So this weekend has been quite eventful. For one, I can now cross “attend a Cameroonian party” off my Peace Corps bucket list, but more on that later. Saturday morning (the 13th), we woke up at the crack of dawn to go to Bafia for “Open Doors.” The language trainers set up seven stations in the training center for scenarios. I started in the hospital, where I had to explain to the doctor that I had indigestion and a fever, all in French. I went on to teach someone in my family how to prepare an American dish (macaroni and cheese), inquire at the bank about opening an account, and purchase a meal at a restaurant. I also had to negotiate prices with a vender at the market, file a complaint about a burglary in my house at the police station, which required me paying a small fee; and purchase a bus ticket at the station.
We returned to Bokito that afternoon, and after hanging out with the other health trainees for a while, I went to the supermarket to buy some laundry detergent and arrived home before curfew. Upon entering my house, I found about eight people all dressed in the same outfits listening to Cameroonian music blasting from a large speaker on the kitchen table. There were beer bottles all around (Mützig, because it is “winning” right now) and plates of food. My host mother ushered me into my bedroom, where we ate couscous together with my two young brothers and my cousin stopped by. Apparently, an association meeting was taking place in my living room and while my father is a member of said association, my mother is not. From what I gathered, it was a work-related association. I asked her why we were eating in my bedroom, as that was the first time she had ever spent more than a minute in my room, and she claimed that there were no available chairs or table space in the living room for our use. If you ask me, I think there was some exclusion going on. We ate couscous with legumes and drank Fanta. Couscous here has no real flavor. We finished eating and moved into the living room, where we watched some drunken grown-ups start to dance. A machine hooked up to the TV provided a large file of Cameroonian music for them to choose from and subsequently blast from the speaker. I danced with my brothers Junior and Guy Pascal and took photos of everyone in their matching pagnes. My mother stayed seated, singing quietly and moving her body with the music. She said that she was tired, but I think that she was just shy about showing off her dance moves because I know she likes to sing and dance. I think that she feels that she does not fit in with the group. Whenever I sat down next to her to take a rest, she would later say “Allons danser”, or “Let’s dance.” When we got up to dance, she and her husband did not dance together. Public display of affection is rare, even when a little drunk.
And then R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” came on. And it was magical. The only other American song that played was Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.” Some of the men did indeed know who Billy Joel was (is), and said “Il est très bon!” I, of course, agreed.
Towards the end, some women came over with a baby and one of the women in the association took the baby and started breastfeeding the baby. Right there in the living room. No big deal. She might have had some beer and palm wine earlier on in the party, but I don’t remember.
Today (Sunday the 14th), I washed my clothes again. My hands hurt. After two hours of laundry, my host mother suggested that we go to the bar across the street and buy Coca-Colas with my money as a reward for our hard work. I said why not, and so we did. We ate couscous again for lunch. Couscous in Cameroon literally tastes like nothing. I cannot describe it. A woman I did not know joined us for lunch and she asked why I do not eat with my hands. I said that I prefer forks and spoons. What I wanted to say was that my hands are dirty (and so are yours!) but I refrained. Lessons are for later and for people whose names I actually know.
After lunch, my cousin Chimene took me to her English teacher’s house to get my hair braided. I was both excited and nervous. Thankfully, being an English teacher, Sabine speaks English so I was able to convey any concerns that I had (e.g., uhhh that really hurts my head…). We walked to her salon, which was located on the main road, across the street from the Texaco bar. I have no idea what the bar is actually called; there is just an old Texaco gas station sign standing tall outside of the building. Anyway, when we got to the salon, I sat down in the empty chair and Sabine began parting my hair. It was pain. How people do this regularly, I have no idea. It only took an hour, but I had a headache and neck ache afterward. Oh well, I think I look pretty awesome. I will post photos when I can.
And then I went to the training center and then returned home, where my brothers admired my new look. And that was my weekend. Voilà!