Dust

The dirt road is living.

I know this because it changes each day with the movement of the wind and the rubber of moto tires. Everyday the scene of the stars is distorted in an intriguing way by the very same movements. It swirls and twists on the barren road, and becomes a cloud of endlessness when it’s disturbed by intervention.

There’s no escaping its grasp or its wrath because its only enemy won’t fall from the heavens until April. This gives it complete and utter control. Staking a place from the trees by the roadside to my bathroom floor, it snakes through every crack and fills every void. Even your hair will fall victim to its movements. Water has ceased to fall from the sky, and probably hasn’t since mid-October.

Seeing a perfectly blue sky makes you question your sanity, but seeing the stars in the evening makes everything fall into place. Day after day you look up and see blue. But not a deep blue, it’s one that’s tinted by the ever present reality. Blanketing our lives with a hazy charm, everyone copes in their own way. Some try to protect their fortresses with man-made devices, but others simply bask in what the gods have derived.

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Rainy Season

Clouds bearing down on the mountains of this strange land like a mysterious army of thoughts. It happens like THAT, as if the present is all that exists. There is no in between time from the commencement to the takeover, just one quick surrender.

Like an army of thousands it pounds into the tin roof with no mercy and no forgiveness. It only stops when it wants to. The bombardment will go on for hours that seem like days, reaching a decibel level that even the weakest ears would be haunted by. We are all at the mercy of its decisions. It continues and continues, but just when you think it’s time to bring out the arc, a god decides that we’ve had enough for this day.

The sky then transforms from a uniform gray in which nothing is decipherable to a series of undulating and evolving clouds. Usually it’s just in time for evening, so the clouds share the setting sun’s hues, leaving us with yellows, oranges, and purples that seem all too fake to be real.

The rains will surely come back tomorrow.

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“You can buy a chicken over there, but beware of the thieves”

Riding a moto taxi is pretty awesome. The awesomeness is only amplified when you’re carrying a chicken by the feet and the sun’s setting behind some mountains that are too surreal to be real.

Let me back up a bit.

It’s a sunny afternoon and Matt, Sal, Max, Jon-Jack and myself are about to embark on a slightly odd adventure. We’re setting out to buy a live chicken. None of us have ever bought a chicken that is clucking, but we want to get Matt’s host Dad a present. A few nights earlier, all of the volunteers had a party and after the party, you guessed it, there was the after-party. It happened at Matt’s dad’s house, and we thought what better way to thank him then to buy him a live chicken.

So, with no clue as to how to go about doing this, we embark on a journey to Centre Ville (the center of town) to visit the market. After a quick ride on the moto, we reach Centre Ville and our first stop is a clothes boutique where Jon-Jack has had his eye on a Randy Moss jersey for a while.

The shit is beautiful. Perfect condition, tags still on it, legit NFL merchandise with the embroidered lettering. Don’t ask me how it got to Cameroon. He gets it for 5,000 CFA, which is roughly 10 US dollars. A $150 jersey for 10 bucks, not a bad start to the adventure. So after he buys it, we decide to ask the vendor where we can get a live chicken, however, because of some French mishaps, the dude thinks we’re saying “pull” as in pullover, and not “poule” as in live chicken. Not a bad assumption, considering we’re at a clothing store. He tells us we have to go to Bafoussam (a city like 2 hours away) because it’s cold there, but there aren’t any “pulls” here.

Now we’re really fucking confused. I’ve seen hundreds of chickens here, most of them are just walking around, not even in pens, and now this guy is telling us we have to go two hours away to buy a chicken? It can’t be true. Finally, we bridge the language barrier, and he gladly tells us that we can buy them at the Grand Marche (Big Market).

The next 15 minutes involve walking to new parts of Bafia that we’d never really seen before, but eventually we make it to the Grand Marche. Out of our element, we’re sticking out like, well, like 5 white guys asking where to buy a chicken. Mamans (older women) are cracking up, and eventually we find a kind soul who helps us (all in French, mind you, most people in Bafia don’t know a lick of English).

 

*Note* This is a different chicken, but one we helped catch. Blog post to follow

So he goes, “yeah, you can buy chickens over there,” pointing toward the back of the market. “But beware of the thieves.”

