Sunday, January 4, 2009

homestay in bangante

Monday, June 16, 2008

I wish I could stop being welcomed here. I would like to be here already. I would like to stop hearing about what I will experience, and start experiencing it. Our trainers keep saying that it's hard to be here, when it's anything but. Everyday is better than the one before, because I am more comfortable. French is absolutely exhausting, but successfully communicating is the ultimate prize. It makes me more determined to go to a francophone province. They flashed us a list of the possible sites today: I wish I had time to copy them down so I could ask my family about each place. I like Bangante: everything is green! It's reassuringly like home. The plants are tropical, but that just means delicious fruits: bananas, pineapples, papayas, and mangoes. I tried to tell my family that these are delicacies back home, in the hopes that fish heads will stop staring back at me from my dinner plate.

So far the fish are served with a tomato based sauce on white rice. We also made macaroni one day, which I liked better than the rice. They grow lots of corn in this city, and the neighboring city is a watermelon town. Adjacent to the corn they grow peanuts and green beans. My family has a very small garden where they grow leeks, and other things. I haven't figured out what else is in the garden. We have also eaten chicken once or twice, which someone told me today was a big deal. I feel bad that I don't really care for the meat here. I don't know how much anything costs them, so I don't know if I should be really thankful for something I only like so-so, like chicken. They don't let me get away with not taking any, because they wait for me to serve myself before they serve themselves. I like trying everything, but don't really care for a large helping of everything. Boiled plantains are growing on me, but I don't think they'll ever be my favorite. But the most striking thing about mealtime is not the food, but the family dynamics.

I live at Chez Omer Yonga. Omer is mon pere, and ma mere is Nicole. They have three sons and one adopted nephew: Ulrich (13?), Jean-Bertrande (8?), Charles (6?) and Christian (-2). In addition, two grown relatives live with us: Valerie and Fabrice (both male, even though one's named Valerie). I won't venture a guess at how old they are, but they are both set to take their graduation qualification exam this week. My parents are teachers at the highschool. The younger children finished the school year last week, and went to the capitol, Yaoundé, to stay with their grandma for two weeks. I fit in the equation as an honored guest so far. I eat with my parents, and the kids would serve themselves and eat at the other end of the table. Valerie and Fabrice eat standing up in the kitchen, even when there is room at the table. They also set and clear the table. Children have to do lots of chores here. The young boys have to wash the floors and sweep. They wash shoes and dishes, and watch le bebe.

My family is Catholic. They have a shelf with pictures of Pope Benedict, and we went to Mass on Sunday. They call Christ le Seigneur in many instances. Mass was long, an hour and a half. During the homily, the priest would preach for a while, and then sing the first line of a song. The congregation all seemed to know these songs, and joined in for a short while. Then, he would continue preaching until they all sang again. They probably broke into song three times in the one homily. They also collected money to build a new church. It reminded me of home, and made me want to pray the pray for our church construction project: Heavenly Father, as a sign of your steadfast love, in a world hardened by sin, help us prepare your holy dwelling place, where your growing Christian family…

The rainy season is beginning as we speak. I think the first word I learned in Bangante was mud (boue), and georgia clay wishes it was this red. It feels like I've been in Cameroon for a month, when in reality it's been a week. Best guess, I feel this way because everything is so new, but exactly the same. Time also seems slower here. Since I don't have to plan my days, they just happen and it's easy to lose track of how long I've been doing this.

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