Friday, May 22, 2009

There’s a nassara sitting on my crops…

And other fun things to do when the power is out.

So some intermittent rains have started up in the Extreme North of Cameroon, and when the rains come, the power goes, and all my creative faculties are called upon for entertainment. Below, a short list of just how to bide your time in the dark:

1. Cut your hair. I’d been hankering to cut my hair for a while. Oddly, my friend Austin had just texted me right as I was getting out the scissors. The text exchange went something like this:

Austin: bla bla bla power out.

Me: Seriously, I’m about to cut my hair out of sheer no-electricity inspired boredom.

Austin: Dude, chill. The power is supposed to come back this weekend.

Me: Too late! Minus five inches!

It actually looks not bad. I pulled it up in a ponytail and just went wack wack wack across the bottom. The part I cut off was blond. That is so not normal—when have I ever been blond?!! Desert sun is a hair-killing fry machine.

2. Make even weirder things than usual in your kitchen. I put flour in my hot chocolate the other day. I really couldn’t see in the dark. I thought it was the powdered milk. I wondered why it wouldn’t dissolve. It tasted like an over-eager 8 year old’s failed kitchen experiment—liquefied chocolate cake. Mmmm.

3. Eat mangoes. I think mangoes have become my new healthy coping strategy. Peace Corps places a lot of emphasis on these “healthy coping strategies,” and has asked us at various times to brainstorm lists of such strategies, which result in everything from sleeping (not too much), to exercising, to masturbating (you know who you are). But back to mangoes, it’s so nice to just cut them up slowly, distracting yourself from whatever else you don’t want to think about. I don’t know why they seem to make me so happy. They cost about 10 cents, so I eat anywhere between 1 – 3 per day.

4. Sit on people’s crops. Actually, Fleur decided to organize a picnic. She, Thea, a random assortment of friends and I hiked out towards the mountains to a pretty place under some trees, unrolled a mat, and were happily carving away into Fleur’s stellar potato salad when I had the sinking realization that we were probably sitting on somebody’s freshly-planted millet field. The planting season is now, so the little seeds were probably suffering under the collective weight of all our bums + potato salad + a lot of other food. But not even the Cameroonians we were with could ascertain if the field had already been planted or not, so I rested a little easier. Of the assembled 15 or so kids who were watching us, I gave them some oranges, so at least if they ran home to their parents to say, “There were a whole bunch of nassaras sitting on grandma’s millet today!” at least they can maybe suffix it with “but they gave us oranges, so maybe we shouldn’t put a spell on them.” Yikes yikes yikes.

5. Go to the ass races. Here in Mokolo, we races asses for fun. That’s right, ten year olds mount on donkeys and they run around a big field outside of town. Why? Why not. If I owned a donkey, I’d want to do the same thing. It’s a big deal and thousands of people come out for this annual event. They climb on rocks, trees, and any slope available to get a get a good view. I was standing right at one of the turns on the dirt track. When 30 charging asses are headed straight for you at full donkey speed, that is scary! We’d been warned that where we were standing is where the donkeys sometimes fly off the track (kind of like a race car?) but we stubbornly stayed put. When they really starting getting close, I jumped behind the bushes for protection.

Thanks to Fleur, a little photo documentary:

Cara, the health volunteer up in Tourou, and I decided that for next year we should add a new element to the events of the day: nassara races.

Wrong way, nassara. Come on, you can do it!


So, among other less exciting things on my “No Power ≠ No Fun” list:

pretend to play my guitar, bathe a LOT (like 3 showers a day), and actually brainstorm beneficial projects to do around town.

Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the spring time!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Watch out for the Penis Snatcher!

… cause sans pénis is a sad way to be.

In addition to the witchcraft I’ve previously mentioned in Mokolo, I’ve just learned that penis snatching has become all the rage these days. Somehow, (as usual though) I’m the last one to have caught on to this trend. PCVs from all over the North of the country have been hearing about missing peni for months now! Nobody knows for sure where it started, but I’ve heard both Nigeria and Chad. (Always blame the foreigners. At least the Etats-Unis is staying out of this one.)

In one nearby village a fellow volunteer, while walking down the street, has been taken aside by villagers who warn him earnestly, “Mr. Adam, be careful who you shake hands with, they might try to steal your penis!” For now, Adam remains with penis intact. Somehow, it’s through the handshake that the thief makes the snatch. Since Cameroonians shake hands as the standard greeting for anyone and everyone, this is pretty troublesome.

A doctor from another village in the Extreme North explained to me that when the “penis-less” come in to be examined, the member in question is, in fact, fully intact, but somehow, as though through some type of psychological blockage, the guy just doesn’t believe his penis is there anymore. So the doctor signs an attestation that junior is still down there, and sends the poor guy on his way. It seems moreso that what gets stolen is “the essence of the penis.”

In one PCV’s village, a supposed thief was nearly lynched for penis-abducting crimes, and another was severely beaten. In yet another town, the case was taken all the way to court. The plaintiff was asked to prove his penis-less-ness. Again, the member in question was fully intact. But somehow the accused guy was still found guilty! The plaintiff had claimed that his penis no longer worked, that he couldn’t make love to women. So the thief did a short stint in jail.

In still a third town, one of my friends who is a teacher was warned about these incidents. Since she’s a woman, though, she was told she didn’t have to worry, no one steals the vagina, as they “don’t keep well.” We pondered on this… “Spoils easily when removed from original container…??” At least I’m safe for now.

Finally in another town just up the road from me, it’s gone to yet another extreme. The penis is associated with a man’s wealth. So, as urine passes through the penis, so does wealth. Therefore, guys are scared of peeing onto the ground as is usually done, cause all his wealth and urine will seep over into Nigeria, and he’ll end up poor! (Do the Nigerians even know they’re getting rich off of this?) Sooooo, guys instead pee into plastic bottles these days, and keep the bottles who knows where. I haven’t seen any bottles floating around my neighborhood yet, but, I’m not drinking any lemonade any time soon.

Til next time, friends, keep those magical organs safe!