A friend of many of us Peace Corps Volunteers, Alim, recently made a trip to America. It was his first time in the States, and he was going with a group of several other Africans, for an educational and work-related tour.
I loved hearing his reactions to the US! The two things that impressed him the most, he said, was the architecture, and … the toilets! He laughed as he told us, but just the idea that toilets were EVERYWHERE, and always so clean, was a shocker! The showers in the hotel were also pretty cool—he had a lot of pictures of them! When you recognize that I only know of about 5 flushy toilets in my town… that makes sense. (And actually, mine is not flushing these days!) Most volunteers and most Cameroonians are using the trusty hole in the ground.
If I ever need to smile, I will just recall an image of Alim from a story he told us. First, for your own mental imagery, I should explain that Alim is just cute. He’s small and friendly and has a big smile that just takes over his entire face. And apparently, number 3 on Alim’s Best-of-America list was Kentucky Fried Chicken. He said he ate there EVERY day (with the exception of when he was in New Orleans and had to substitute Popeyes.) On one of his daily stops, he noticed… the drive-through. Never having seen one of these before, he was pretty curious. Soooo, once there were no more cars in line, he heads toward the microphone, and in between giggles, in his charmingly accented English, orders his daily dose of chicken. He continues his stroll on to the window, pays, and walks on through… the drive-through. Cameroonian-American cultural exchange for the day: complete!! And a bucket o’ wings!
Lastly, I asked him what was his favorite part of the States. He went EVERYwhere!! DC, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, North Dakota (??!), New Orleans. When he pondered and then replied “New Orleans,” I think I squealed out loud.
“Alim, you’re just telling me that cause it’s my state!”
“Yes!” I even pointed to where I had once drunkenly written my name in large letters in the Gulf of Mexico, with a big smiley face, and an arrow pointing to Lafayette, on the US map hanging in the Peace Corps house in Maroua.
So, New Orleans might have hurricanes and now a fresh coating of BP-flavored oil, but it’s still got culture. And Alim went to Jazz Fest! Oh, I would have paid to see those twelve giggly Africans navigating Jazz Fest. :)
Annnnnnnd, on that note, allow me to just throw in that New Orleans, Lafayette, and all of America, get ready! I just got my plane tickets and I am HOME on August 28th!!
But until then, how ‘bout …a little update on my pants :)
The brown pants are back! I will hold them up as a monument to resiliency… as well as bad fashion.
But more interestingly, I was talking to Thea’s neighbor Antoinette yesterday. Recently, it’s been so hot here that even my dear old friends the pants have had to go. I’m opting for the cooler breezy option of skirts and dresses these days, even if means I don’t get to ride my bike around. (Too hot for that anyway!) So Antoinette told me how nice I looked. (Note: I was wearing my ugly Women’s Day pagne top and a Macabi skirt. That is one of those frumpy I’m-an-outdoors-woman-and-therefore-don’t-have-to-be-fashionable skirts that even I know better that to wear in public in the states!) So by most definitions, I did not look “nice.”
“Antoinette,” I said, “You always tell me I look nice when I wear a skirt or a dress. You must not like my pants.”
“Well,” she ponders, “Sometimes you wear pants and they are ok, and sometimes you wear pants…” and she starts laughing.
So basically even a Cameroonian has now confirmed what the Americans have been crying out for months! Well.
When I told this story to Thea she had an even better one for me. Apparently, even the saggy-assed-ness of my pants does not camouflage certain God-given… features. So, how Cameroonians continue to confuse all of us white girls in town, I do not know. But apparently Antoinette was recently trying to explain to another of Thea’s neighbors which one of the white girls I am.
“Oooooooh!” the newly enlightened neighbor exclaimed, “C’est elle avec les fesses africaines?!”
“Ooooohhh! She’s that one with the African butt?!” Yes, that is me, with the African butt, thank you! I do what I can to integrate.
6 years ago