Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hanes in Effigy

List of little things that just don’t happen aux Etats-Unis Part 2: Burning my Underwear.

In the US, when my undies get a little tattered, it’s not a problem to take out my trusty needle and thread. More commonly, however, I just ditch ‘em in the garbage.

Here, however, even the heartiest Hanes can’t seem to stand up to the beating that is hand-washing all your clothes. Scrub, scrub, pound it on a rock. Normally, I would deposit said undies in the garbage, and readily obtain a new pair at local store of choice. Not so here.

Here, garbage is burned. Or at least for the pyrotechnically inclined. (…and then you pray your mama will send you some new sous-vêtements in the next care package!) The first few times I tried to burn my garbage, I ended up with a face-full of smoke, a wasted box of matches, and a minimally smoldering pile of rubbish gracefully adorning my front yard. No candidate for Better Homes and Gardens “Yard of the Year” award here. It seems some people in my family got all the pyrotechnical advantages. (Camille?)

It also seems my neighbor, the Grandmere took pity on me. That or she just likes to sift through my garbage. More recently, my garbage has started disappearing. Lucky me! Seems like a win-win situation. I can now enter the Cameroonian Yard of the Year competition, and Grandmere, who actually knows how to make things burn, gets my garbage.

Except when it comes to holey undies. There are some things that are just not meant to be shared with your neighbors. So, my weekend project… involves sitting over a pair of smoldering underpants. Let’s see how many hours this labor of love will consume. Ahhh, Cameroon!!

PS--Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! :)


andy said...

and that's why I love you so much.

karenintonga said...

Hi Kate! I kind of randomly discovered your blog. I am currently a PCV in Tonga, but I was actually looking on the internet for blogs from past PCVs in Haiti. I went to Haiti several times, (from 2001-2005)and am now attempting to write a travelogue/memoir about my experiences there. As you know, it is a place that never leaves people and permanently changes us. I was looking at Haiti PCV blogs for inspiration and found yours!! I loved reading some of your posts. It was almost a little bizarre, because I felt like we have so much in common!! I have a similar post on our blog (I'm here w/ my husband) about watching the Obama victory from abroad. Also, we are PC Tonga Group 73. The guys in our group also grew mustaches and we had a 1973 themed swearing in as well! How funny! I'll go through the archives for a photo, but I'm sure it is up on our blog somewhere. Anyway, I just wanted to say hello. Your work in both Haiti and Cameroon is really inspiring. You can get in touch with me through our blog at Thanks so much for all your incredible word and email me if you would like to get in touch!

Siobhan in Cameroon said...

I like to play a little game called "never have i ever" and sometimes "never will i ever again.." I can get quite the list going in just a week, lol and by the sounds of it I'm sure you could too. See you soon!!!!!

SMS Penang said...

Hi Kate,
Wow...Cameroon. I am writing from Malaysia. Since Jan 2006, I started to collect a postcard from every country and still no luck with one from Cameroon. You can see me just completed blog at I will be happy to send postcards to you and your friends in Camerooun. Hope to hear from you.

My email:

Sorry for my long post. I could not find your email address.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2009 (real early)