Wednesday, February 1, 2012

An offering to the children

Youth day approaches. The students will prepare skits and poems and (really good) dances, and then march through the town. Nomi is also a youth, and I feel his tremendous fame within Mayo Darle could be put to good use. This week or next week, I will offer to loan him completely over to my students for youth day. LeCoq, one of my Terminale students and Nomi’s babysitter, could be in charge of him. If they choose to parade with him, I’ll have a handsome pagne boubou tailored up. I’m sure he’d be the first dressed dog ever to walk the streets of Mayo Darle. He’d make the students feel cool, and therefore, proud, it might encourage some village children to think about school, and it would be a true symbol of better human-dog relations for the next generation.

Grammar Question:

I am an English teacher, so this is serious:
In the sentence, “I find it amusing, but I also find I don’t like thinking about diarrhea while having it,” is “having” a gerund?

Petit Chauffeur, “Little driver”

Most strips of roads (maybe 90%) traveling through the Adamawa are dirt. In dry season, dust flies up from the road with passing vehicles. (Or, as I saw today, even with extremely fast dogs.) if a truck drives by, most people cover their mouths and noses. if I find myself without a cloth for covering, I usually try to breathe only through my nose to filter it. before coming to Cameroon I had never really appreciated our little nose hairs.
Travelling in dry season, you often hear conversations like this : someone from the back says, “role down the window.” the person in the front replies, “no there is dust.” person in back says, “yes, but there is also heat.” person in the front, “we’ve got to just deal.” and this response*, so common it’s almost a mantra, settles the argument. sometimes I want to ask them, deal with which, the heat or the dust? personally, I prefer the dust. we white people come out of the car looking like we just got spray-tanned, but it’s better than being sealed in with over-heated bodies. usually, they end up rolling the windows down on paved or calm sections, and crank them back just in time to lock out the approaching dust clouds when other vehicles pass.
This weekend, on the way back from Nyamboya, Hunter’s post, I had a new personal record : 12 people in a car. it was a two-door, five-seat manual Toyota. Two of these people were children, sitting on lap. Two men shared the front passenger seat (with a little girl), Six men and women shared the back (with one little boy). Luckily there were no big mamas, only Fulbe women who are still very traditional. They usually marry cousins, so they all look similar. They often have sort of triangular shaped noses, are always wrapped in colorful pagne, and sometimes their front teeth jut forward. Fortunately for us in the car that day, the Fulbe also tend to be slim.
I was riding petit-chauffeur, which means sharing the driver’s seat. car-loading is both a packing and a balancing act, so seats are often dictated. Because of my size, the drivers often put me petit-chauffeur. most people complain about petit-chauffeur, especially other volunteers. But most people aren’t quite as small as me and I secretly love it. As petit-chauffeur, if one is relatively petit, you can get pretty much all of your butt on the seat. Sometimes, the drivers put down funny cushions or towels to pad the buckles in the middle. As petit chauffeur you are only crushed by someone on one side, and you can lean back because the driver will always keep his right side in front of your left, so he can reach over you to shift. you can watch the road and see how he decides to handle the onslaught of bumps and pits. it’s easy to ask him to stop if you need to get out. and once in a while you get to help with the emergency brake, etc. Most importantly, you can see. your view is as un-obscured as the driver’s.
Traveling in Cameroon is slow, squished and jostling, but the music is always good, (almost every driver has a usb key hook up for the radio) and the view of the forests, passing through the small villages, making faces at the pant-less children who always pause to watch the car go by, and driving up the mountain of the Nigerian plateau to get into Mayo-Darle, feels like meditation, especially sitting petit-chauffeur.
*in French, “il faut supporter.”