Excuse-moi Monsieur?

Anywho, we truck on anyway, figuring that the five of us would be able to fend off any thieves dumb enough to try and jump us. Besides, we were carrying moto helments.

So, literally the moment we get to the chicken area, a guy walks by with a wicker cage full of about 10 or 15 chickens ready to be sold. The quickness of the endeavor was almost comical.

We tell the guy we want one, and he tries charging us 3,500CFA (about 7 bucks US) but we tell him that we won’t pay more than 3,000.

We got our way.

So, not knowing the procedure, he pulls out two chickens, and we tell him “No, nous ne voulons pas le deux” (we don’t want both). And, almost condescendingly, he says that he’s taking two out so that we could choose between them.

Whoops. Sorry bud, we’ve never really done this before. Our chicken usually comes wrapped in plastic.

We probably should have expected it, but he just abruptly hands us the chicken, feet in the air, and looks at us like “what’s taking these guys so long, grab the fucking chicken.” So, my buddy Matt dives in and takes it by the proverbial horns, in this case the feet, and we walk out of the market on a cloud of accomplishment.

I hop on a moto with Matt, the other three catch another one. I’m pretty sure that seeing two blancs (white people) carrying a live chicken on a moto was the highlight of the day for every single Bafian we passed.

We stop in Centre Ville because Matt’s dad is supposed to be downtown at this bar. No luck. He’s back at home. So, now it’s my turn to carry the chicken.

Matt transfers the goods to me, but as soon as I grab him, he goes for the jugular, trying to peck the shit out of my arm. I keep raising his feet up, as if that is going to stop him from bucking up and trying to peck. Eventually, he gives up, knowing his fate is sealed.

I hop on the moto with Sal for a quick 5 minute ride to Matt’s house. At that moment, the world may have stopped turning so I could take in the beauty of it. I’m on the back of a moto, arm outstretched holding a chicken whose wings are being opened up by the wind. The sun’s setting over the mountains as we descend the final hill towards Matt’s house and at that finite but infinite moment, I realize that I am here.

The rest of the story was textbook. Matt’s dad was incredibly grateful and ecstatic for the present, thanking us for what seemed like hours.

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Belgian Flight Attendants and Bafia

We touched down just as the sun was getting ready to go to bed.

In getting off the airplane, I said good-bye to any notion of familiarity, grabbed my guitar from the Belgian stewardess and walked toward my next adventure. We were met by the Peace Corps Country Director for Cameroon, Lahomma. Waving a huge Peace Corps flag, she greeted us as we walked down the steps onto Cameroonian soil.

The next five days we spent in Yaounde were a flash of culture shock, familiar things like internet and running water, and shots.

Lots and lots of shots.

Not the kind that get you drunk, but the kind that stop you from getting Typhoid.

I won’t go into the details since the time in Yaounde was simply in between time. Once it was time to leave the comfort of a western-style hotel in Yaounde, we got on a bus and rode an hour and a half to a place none of us knew anything about. When we arrived, we were greeted by about 50 or 60 people; people we’ve never met, but who would welcome us into their homes for the next three months.

The bus creaked to a halt and we had no choice but to get out. The next thirty minutes were full of confusion and chaos, which eventually culminated, for me, with meeting my host mother and her two grandkids, trying to spit out some badly worded French, and getting in a car to go see where I’d be living.

The first night in a mosquito net is an interesting experience. You feel like you’re trapped in a sense, yet the enclosure is for your own benefit. A strange reality.

Anyway, I quickly forgot about that and my focus shifted towards the searing heat. I thought the rainy season was supposed to be cooler, but enduring my first night in Africa without a fan and not even a remote wish of air conditioning was an adventure in and of itself. Eventually, I found dreamworld and woke up to roosters yelling at the top of their lungs and the family dog barking back in a different language. I don’t think they understood each other.

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Salut!

Hello everyone (or no one)!

So I set up this blog to help shed some light on my adventures while in Cameroon with the Peace Corps. I’m not there yet, but I figured a nice welcome post was in order. I’ll be leaving June 2nd from JFK airport in NYC. We will fly to Brussels, and then, eventually, to Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon.

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