Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Real Cameroonian Life

Phew! I survived my first day at the homestay. I’m currently writing from my new room, sitting on a full size bed, under a mosquito net. The last time I slept under a mosquito net was when I slept in my grandmother’s room circa 1995 or perhaps earlier. This is a strange experience. My entire day reminded me an awful lot of my time spent at Grandma Lee’s.

Let me back up the story to when the journey began. This morning, all 38 of us plus various trainers piled into two vans and headed to our training community. Along the way, we experienced people attempting to sell us items of all kinds when the van is stopped for one reason or another. The list of items include but not limited to: bags of peanuts, pineapples, bread, live chicken, dead chicken, dead monkeys, variety of biscuits/cookies, packets of tissue, etc.

When we arrived to our training site, our host families were waiting. The PC homestay coordinator read off pairs of family and volunteer; off we went. While still in Yaoundé, we received a bit of information about our host families. I was a bit disappointed since my family has only one child. Both of the parents are teachers. My host mom, Sophie, is really kind and had hosted 2 other PCTs before. I was really quite confused with the family setup though. Sophie picked me up with two girls around my age. They helped me with my luggage and we walked the awesome red-dirt “roads” (more like paths) to the house. I don’t know how I will ever learn how to get to PC offices by myself since the paths don’t have names. They are just random roads with corns and other plants along the way.

We got to the house and it looks really gigantic from the outside, but later I learned the family only occupies the ground floor. The four of us sat in the living room and chatted. I then learned the two girls are Sophie’s students. I asked her if she has kids, she said no. So I thought maybe PC made a mistake. She also didn’t make mention of her husband, so I thought she must be a teacher that was assigned to this village. That’s the only reason Cameroonian women would live alone. It took me until this evening to find out Sophie has no kids of her own, but her husband had a kid from his previous marriage. His last wife had passed. I still haven’t met the husband; I think he was away at work, or something. I can’t quite figure it out. The kid is also away? But will be back? Also unsure.

Sophie spoke French to me all afternoon when there were others around, since most don’t really know English. We visited the family of one of the girls, who came along to help with luggage, and I saw how “real” Cameroonians live. The family has 5 kids and we walked through a small alley to the back of the house. There was a small “courtyard”, or more like a 6x6ft space. The mom was busily cooking in the kitchen, the kids got a bamboo/wood weaved stool for me & Sophie to sit. I sat there and smelled the wood- burning stove. Behind me was a room where two men were chatting; a veil of mosquito net covered the doorway. On the ground were buckets where the women would do the washing. As I was sitting there and people around me were blabbing away in a language I couldn’t understand, for a moment I felt like I was back in Pin-tong, at Grandma Lee’s house where the similar setting existed and people spoke Hakka.

Later, we went to the front of the house, in a little awning where the mom was making these donut-like things. The kids would come out and visit me in no particular order, as did the neighbors. It seemed to me that the mom was selling those donut-like things. It was a really interesting community experience. I really feel like I’m in a movie. I didn’t really know what’s going on since I mainly judge the interaction base on body language. Every now and again people will direct a question at me; sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t. But I seem to give people a good laugh each time. One particular little kid in that family speaks a bit better English and he was trying to teach me and be my go-between. I hope this kid that is supposed to be in this house comes back; I want kids!! Oh, I also tried some of those donuts things (3 to be exact), some beans, and this creamy drink thing made out of corn paste. I am 98% sure that the preparation of those foods did not follow the health and safety training from PC. We’ll see if I get sick. I am hoping 12 years of eating street food of every kind had given me a somewhat stronger stomach. Many other trainees have already caught sickness, and it’s only been a week!! Yikes.

Alright, sleep time. This next 11 weeks will be o-so-interesting.

2 comments:

Michelle said...

love this. love your descriptions. love you.

Megan said...

I'm reading these entries backwards if you haven't noticed... I didn't know you would have internet access so often! That's awesome! St. Charles has been beautiful this week :) I leave for Toledo tomorrow. I decided to get married in the Sheldon concert hall. What do you think? You can't respond to me on here... I wonder if I should keep this as my main form of communication to you or start writing emails ....... :)