Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Very Bumpy Road

It’s a Saturday, but since we are on Cameroonian schedule, we have half day of language lessons. The last time I had to go to school on a Saturday was in 10 years ago in Taiwan. Oh, half-day-Saturdays, how I do not miss thee.

After language lessons, the ED people were invited to a ceremony at a school in Bafousmann and the SED people were welcomed. Several of us went and it was oh so very interesting. There were tons and tons of students in their khaki color uniforms. The ceremony was to recognize many (MANY) outstanding students. It went on for hours. The temperature was HOT and we had no idea what was going on most of the time. At some point, we were all invited up to present an award to different students. The entire thing was rather awkward. To top it off, the road getting to the school were – terrible. People often utter the words, “oh, it’s a bumpby ride.” Today, I experienced what that saying literally means.

Imagine sitting in a not so fabulous fan that is making its way through rather narrow, non-paved mud roads, with vendors on both sides of streets and motorbikes and small cars snaking in and out of traffic. Now, imagine holes on the road so big that the term “pot-hole” is simply insufficient. Each of the holes looks more like craters. In fact, there isn’t much smooth surface at all on these roads. The driver, in an attempt to avoid the craters, was snaking left and right. Whichever way you drive that road, people are bound to get motion sickness. The jeep was going less than 5 miles an hour for a good 30 minutes or longer. While this road condition comprises only a portion of the journey, it feels like infinity. I will never again complain about a few potholes and slight few bumps on U.S. roads – at least they are paved.

When we got back to training site, I went over to Courtney’s house and met the kids at her compound. I am in love with them already and that worsen the disappointment that I don’t have any kids at my house. Sophie’s younger brother and sister are here tonight; the sister will be staying a week. They are both my age and speak better English than Sophie, so it’s a lot easier when I stumble over French words. The sister is very eager to learn English. Our level of each other’s perspective language is approximately the same, so that makes this learning exchange very easy. I’ve already picked up a ton of French tonight alone, talking to the two of them. I’m looking forward to her stay this week!

I’ve never in my life felt more like a spoiled brat than I do these days. My conversations with these young people my age make me feel sickly over-privileged, absolutely incompetent, and all around a not-so-productive human being who can’t cook, can’t do laundry by hand (not well, at least), never had cold shower until 2 days ago, never worked on a farm, never understood what it’s like to have water and electricity that cut out randomly. Apart from the language barrier, I can bet these two know more about the world than me, who’s had 4 years of very expensive education. They are both older than me, but are just now completing high school and will enter universities next year. There is a lot to be said to grow up in a developing country. I couldn’t believe the maturity in the two little boys who live with Courtney. They are so tiny for their age, both 13. Yet they were so smart; speaking a lot of English for that young age and really helping us with our French. They also took us to the market, and served as our “protectors” – signaling us to watch for crazy motorbikes and get out of people’s ways. They have such respect for elders and are incredibly well behaved. Obviously not every kid growing up in Cameroon is that way, but I surely am impressed. So many important things about life are being lost in the information age – how sad.

1 comment:

Megan said...

I experienced that too!!! Terrible terrible roads - no seatbelts :) Look out for the motorbikes! Truth!