Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Visit From My Past

Sincere apologies to my readers, if you are still out there. Somehow I managed to let the entire month of June slipped away without an update.

A week after my return from the grand vacation half way across the world, a dear friend came for a visit. Megan is one of my closest friends going back to the days of high school and it meant a great deal that she took the time and effort, not to mention the money it took to come experience a small piece of my life here.

We did a bit of traveling through Cameroon, though not as much as we would've liked due to lack of time. Megan probably didn't pick a very good time to visit since I had just returned from vacation, and my tolerance for everyday Cameroonian annoyance wasn't very high. So a bit of advice to those who will host a guest - don't do it right after your return from civilization.

Perhaps I've just returned from the real world, or perhaps Cameroon has taken its toll on me, but being with Megan for the three weeks provided a lot of perspectives for me.

  • I used to be more hopeful/naive about life in Africa. Megan and I had numerous conversations about what is wrong with Cameroon and what it takes to "fix it". Cameroon is one of the most corrupted countries in the world, we all know that. But what's interesting is our attitude towards it. Megan had optimistic ideas about how things could perhaps be changed. I maintain the position I've came to months ago: I'm not here to change things. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is way more about an experience for the self than create changes for others. I see my work simply as a by-product of my time here, and that's how I have to think of it to keep sanity.

  • Life here is wacked. After being here for a year, I don't think about the fact that always squeezing one extra person than full capacity in vehicles is weird. Megan and I took a bus ride from hell to Fombahn to visit the palace. It was hot; we waited forever in the very back of a very overcrowded bus. Then once we got going, the bus stopped every 5 minutes to pick someone up or drop someone off. Actually, also dropping and picking up things: pigs, goats, you name it. To make matter worse, when we finally reach destination, the jerk driver tried to cheat us out of money and wouldn't give us our change back. I almost got into a fight with the asshole (excuse the language, he absolutely deserved it). 5 years from now, I will think back on this period of my life when I almost get in fights with people over 50 cents... It's not the money; it's the principle.

  • When we first arrived to my house in village, I think Megan went through a bit of shock. It was also strange for me because I had to constantly remind myself she's not just another volunteer. When other volunteers come to my house, they make themselves at home, and know exactly how my water system works, how to fire up the gas, etc. Having Megan there made me realize that washing dishes in two buckets is not normal. She kept asking me if she should dumped out the water, and I kept saying, oh it's fine - good for another few wash. Also, the fact I crap in a hole is very strange. But furthermore, the fact I'm too lazy to even walk to my latrine at night, and therefore just pee in my backyard is very VERY weird. :)

  • Megan made me realized I've really changed; not necessarily for better or worse, but simply very different. I found it amusing when she told one of my friends that he would've never recognized me even just a year ago. When she had to call me one month in advance if she wants to see me, and I can only book her into a few hour window of time between my chaotic schedule. Sometimes I do miss that life, but I know that's how I will be the minute this two year excursion is over, so I cherish every morning when I don't have to wake up to an alarm.
All in all, the visit was superb and made me very grateful of our friendship. And it's
very comforting to know that upon my return, at least one person from my past will be able to relate when I talk about how I miss grilled fish and baton de manioc.

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