Life in Limbo

I'll Miss My Goofy Postmate Brothers

Well, I’ve been off med-hold for about a week now (whoop! – let’s hope it’ll be a few more months till I’m back on med-hold). My boils are all nearly gone, but unfortunately one is still hanging around for the good time. The bus back to Lomié went all wrong – as it usually does. I showed up to the early bus out of Yaoundé, which was, only naturally, delayed about 3 hours. Once we departed, we sailed out of Yaoundé, only to collide with a semi-truck an hour later, to which our driver claimed ‘he didn’t see it coming’ – because, you know, those semi-trucks are quite small, especially when turning right out in front of you. While we remained stranded roadside, passengers got in fights among themselves over which driver’s fault the accident was – I suppose these fights and heated debates were a result of sheer boredom or the typical Eastern need to constantly yell and bicker. After being stranded for far too long, we continued with our journey, only to receive a flat tire an hour later, which on a bus as large as this one, sounds like a grenade going off below you. Needless to say, I’m glad my bladder was empty, otherwise I’m sure I would’ve peed my pants.

This is a very simple roadblock en route to Lomie
We rolled into Abong Mbang far later than anticipated. When I arrived, no buses were going to Lomié that day so I was left to look for a bush taxi, which, as fate would have it, the last ticket for the bush taxi was sold to the person in front of me in line. So I waited, peed in a hidden nearby sink (I gotta do what I gotta do when they lock the toilets up and people are hanging out in my usual pee spot near the garbage pile), and ate about 10 guavas to pass the time. Finally a bush taxi rolled in and I feigned illness to get the back window seat so that I didn’t need to sit on the stick shift, where all the passengers wanted me to sit.

This driver was feeling particularly cruel this afternoon and decided to cram 4 fat men in the back with me and 4 in the front with Danny for the next 6 hours to Lomié in order to make an extra buck. Not to mention, the windows didn't work so we slow roasted over those 6 hours - I think we were pretty well-done by the end of our slow roasting. Not long after pulling out of the cesspool that is Abong Mbang, some random guy ran up beside our taxi and sat on the trunk as we drove along. After about 15 minutes of the trunk man hanging on for dear life as we bumped along the road, I asked the man next to me why this dude was riding on our trunk, to which he responded “funerals and wakes make people do crazy things”. I nodded and said “Oh, of course”, as if I knew what the hell that was supposed to mean, because that definitely did not answer my question as to why this man was riding on our trunk. Apparently said trunk man got bored of hanging on, and decided to climb inside the trunk with our bags, and shut the trunk door – a quite stuffy ride I can only imagine, but probably more spacious than my seat on top of a fat man’s lap with his arm draped around me stroking my shoulders. My first thought was ‘Why is this man now riding inside our trunk?’ but Danny’s first reaction was ‘I hope he isn’t stealing the 12 deodorant bottles I brought from Miami!’.

As the sun set, we finally passed the ‘Welcome to Lomié’ sign 2km outside of town and the driver decided to pull over. Danny and I demand he drop us off at the gare, as is customary. The driver refused. We then demanded the 3$ that we were each owed and the driver responded with “I have no money”. After a few minutes of Danny demanding our reimbursements we were owed from overpaying for our tickets, I then jumped in and ripped the driver a new one. The 4 fat men in the back slowly turned their heads and looked at me, I think out of shock that I would dare stand up to the driver, and also perhaps because I miraculously recovered from my ‘illness’. One of the fat men said, “Look, the little redhead says nothing all journey but with the topic of money, then she talks!” Damn right I talk when you are stealing 3$ from me! That’s three days worth of food! Long story short, after yelling enough in front of the gendarmes, the driver took us to the gare but still refused to repay us, claiming that we are white and don’t need the money. Danny and I let the man have it again, and explained that we don’t make much money and that his perception of whites being rich was a very villageois mentality. Ashamed to be called villageois, he forked up the money – looks like he had the money all along. If he would’ve just repaid us in the first place, he could’ve saved himself from some redheaded wrath by the girl far too fed up with the shenanigans of Easterners.

