You and all your friends

If your life were a fairytale:

Pierre, the rooster, always reminds you, maybe a little loudly, that it’s time to wake up around 5:45.
Once Pierre leaves your baby mouse friend, Gus, gives you words of inspiration during your morning yoga.
Rebecca, the spider by your clothes, advises you on fashion as you dress.
Peter, the roach, flies into you for a hug as you open the latrine door.
When you go to the farm with your host brother Harry, and all his bee cousins, tease and taunt you.
Harry always pisses you off, but at night Sebastian and all his firefly family consul you.
At training you’d like to talk to Jacques and his colorful lizard gang, but they always run off somewhere, probably under the bleachers to smoke.
Buz and his dog friends remind you of an absentee brother.
Sheryl and her bird choir can’t help but practice everywhere all the time.
Sometimes at the end of the day you like to offer Liz, the hen, to babysit her chicks so she can have a date with Pierre, but she tells you he is no good.
As night slowly washes around you and the sandman starts to drizzle sand on your eyelids you say goodnight to your friends and hope to see them tomorrow, because without friends where would we be?

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Ebolowa (Bissock)

The hen and her chicks watch the rain under a tin roof. Your host sister in law grabbed your clothes previously hanging on the line before the storm. The daze of Mass still reverberates with you as your arms tingle from washing your clothes. You haven’t bothered with your bucket shower yet, though you’ve come to enjoy them. The latrines are next to the shower so you never smell clean while showering, but the cleansing of hours of sweat is always pleasant.

You ate part of the rat your host brother presented to you as a hello. He quickly brought you to a house/bar for Cameroonian Whiskey, I.e. moonshine made from a palm tree. It tastes like the palm wine that you’ve seen harvested and tried to enjoy but the bees swarming for a taste was too nerving.

Life is surprisingly comfortable, there is a wall to lean against when you pop a squat. Everyone is welcoming. A child named Welcomed appears out of nowhere to talk and hold hands. The chef of your quarter pauses whatever he is doing to talk with you, about subjects you wouldn’t expect a chef of an poor area to talk about: the hypocritical economic actions of Europeans and Americans, “brothers taking from brothers.”

Bang is the sound of young me falling into fist push-ups, somehow their knuckles don’t break. The smell of alcohol is on almost every man’s breath. For breakfast one morning there was no bread to buy so your host brother gave you whiskey, you stuck with the instant coffee you find yourself praying for in the morning.

Sleep is instant, at once calming and confusing. In the morning the motos race by like in Southeast Asia. The similarities are surprisingly vast. It seems poverty erases more lines than diplomacy. Poverty that holds life back. To heat anything you need to start a fire. The rain collector is broken and it’s a 15min trek through the woods, over steep rocks for water. Every step the words of your host farther, the chef, said:

“Poverty regresses us.”

It’s easy to say people are happy none the less, but when you have nothing what else can you hang on to but happiness, hope, cheap whiskey and family? So your repeat these things, even though sometimes the large families, the accepting the now with too much passivity with alcohol regresses you. But you feel like it’s probably to early to comment to such an extent.

The training classes are a slap in the face with a cold fish of boredom and frustration. You hope they get better. You find yourself wanting to just go back to the village, or explore, but you are permitted little free time. You think of two years in the future because it’s easier than knowing what the next weeks and months will bring.

But you are happy.When you come home your are happy to see your host family, you laugh with them as they joke about boobs. You do a little exercise when you wake up ready to go at 5:30am. You are happy that by eight you are passing out. You are happy for the challenge, the change. But man some coco puffs sound amazing.

The rain the hen hinds from comes after a long hot day. Like the weather time rains down after a period of harshness.

Yaoundé

The city for you is but the sight from your hotel room. Hours of talking vaguely about what you will do while not doing anything drives you a little crazy. You take a deep breath for the two years to come and anticipate when you get to your training site and host family. 

Hope they like the knife you got them.

People call you “le blanc”, why not. When you do get to walk around you try to memorize everything in the four foot wide gutter. They’ve banned plastic bags here. The are no markings on the streets. You see a white guy holding the hand of one small blond boy who makes a train with an even smaller small blond boy, a dog on a leash orbits them. A lizard runs away with a butterfly. Bravo little guy.

You talked to the security guard and he told you of a good surf spot in the South, something like Karebi. 

Sometimes there is water, but if not you go to the hallway for the community bucket, fill your own bucket, dump in toilet or self, repeat. 

Last night the sky bursted and your fellow volunteers danced in it as you looked on. The sounds, the laughter, the water all like home when you were small and would dance in the rain.