The train rocks you awake to the beat of a M.I.A. song stuck in your head as the trees start to fade into rolling hills. You walk off the train, a tan color drapes across the city as your host hugs you.
How long has it been since you’ve been hugged?
The dry heat is refreshing, like coming out of a dirty pool. Staring at the ramparts of various mosques you are happy for a change of scenery. After a day of running water and a pretty good cheeseburger that was gone before you even saw it you ate it so fast you meet various other volunteers that help assure you that there is a future outside of the blur of training. The next day you consume copious cups of coffee and spaghetti omelet sandwiches, which need to catch on in the states yesteryear. Queue staring children and a few men hitting on the girls you are with and you are on a crowded bus to Meidougou. It is more of an oversized van where you feel like a background character in a Scoobydoo episode as all the fifty or so heads bob in contrast to the lackadaisical vehicle and still background of obscure green blobs meant to be trees. In Meidougou you see your host, a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), in action, always a smile amongst her sea of children, almost like a pie piper. On the side lines of an ultimate Frisbee game her students try to talk to you in English. This is what you want, to connect to students and get them to want to learn and talk English. But how to get there still is like a distant cloud in the Adamawa landscape, floating towards you with all the time in the world.
Back in Ebolowa, with a bloody finger from opening a sachet with a knife, you are impatient with everything. You got a glimpse of how your life might be for the next two years and you want it. You learn after days of grinding your teeth that you will be posted in Beka Hossere in the Adamawa, five kilometres from Ngaoundéré and it feels like a warm déjà vu of a happy memory.
Back home you find yourself locked out of your house, hungry, tired and slightly entertained as you sit in the grandfather’s house watching Congolese music videos with the children. Once your host brother gets home he shares his loneliness at his wife and child being yet still away. The next night you find yourself talking with your host brother over moonshine for hours. He grows restless with the wife away and appears after you brush your teeth with commands to put on your shoes because you are going to his friend’s house. The road was dark as you avoid a barking dog while shadows danced around a bound fire. A woman, the size of the log she drags, tosses the wood into the flame, the embers mimicking fireflies. Your host brother tells you to follow him into the house that seems to materialize out of the periphery. Inside the house pop music leads you inside to a dead woman on a dinning room table, candle light praying around her. A rag wrapped around her chin and knotted at her head gives a medieval feel to your utter shock. Your mind is blank as you try to do the most respectful thing, hold your hands behind your back. Your host brother says a pray, crosses himself and leads you outside. Around the fire he talks to whom you presume is your friend before leading you away. On your way home you simply don’t know what to think. You did not know her and you did not feel anything but shock. Are you supposed to? Is there something wrong? Are you just fucked up? Or was it just a death? The people around the bound fire weren’t wailing and crying, should you have? Is this culture or a humanity thing? Your mind continues to race and go blank as your host brother introduces you to a lady who promptly proclaims that you two are going to have sex. Your shock is shocked. You feel an auto pilot kick in as you say, “non, ça va.” Life truly moves on. A death is a death in a context of fighting for the next day. Life and death are always next to each other, laughing, crying, being.
In ngandre there is a large hill trying to be a mountain made of a generation of stones with a boulder posed at the tip of the hill that would make a mean troll at night. Staring at the precarious boulder your mind goes to Sisyphus and his ad infinitum push and descent and Camus’ idea of a smiling Sisyphus. You know your time will be like his never ending work and you reassure yourself that like him you’ll be smiling.