Whew! Long time no update.
I’m official now. All sworn in. I gave the Pidgin speech at swearing in (I’ll post that another time). Then, I packed my things and promptly danced my butt off at the going away party the (newly) volunteers had thrown for ourselves. I got sweaty, tired, and smelly. Then I joined 54 other people on a bus for a couple hours. Lucky for me the windows were open.
I spent the night on a couch in the Case in Yaoundé since all the beds were taken. Oddly, though I was bitten by a whole bunch of bugs, I probably got one of the better sleeps. The other rooms sleep at least four to a room, and up to 12. In my room it was just me and some computers.
The next morning I said goodbye to people three times. The first time was early in the morning when I woke up at 5:30, since 6 was when the Peace Corps Car was coming for us. The second was at 7 or so when we went to go find the PC car that was very late. The last time was at eight when we finally called a cab because the driver refused to come. Guess we were disturbing his Saturday morning beauty sleep.
At the agency we scored some primo seats—right behind the driver and also directly to his right. We were hot stuff until 15 minutes into our journey the clutch broke and we had to trek right on back to town and hop on a bus several seats smaller than the previous one. I was lucky enough to be next to someone with a person on his lap and directly behind four people who chose to stand in the doorway of the bus for our eight hour journey.
Oh, did I say eight hours? I meant twelve. Yeah, turns out that the driver of this one was doing us a solid by taking us at all and when we got to Douala he dropped us off with all of our stuff to catch another bus, after he took the long, two hour detour, around the city. So, three whities (and two Y.D.s) watched our stuff go from a jam-packed bus to an even smaller bus while we got accused of stealing seats, being evil, and my favorite, having gold in our trunks. Douala’s a real classy place.
Luckily, my seat-mate and I shared a love of Beyonce and enjoyed serenading the bus while we rode into Kumba, the largest city in the South West. Kumba threw us a curveball by having a convention in town, making it impossible to get a room anywhere but the fanciest joint in town, the Vianello. Our room topped out at 17,000 CFA a night, around 35 bucks, and we split it three ways before departing for Classy Burger, our favorite restaurant in-country. The man at Classy Burger studied in New Orleans and Atlanta (Seriously, what are the chances that I would be able to describe my parents’ house to a Cameroonian and they’d known where I was talking about?) and makes some amazing food, albeit burgers is actually a rarer choice on the menu. We finished up around midnight and hopped some motos back to a hotel name we couldn’t remember for the life of us (Vinialalo? Vanilla? Vinananananananana?). Once showered and sufficiently crazed from lack of sleep we settled in and watched an episode of Scooby Doo. It was trippier than we remembered.
The next morning we hauled all of our crap (all 500+lbs of it) down two sets of stairs and found a ride to Nguti. We were a sight to see. Like the night before, we were disheveled, tired, worn and all around gross. As we took a stroll around the finest hotel in the Anglophone region we stuck out like sore thumbs, as if being white didn’t already do us that favor. Before officially departing for the low, low (okay, actually insanely high) sum of 65,000 CFA, we checked out a nightclub, where I randomly ran into a guy I saw the last time I visited Kumba for site visit. Now, Cameroonians like to mess with white chicks. When this guy said “hey, don’t I know you?” I ignored him, because well, every guy here pretends to know me. Then he let me know that he was serious—didn’t he help me when I was lost about a month ago? I realized that he was right, he was the guy who helped me out when I got stuck somewhere I didn’t know. Color me shocked.
Finally, finally, finally we reached Nguti, covered in dust and sun-worn. I can’t tell you how happy I was that we had site visits. It helped coming to Nguti feel like coming home. We contacted all the people we had seen last time and they took care of us like family. That night we ate fish (with my hands! What?!), visited a Cameroonian wake, met with the Director of Conservation for WWF, and soaked up all we could of our new place. I’m even getting used to the constant calls of “white man, white man”. During a bike ride we rode past the Catholic school and the children ran out of their classrooms and up the streets alongside our bikes (I would later that week have the same experience while going to get tomatoes, though with cows, which are slightly scarier). We went on like this for almost a mile, telling them through pants and red faces that our names were Auntie Kate and Auntie Georgia, and calling us Whiteman would get no response. We promised instead that if they used our names, we would stop and wave at them.
Yesterday while biking I heard my first peep from a small girl. No “whiteman”, no “Nassara”, no “La Blanche”, but instead “Auntie Georgia”. Nothing has ever sounded so sweet.