Let’s talk about Friendship.
See, in America, my friends are the people I call when everything goes wrong. They’re also the people I call when everything goes right.
They’re like my extended family. The family I chose. The really, really good ones are there through thick and thin, healthy and sick. Heck, I hope the even marry a friend one day. Of course, they’ll also do double duty as a husband, but likely, deep down, they’ll be the best kind of friend.
The word friend in Cameroon does not mean what it means in America. I’m apparently friends with just about everyone in this country, by their definition. Heck, there’s a guy next to me at this internet café that I didn’t know until about a minute ago when he friend-requested me on facebook (I didn’t even give him my name—now that’s a crafty friend!). Now he thinks we’re buddies.
They get pretty sad here when you explain that you’re not their best friend just because sometimes you buy mangoes from them, or wave to them, or have once shaken their hand. Friends here are mostly just connections, to be put away for convenient favors later. Everyone wants to take your number, just in case you can help them down the line. Sometimes, your phone number is just a trophy of really meeting a white person. I’ve had calls that when I answer are just giggles and a dead line. Just calling to prove it’s really me, I guess!
One of Cameroon’s favorite expressions is translated into French and English, so everyone can enjoy it. One of the first things I learned in country was this expression, because of how often it’s used.
“We are together” or “Nous sommes ensemble” sounds really nice at first glance. Heck yeah, we’re together! We’re awesome people doing this awesome thing and now we’re buddies. Or, that’s how I initially took it. Turns out, that was a false interpretation. What actually means if “if I’m going down, you’re coming down with me!”
At a funeral? We are together. Stuck on the side of the road? We are together. Raining? We are together. I feel like maybe a “Suckkaaaa!” should be added to the end of it, just for emphasis. We’re both stuck here, and ain’t anything your honkey butt can do about it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, me and some friends (no, really!) are off to go drink a tower of beer together. It’s refrigerated, which is pretty much my only criteria for a drink I enjoy nowadays.