|My Host Mom and I|
Let me explain. Today was my first day with my host family. The day began in Yaoundé as usual except for today I had no running water but the plus was that I traded my running water for pain au chocolate for breakfast. A very fair trade if you ask me.
After lugging my baggage downstairs from the hotel, our group of 55 headed over the Peace Corps Headquarters to receive our homestay orientation. As usual, our group turned from what should be a classroom-like experience into the a more circus-like environment with our usual banter, jokes, sarcasm and general rambunctiousness. We are a rowdy bunch - that’s for sure.
We received some information on our homestay families and what the expectations are. We also sat through a brief slideshow of photos of both Bafia and Bokito. So here is the deal, environment and youth development volunteers live in a town called Bafia, which is semi-urban and perhaps has a population of 70,000. Us health folks, on the other hand, are banished to the small village of Bokito 22km away. The reasoning for our abandonment in the boonies is supposedly to ‘get us used to rural village living’. Hmm, sure. The photos of Bafia showed nice town squares, a post office, and a city hall! The pictures of Bokito included a nearly empty street which is supposedly the main street in town and also an abandoned and rundown town square with its Place de l’independence. Oh, us Bokito-ers had so much to look forward to!
Then came the moment of reckoning. We received small slips of paper with descriptions of our host families. I got my slip and it said I’m living with Therese Bogo and her 28 year old nephew Luke, who is studying to be an optometrist. Momma Therese is a civil servant - either a tax collector or human resources - I haven’t been able to get a straight answer out of her.
After heading back to the hotel for lunch we had packed our bags and headed for Bokito/Bafia. As usual, our large van played West African music videos for the duration of our rain-ladden journey. The most frequently played music video was of a fan who takes a musician hostage and tries to seduce him by changing her clothes frequently in her apartment. You can imagine how quickly the novelty in this music video faded after it played for the fourth or fifth time.
When we arrived to Bafia the YD and ENV volunteers disembarked. I said goodbye to my closes Bafia friends and took pictures of Calla and her new mom. After just 15 minutes at the Peace Corps Training Site in Bafia, us health volunteers, also known as the redheaded stepchildren (a term which I suppose is a bit more literal for me) got back on the bus for our 30 minute drive to Bokito. When we arrived at the Bokito Training Site, the compound was filled with host families, some of whom shouted out for their new children as we disembarked the bus.
My momma wasn’t there, but instead it was Luke, 28-year-old the nephew, looking sharp in a children’s size large bright purple hoodie and Wellies. After driving a very short distance we arrived at my host house. I got out and momma Therese shouted ‘Ma Fille!’ when I descended. The evening was awkward to say the least, given that my French has much room for improvement. After giving out my gif5w and showing Therese my photo album of family, friends, and Chicago, I then helped to chop plaintains for our fried plantains. Momma went out and bought me some eggs for me to cook for dinner.
After making dinner and talking with Alene, the sister-in-law to Therese, we then sat down and watched really poor quality Spanish tella-novelas which take place in Brazil and are dubbed over in French. After watching TV for a while my mom stood up and shouted ‘On part pour boire’ - ‘Let’s go drink’.
And drink we did.
We walked just outside our house to the Place de l’independence which is just outside the front of our yard. After crossing the turnabout we arrived at Le Combattant, a small little bar owned by a man named Bobby in which we were the only patrons. Momma ordered a grapefruit soda and Alene and I ordered some 33’s - the best Cameroonian beer there is here. We all awkwardly sat and listened to the bad Cameroonian music. I slowly sipped on my beer (which keep in mind, Cameroonian beers are 2 American beers - so for a girl who hates beer, this was quite a task!). Alene, on the other hand, downed hers. I swear I didn’t see her take even a sip! After quickly finishing her beer, Alene got up and slowly danced around, swaying her hips back and forth and singing loudly to the music. I chugged the rest of my beer and joined in with just a bit of dancing.
Alene and I stumbled back to the house (okay, the stumbling was more on my part rather than Alene’s!) and momma trailed behind us as the music from Le Combattant grew. Back home I said goodnight to everyone, including my kitten, whom I named Pascale, and the dog, who is named La Rein - the queen.
Stupidly of me, in my drunken state, I figured that there was no time like the present to assemble my water filter. Carpe Diem, or not? After stumbling around for a good 20 minutes I thought I had figured it out. The water filtered, and it doesn’t look like the dark brown water that I put into the filter, but it does have a distinctly horrible taste - something that all the other volunteers don’t experience. All I can say is, I’m sure glad as hell that we got our typhoid vaccinations!