Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I knew I was looking forward to being back in Cameroon. One month of traveling in foreign countries where I hardly understand what’s going on is tiring! It felt even better to be back, though, than I’d expected. The plane ride from Addis Ababa to Douala said about everything you need to know.

There was a classically noisy, in-your-face Southern Cameroonian woman sitting across the aisle from me on the plane. Ahhh, her constant commentary—ranging from the airplane food, to the Chinese, to what makes people sick—was annoying and like music to my ears at the same time. The sounds of Cameroon! She couldn’t be bothered to sit in her assigned seat because, “we’re all going to get there anyway,” and she was responsible for engaging about half of the plane in conversation—from the row in front of us to two rows behind us! Nothing says Cameroon like an animated debate across four rows of public transportation. She promptly inquired into my marital status and proceeded into a confidant discourse about how I need to marry a Cameroonian man soon. She generously offered to help me arrange said marriage. I smile and nod. Through with me for the moment, she started showing another woman sitting behind us an entire carryon-full of THONGS she had brought to give as gifts. (Not flip-flips, the stringy underwear! Obviously this lady is not from the more conservative North of Cameroon.) Accordingly, the other Cameroonian woman asks for a shiny new thong of her own from the ample collection.

It felt good to make that same system work for me—the comforts of knowing what you can get away with. :) While standing in the aisle waiting to disembark the plane, a well-dressed Cameroonian gentleman behind me handed a bag of candy to the little boy, of no relation to him, who had been sitting in front of him. Such open generosity is typical of Cameroon. So I smiled at the man and asked, “Where is my part?” a very Cameroonian thing to say.
“Ah, but you are not a child,” he replies.
“Oh it’s too bad for me, isn’t it?” I say with a smile. He hesitates only a minute and gives me a bag of chocolates anyway. Score! At times like this I sure am happy to be back. And I bargained with a few of my chocolates to get a lower taxi fare on my ride from the airport.

So now I have only two months left in Mokolo! I’m excited and nervous at the same time, not exactly sure what’s next. My plan is to enjoy living in my little African town for the two short months that remain, and appreciate the connections I’ve made—it’ll never be quite like this again, even if I do return to Africa. I want to cleanly knot up a couple last projects, and then America, see you soon!

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