Fishing Ponds at La Raffia Hotel in Lomie

Speaking of shenanigans of Easterners, I guess I have some news that’s a long time coming. I’ve been the victim of far too many shenanigans (the sexual harassment kind) recently and I will be moving to a new post. Surprise! I love Lomié; the nature here is beautiful, the rainforest is stunning, the variety of food is a blessing, and the occasional electricity is marvelous – but unfortunately one too many men have grabbed my butt, grabbed hold of me from behind and refused to let me go, done the ‘I-want-to-have-sex-with-you’ hand motion (once not even on my hand, but rather in a place a bit more forward), and one too many men have peed on me (and by one too many, I mean one). 

There isn’t much health-related work to be done in Lomié either. The District Hospital is in disrepair and there is nothing I can do to help it; and the Catholic Hospital is far too well-staffed and well-run to warrant the help of a volunteer. The little work I did have in Lomié has since fallen to pieces. The mushroom group fell apart at the seams since each person wanted their own kickbacks and ‘motivation’ (bribes) to keep the project running. I’ve stopped going to the high school health club I was a part of ever since one of the teachers stood butt naked in the doorway of his house (on school property) and insisted that I come and share dinner with him alone in his house (he was baffled when I declined). Between these incidents, the lack of integration due to the sprawled out, diverse, large Lomié population, the attempted break-in a few months ago, and the danger of me taking the only bus out of Lomié at 3am alone to leave village only to get trapped on the road for hours (or days), Sylvie decided it was best that I move.
Fishing Pond in Lomie 

It’ll be sad to leave Lomié. My postmates are great and I will miss the few Cameroonians in Lomié that are kind, have treated me well, and who have been welcoming. But, the move is for the better and I think I will be a more effective and happy volunteer elsewhere. The stress of the harassment was affecting me so much that there would be days I wouldn’t leave my house, and that won’t make me a successful PCV. In Lomié, I found myself getting too angry too fast, having constant headaches and being far too stressed out and lacking motivation to work. When I was in the Grand North, people welcomed me, invited me over for food, had discussions that didn’t involve me marrying them, and I didn’t get touched by a single man! During my brief trip in the Grand North, I was happy, had ideas for projects, wanted to integrate, I didn’t get angry, and had no headaches – it was a reminder of how I’m supposed to feel here in Cameroon and made me realize that I shouldn’t stay in Lomié if it’s having a negative impact on me health and well-being.

So, on to better and brighter horizons! While I’m not sure where I’ll go yet, I’m pushing for the Adamawa (and plan on only settling for the Adamawa) given the much kinder, less harassing culture there. Furthermore, being posted in the Adamawa will let me begin the food security-related projects that I plan on starting. Unfortunately with the closure of the West Adamawa, there are not posts open in the East Adamawa right now, so I wait…and wait until a new post is found. There is one possible post that has been found and that I’m crossing my fingers for, but it has to be agreed upon by Sylvie and a house needs to be found, so it’ll still be some time before I am able to move. Until then, I pass my days learning Fulfulde in my house with Metis, playing board games with my postmates, reading for hours on end while the rainy season storms pound down outside, and drinking chai in the calm, Fulfulde omelet shack by my house in Lomié.

While now I’m presented with the hassle of moving (both logistically and financially), I believe it’ll all be for the better. So now I wait (and push a bit) for a new, welcoming, quaint village in the Adamawa to be named my new home. Until then, I’ll try to enjoy the challenges that Lomié deals me daily - which for the past week and a half has included a nice worm infestation going on in my intestines…use your imagination to figure out how I found out I have worms…

1 comment:

  1. from Matt's Dad:
    I trust Matt has found the hidden charms of Abong Mbang. You describe some difficult challenges and more difficult people in Lomie, so it makes good sense to move to where your opportunities are greater. Hope you can get to Adamawa. It's a shame the PC had to close posts there. Finally, I hope you regain your health-- it's no fun being sick and you cannot be nearly as effective.
    All the best,
    Russ Bikoff


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