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Cameroonian Touch

One reason Nomi is worth all the trouble he causes: he provides a good cuddle outlet. Physical affection is so comforting. My anxiety would be much higher if I had to go through 90% of every day without some form of it.
This is not to say that Cameroonians aren’t touchy. I have had my face pinched (an unsuccessful attempt by my large and loud boutique friend, Madame Ladi, to remove a blemish), been picked up by (also Madame Ladi), had hair braided, clothes adjusted, grass picked off of, dust brushed off of, had measurements taken, danced with (sometimes this is disgusting, like the old man who put his hands right on my butt with such entitlement – found out the next day that he’s infamous for that -, or the bulbous-bellied goofy man, recognizable for by half-black slanted front teeth and toddle-like behavior who burped beer and oily feast food in my face. This is was absolutely disgusting; I’m embarrassed to write it.), patted affectionately, been petted by little girls, held hands in singing or exercise circles, been hugged around the knees by children, been squished, sat on, leaned against and slept on during transport – a man’s sleepy head on my knee once -, had my hand shaken by nearly every person in this country I’ve met, and kissed on the cheek by one. All of these have happened in public, except perhaps the last one, which was in public but also inside a car after dark. Cameroonians talk a lot about how the white man – a category with includes all Americans and Europeans – has all the good things and a lot more knowledge and resources (which in many ways is true). Sometimes I pipe in – usually to explain, “it’s much better to be poor here then to be poor in America,” and sometimes I just listen (or, if I’m grading papers or preparing a lesson, tune it out). But it’s good to see that their opinion of our country as a golden paradise doesn’t inhibit them from getting personal. Integration, crossing boundaries.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Don’t feed him from the table.*

I am going to make Nomi a beggar. This is especially for Mom. I’m going to make Nomi a beggar, but I have a good reason. I want to see how many Cameroonians give into him. Their reactions to Nomi are so strange but often funny and – overall – pleasant.** But he will be a very good beggar, so cute and calm you can’t even be annoyed. Cameroonians will be impressed with how much he acts like a person.

*I don’t actually have a table. Plan on getting one.
**A note about these reactions:
At first they were always commenting on how I talked about Nomi as if he was a person. Now they are always talking about Nomi as if he’s a person. They say, “Nomi! A warrdi naa? Jap bamma,” or “Nomi, noy?,” or “C’est comment Nomi?” (Nomi, I see you have come? Welcome…” “Nomi, how?”, “what’s up Nomi?”)
People saying they want to eat him.
When they say they want to eat him, they are usually joking. And I usually laugh. It is mostly old men, skinny, saggy-faced, missing teeth, always in the pale, waxy solid colored drapey robe style boubou fabric. They always wave at you with 1) both hands, 2) at about the level of their cheeks, 3) palms up. If you want to try it 4) fingers in a natural curve, 5) wrists facing each other. 6) About a quarter of a turn with the hands, as comfortable. 7) Nod head vigorously up and down with a big smile.

tchow juju

Today, Miahcano, 4 and 8 months, and Dewa, 3 and 8 months, stood in front of me, butt naked, post-bath, as Mounira braided my hair in my landlord’s compound. Koulu, Dewa’s mom, the first wife who seems like the second wife, sat across from me, breatfeeding Nura, 1 yr. The boys were dancing, swinging everything around. Turned sideways. Miachano grabbed Dewa’s hips and thrusted. Later, Dewa swung it out right in front of my face (I couldn’t move my head because of the hair-braiding) and Koulu said, “tchow juju.” She made a slicing motion with her hand. “Chop the weiner off!” she was saying.
Later that night, Denis, my terminale student, came over. I let go of Nomi’s collar to see if he’d stay calm and he ran like a wild man. Denis said I should have castrated him when he was very small. (Cameroonian dogs seem to stay fairly small, so Nomi looks full-grown to many Cameroonians. If he does, we’ll know Cam dogs’ smallness is a nutritional). I said I wanted to neuter him but he had an infection and his testicles retracted, so it was impossible. At night it’s cold; I couldn’t stop shivering. Denis said an uncastrated dog loose at night will go long and wide searching for women. I said, yes, that’s what I’m worried about – he’s already started making love. But he doesn’t know the difference..”
“Between woman and man?” Denis finished. “So it means he’s still a child.” I thought about this. I thought about Miahcano and Dewa. Kids must do that often. Of course. Children imitate. The kids are imitating the goat, sheep, dog, cow, and chicken sex they see everywhere, and they don’t discriminate.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Nomi’s contribution to equal rights.

Pretty sure Nomi is gay. He does wild things with his male dog friend. The dog’s good looking, tan and white, relatively well-cared for since he’s a pastor’s dog. He’s quite a bit older than Nomi. But now Nomi’s got about the same height and the two have no shame. Yesterday, Nomi talked for a while with another dog by my post-mate Sarah’s house. When we went into the compound and met the pretty young, enthusiastic, female pup, Nomi was totally disinterested. Proof that gay is natural in everyone. And currently in Mayo Darle, Nomi’s probably the only member of society who could get away with this.