I step outside after my Teaching of Teachers health group, willed to me by the previous volunteer, and see that the village is teetering on the edge of a downpour. If I want to make it home before the drops start falling, I’ll need to leave now.
Called are over are matching red okadas, one for me and one for Postmate Kate.
“They call me Gentle Pilot” says one of the moto-boys vying for our money “And look, I’m wearing a suit coat!” he adds, tugging on what indeed is the upper half of a black suit, paired with jeans and t-shirt in the 80 degree heat.
How could I resist? For the price equivalent of two American dollars, I carefully swing a leg over the seat space behind Gentle Pilot and wait for Postmate Kate and her okada boy to lead the trek back to Nguti, my head now looking alien-like with my giant shell of a helmet.
A motorcycle ride is just what I need after what has summed into a very bad, no good, stressful week.
With a cold nagging at me since Youth Day on the 11th, the week has trudged by slowly, egged on by my reading of four books in six days, managed in between fits of coughing and the inability to breathe through my nose. Shaking so many hands seems to be the culprit in this sickness’s origin. There may have been upwards of a thousand people at Youth Day this year, and I’m fairly certain I greeted half of them.
What has nagged at me more, however, is the slow eating away of my confidence this week. It seems I have been hit from all directions.
Over a meal of goat, chicken, fish, fufu and plaintain (of which I’m not partaking since I A) don’t like it B) am a vegetarian and C) am on a diet already resulting in the loss of 30lbs since September) I get asked while everyone but me is stuffing their faces with food
“So, is your entire family just as fat as you are?”
This is a question is the same vein as something I get asked most days of the week here, which is anything and everything about how incredibly fat I am. I’ve never been considered thin back in the states, but my rotundness is not something amazing or out of the ordinary here—in fact, the two Cameroonian women I was sitting with both had easily 50lbs on me.
Today, amazingly, someone managed to elegantly thread together my picky eating and hyperlipidity into one fell swoop of insult. She asked whether I liked Cameroonian food as much as a mutual friend of ours, another PCV. I told her that no, I was pretty picky actually (Ashia!). She assured me that the was probably for the best, and that once I stopped eating altogether and got thinner I could then venture into African food, as it can be fattening and I don’t need any more of that.
I’ve been laughed at when tired, laughed at when hungry, laughed at when in pain or scared. Laughing at me here seems to be a well enjoyed past-time. I suppose I’ll come out the other side of all of this with a thicker skin, but growing one sort of hurts. My talents and strengths here are largely unvalued. As it turns out, Africa does not care that you are good at Jeopardy or can paint a really neat space mural. It does care that you are thin and outdoorsy, though, as well as a good eater…None of those being things that come especially naturally for me.
So, while I try to avoid my new pagne dress from flying up, helped substantially by Gentle Pilot’s dresscoats, I think of how very nice it will be to get home to puppy that has twice this week destroyed clothing beyond repair, once this week puked on my bed, and this very morning woken me up my biting me so hard in the face I bled.
I managed to coast into the drive mere minutes after the downpour has started, lovingly drenching all the clothes I was going to bring to the regional project this weekend. Perhaps they will dry overnight and tomorrow will be ready after I go and drown my sorrows in a plate of puff puff and beans and thoughts of my upcoming beach and mountain weekend.
It could be worse.