The Boy Who Bikes in the Rain

You got caught in your favorite bean shack (that you call the diner) in a fresh rain of the rainy season and wrote this about your favorite village kid:

The Boy Who Bikes in the Rain

The rain falls as it does,

The plants breathe in deep, reverberating neon green.

The dirt roads play at being rivers

As a boy on a bike zooms by

Woosh

Each time he enters your site he is in a new position on the bike,

Like some comedy montage;

First no hands

Then no feet

Then jumping over a slight bump,

As the clouds above descend below.

You later ask him why he biked in the rain

And he said it is because he always wanted to play in the rain and never had.

Isn’t that the essence of spring?

Breathing in deep, trying a new color of green?

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Termite Wings

The sky is clearly frustrated, almost constipated with rain as you stare out over the rolling hills of the Adamawa from your school. Off in the distance you see a goliath of dust emerge, cranky, woken by the bellowing winds of a sky releasing anxiety. You stare transfixed as the first exhale of weeks of sun swirl around you. Some instinct, thousands of years old, tells you to turn just in time as the goliath rushes by, eager to work off its frustration with a dash across the countryside.

The days up to this have been great. One of your counterparts has shown you so much work he has done and work he wants to do with you that you feel almost obsolete. You are eager to plan during the summer with him to help encourage teachers not to insult or hit their students.

Teachers here act more like frustrated and mean big brothers than educators. You’ve heard stories of smart kids not responding to a question they know the answer to because they don’t want to be called stupid or forced to parade around answering questions till they eventually get something wrong so that the teacher can reassure him or herself that they were right in the child’s perceived ignorance. You would be madder at teachers, you are mad, but you know where they are coming from. For months you were not yourself, for months you were the teacher waiting for the stupid answer, just wanting to make a kid kneel at the front of the class so that you could feel some semblance of control in such a chaotic situation. What prompted your switch was just fatigue, you got so tired of using so much energy to be someone you weren’t. But how to help other teachers to make a switch when all they’ve known are teachers, bosses, cops, store clerks, moto drivers, mayors even religious leaders being rude, mean and condescending to assert a meager image of dominance to secure themselves in a world of so much insecurity and unfairness?

During a day of constant rain you deep clean your house. No small feat when to mop you must bend over with a bucket of water and questionable rag, Cinderella style. Afterwards you sit on your now clean floor, worried that you just dirtied it and watch the grey sky during a pause in the rain. Spread sporadically across the sky are termites flying in what appears to be no particular direction. This happens after every rain, and soon you’ll find their wings on every feasible surface outside, the termites themselves already gone, probably eating away at your mud-brick walls. They hide somewhere out of sight, for god knows how long, developing, growing, and after a dose of falling sky they emerge, flying, liberated of a moist, suffocating dirt. So you wrote a poem:

With the sighs and cries of the tired sky come termites,

Deep from some place unseen,

So it must be serine.

The termites fly in the liberated air,

Hesitant of future rain,

But glad to be able to fly after months of

Living, growing and just being.

Tired you watch,

Learning how to grow,

How to develop unseen,

To wait for a fresh sky to fly in.

First Rain

School has been enjoyable since you’ve stopped trying to be such a discipline heavy teacher and started being yourself. Surprisingly you notice it is easier to control the class and yourself.  The library competition, that was supposed to be five weeks but ended up being almost three months, ended well and you finally started to feel content at school.

Reading to children you find to be beyond enjoyable. Small smiles filled to the bream with feeling. That’s what is amazing about children, they feel all of their emotion in one powerful surge.

As you teach at almost every school in the village your walks through village is like walking through a shooting range of shots of ‘Monsieur Thomas!’ Also ‘Nassara’, but you don’t mind because the children who say it usually only go up to your knee, who can get mad at that. You are hoping, believing, that your popularity with the kids is from being nice to them and trying to give respect instead of hitting or insulting them as teachers in all levels do. You see hope and even though you could easily look the other way you don’t want to, you want to keep on believing, if not in change here, than in education in general.

The village boy that used to basically live at your house barely comes by anymore and it hurts. You can’t imagine what having a child will feel, or does, feel like.

