And then Emilie realized the drawbacks of having so many clothes when she had to wash each item by hand with only a bucket and a bar of soap. Yes, this also includes full-sized sheets. She winced as the soap stung her knuckles, which had been rubbed raw over the course of the few hours that she’d been crouched on the low stool, scrubbing away that damn red dirt that seems to find its way into everything. Yes, she will give you lessons when she gets back, but also expects to be taken out to a nice sushi dinner.
Oh, poor baby. I am a delicate flower; a dirty, wilting, delicate flower. But not for long.
With the stagaires getting to know each other better, coupled with the slow realization that we’re not on vacation, the flood gates of complaining are starting to creak open. Currently, it seems to be everyone comparing who has it worse. I seriously commend the people that came here with little to no French. That is a very brave undertaking. However, my addition the complaining stew regards the complications that arise once one does speak the language. Instead of feigning ignorance, I have to try and explain why the United States will not allow very many foreign students come study, why I do not have endless funds to give to the people of Cameroon, how I’m managing to survive without my precious independence, why I cannot come every day of the week to help organize a business… and the list of potentially volatile conversations goes on. In addition to these more serious topics, when my host mom asks me where I was, instead of saying “I at school. I study. I study French. It is hard,” I end up launching into these elaborate explanations of how I had to go to my friend’s house because I couldn’t call her to ask about the homework because I ran out of cell phone credit, and then on the way I ran into another friend and he invited me to watch a movie and yadda yadda yadda.
Every morning, the rooster cockadoodles outside of my window every 10 seconds from 6 to 6:25. Yes, I have started counting. God, I hate alarm clocks. Also, I started noticing that on some mornings a chicken would cluck very loudly much too close for comfort, but I didn’t really understand what was going on until one day when I happened to be outside just as the chicken flew into a tree and clucked madly because it couldn’t figure out how to get down. It stayed up there until one of the neighbor kids knocked it out of the tree with a stick. I’m plotting some chicken noodle soup revenge for all of these disturbances. Africa seems to be a morning person, while I will stubbornly stay in bed for an hour and a half after I’ve woken up if it’s earlier than I want to make human contact.
For lunch, my host mother made koki, which is a soup of pulverized white beans, mixed with some water, palm oil, salt and piment, poured into banana leaves which are then tied shut, then placed in boiling water for two hours until the soup becomes this gelatinous mound of deliciousness. Although other trainees have expressed their dislike of koki, I think it’s my favorite Cameroonian dish thus far. It was especially nice to eat, considering that my host mother tried to convince me to eat cow intestines last night. So far, the cow extremities pushed my way include liver, hooves, skin, and intestines. I am a very rude guest and put my foot down after the liver.
I have a mosquito bite on my butt the size of a silver dollar and it takes most of my willpower to not scratch it continuously. Chug chug chug along little malaria pills. I don’t care if you give me uncomfortable and sometimes sadistic dreams usually involving infestations or awkwardly naked people, as long as you keep away the dreaded paludisme. And speaking of health, I would just like to note that we recently had two very exciting medical sessions: one involved making sample slides of our blood to test for malaria, and the other involved case-study diarrhea discussion. Imagine forty people crammed into one room, everyone lancing their fingers and squeezing blood onto slides, then intimately discussing changes in our bowel movements. Indeed, we are becoming far closer than necessary, although we still hardly know each other. In some ways, I feel like I’m back at summer camp.
Happy Fourth of July, everyone! We actually got it together to make hamburgers and fries. The cow for the burgers was killed that morning.
Thanks so much to everyone that is writing me back. I love all of you so much. Please don’t stop!