arms must be swung in the correct way, one must keep up with the row, songs must be learned.
So, keep your eyes out for any news in the States on Cameroon's independence day and wish Linden well as she carries the large yellow, green, and red flag with the star in the middle!

April 26, 2009

On the cruise, Egyptian clothing

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Lilnden and her cruise friends at Luxor Temple

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