Jump to the day where you partook in a music video for your friend and got invited to the near by ranch that is straight out of Out of Africa for a night of good food and times.

Your days blend but you’re okay with that.

You’re going to Yaounde to work on a committee to help design the Education sector and are excited to see what work can be done, also to have a free tripe to Yaounde. You’ve been thinking about the bacon cheese burger to be had for over a month.

The first rain came thundering over the mountain like the Rhino from James and the Giant Peach. You couldn’t make it home in time so you decided to enjoy a walk in the falling sky. At home you reflected on where you were at last time it rained, months ago. You smile to yourself thinking of the person you have become by this point as you relish in the cool air of the rain.

With the rain comes the full fruition of Mango season. Literally it rains mangos as children through rocks and sticks to knock down the fruit. Throughout the city you see youth of all ages navigate the crater roads and motos with a stick over twice their length to catch the most far flung Mangos. There is an interesting feeling in seeing a once a year thing, it is like in that moment everyone around you is sharing the same memory, of rain, fruit and spring.

Live and Love

Poem written during another teacher meeting

Live and Love (23/02/2015)

The rock has watched the village grow

The clouds roll and the rivers flow

The old man, hands shaky, points to the spot

The young man wields the sledge hammer and hammers at the boulder he stands on

The sound of cracking stone is like a child’s cry

It carries through the air making the leaves tremble

With the stone they will make the foundations of a house where they will live and love

The walls are mud

One night a robber, sledgehammer in hand, breaks through the house and takes everything they own

During dry season, when the stone is so hot you can feel the heartbeat

They will set the field on fire and loose control and all is burnt

The children will play on the nearby rocks

Planets in space

As the house falls slowly into the earth

Season by season

As they grow and the memory of the men who chiseled and sweat and beat the rock till they felt in control is nothing more than names that pass on the lips of the old who talk of them as side details for a story about who spend their life hammering a rock

The stone is black and dirty

The rain finally comes and washes the stone melancholically

While it carries it through the mud to be engulfed by the earth

To live and love

Bienvenue

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Bienvenue is one of this children that will forever inspire. He lives in Bissock, a small village outside of Ebolowa, the capital of the southern region of Cameroon. Bienvenue (a common name here) was, as his name suggests, very welcoming. He is the only male in his family of I-lost-count-of-how-many-girls. His father is somewhere, the only news ever really heard was that he bought Bienvenue a bike, but then took it. Bienvenue loves two things: reading and animals. His love of reading has gone unmatched with anyone else met so far in Cameroon and it breaks the heart knowing that he can rarely afford a book. Should’ve left him countless. One day, while waiting for the host family, Bienvenue described in detail his love for animals and his adventures into the forest where he used to have a pet monkey (no lie). Now Bienvenue has a dog by the name of Police (the name for just about every dog in Cameroon) that follows him everywhere. Bienvenue is an inspiration not only for Cameroonian children, but children everywhere by his love of learning, nature and people. On hard days when teaching is really like herding cats memories of this little guy are like a fresh breeze.

Dry Season

The winds have changed. Your lips have a faint memory of cracking. Thirst hits you way harder than it used to. Your post mates have left in a dust devil but you know their names will linger in the village air for years to come. Your students cause some other type of heat in the classroom to a boiling point. Sometimes it is a devil’s tango, you forgot to look at your lesson plan and have to wing it and your students get frustrated therein frustrating you. It is a preverbal human feces tempest.

Within the dry season there are cool winds. You are spending more time with Amadou, the child Danny your old post mate took care of. The children next store come over to draw now and you found a kid that is writing a story he wants to make into a book. You laugh with your coworkers more than squint and smile in confusion. Your house is set up, asking you to cook more and relax. Time is on your side if you just remember to look at it.

Dry season is filled with winds that change, they can be heated and knock the air out of you or they can be cool and drag your frown into a smile. Honestly living here is just like living elsewhere new, you adapt to new things, your embrace the awkwardness of getting to know strangers, it just happens that you are in a small village in Cameroon is all.