Depending on where you are in Cameroon, a White sighting could be a rare occurrence or a daily event. Deep in the bush, there may not be a White in sight. When Postmate Kate and I reigned as the Whites of Nguti, we were flabbergasted when one morning, seemingly as though she teleported there, another white lady appeared. Double checking to make sure she wasn’t an albino (pronounced as ‘al-bean-o’ around these parts) we ran through our mental check-list to figure out exactly what kind of White we had on our hands.
White #1: The same-color-different-everything-else White
You make eye contact with the only other Westerner at the
cry-die/born-house/traditional meal. They take this as an open invitation to plop down in the seat next to you. Pleasantries are exchanged. You dole out your explanation of how you ended up here, they give theirs. You both take long swigs of beer, punctuating awkward pauses with exaggeratedly loud sighs of refreshment. You have absolutely nothing in common besides being white.
Maybe they speak French. Most of the time they’ll speak German. You’ll have to stop yourself from over enunciating in the slightly warped Indian accent you use to communicate with Cameroonians. You realize that while they can understand you most of the time there are large gaps in your shared knowledge. You tell them more than once that you had a friend that went to their country’s capital for two days junior year of college (that is the capital, isn’t it?) Finally you nod your goodbyes and “forget” to exchange numbers. Every Cameroonian at the event asks you for months after about the status of your “sister”.
White #2: The Oh-you’re-white?-I-didn’t-even-notice White
Most often found at Prescafe or other white havens. You see them eye you when you walk in the door. They look interesting, and slightly European, and that intrigues you. You continue to do the sly-eye and try to catch their attention. It’s not working! Don’t they notice my too-loud ordering in Pidgin? They’re just sitting there, pretending like they don’t notice that you’re white and they’re white and you’re both white together.
Ugh, you now realize they’re doing that thing where they pretend like they ‘don’t see color’. Right. We’re in Cameroon, in a sea of brown people, and you’re pretending like my day-glow skin doesn’t warrant a second glance? Someone literally just asked if we’re related, and you’re pretending to look around as if you’re legitimately confused about whom the person questioning you could be referring to. It’s me! They’re talking about me! The only other white person in a two-mile radius!
White #3: The oh-crap-you-are-REALLY-integrated White
Walking into a room you find that you’re not alone! Over there in that corner some old white lady’s sitting in a caba, speaking what you gather to be some seriously on-point patois. Man, it’s weird you’ve never even seen her before. You perform standard white protocol and introduce yourself. What is that accent she’s working with? Is that Spanish? Dutch?
You play your trump card and reveal that, yes, you’ve been here an entire one and a half years, and yeah, it’s kind of a big deal. You’re then bitch-slapped by this lady’s full house: She’s been here over two decades. That caba was made before you were even born. She’s not just dirty (like you are) that tan is unwashable and earned from her plot of land in your village’s fields. This chick grows cassava and can drive in Cameroonian traffic. Maybe she married a Cameroonian, or did something really illegal wherever she came from and fled here, and that’s why she just won’t leave. You inquire further about her origins.
Wait, she’s American?! Like, raised in America?! Where…where the hell did that accent come from? That’s just from being here for so long?! Oh god, you’ve gotta get out of here…
White #4: The Whitemare
Hey there, Whitemare. Nice unzipped purse you’re rocking, I’m sure thieves won’t notice and decide that robbing us would be a stellar idea. Are those booty shorts? And a spaghetti strap top? That’s going to go over fantastically with the ever-so-respectful male population. Did you just ask me where the nearest public restroom is? Tell me more about how you think it’s cute when children call you whiteman, and how you make sure to always answer to their racist shouts (effectively ruining all the work I’ve put in to stop quell them).
What’s that? You’d like ice in your drink? You wonder if this omelet lady takes Visa? What do I think about your Mom sending you a package during your month-long visit here? Maybe you should get your iPod back from the random kid who asked to borrow it, stop giving crazy people your phone number, and cover your blindingly white thighs and we’ll go inside and talk about a few things. And please stop expressing the number five with your palm open and fingers splayed—you’re gesturing something very rude to the locals about their mother.
Lucky for us there’s a final category, #5, that’s filled with normal people who act like regular human beings. They’ll laugh along with you when you expound on the craziness of the ‘Roon, but will confess that, like you, they do quite like it here sometimes. They’ll fill your sleepovers, sit around your table playing cards and sharing meals, and help flop a car on road trips. They’ll be your home away from home; your family away from family. The steadfast, classic, time tested,
good ol’ I’m-so-glad-I-found-you-here-halfway-across-the-world-let’s-be-friends-forever White.