Ok, so I think I’ve done quite a good job of not complaining about all the things that make life tough in Africa (it’s actually easier to not complain here because, even without water, I have so much more than most others).
That being said, I think I’ve earned the right to bitch about a few things, just this once.
Here are the Top 10 Challenges in Cameroon (or at least the ones that bother me most):
- Lack of internet.
- Ditto for water.
- Ditto for electricity. Although not nearly as drastic or as scarce as the water situation, the power is off all day on Wednesdays...and Sundays… and whenever it rains (it’s now rainy season…go figure). But last night my house was hit by lightening and my fuse box exploded, causing my living room to set fire! Ultimate challenge: who do you call when there’s no fire department? If they can’t re-wire the entire house, looks like I’ll be living with candles permanently.
- Chasing mice. Buying rat poison. Cleaning droppings (especially in the kitchen – or the headboard to my bed!)
- Doxycycline. I had a major reaction to the anti-malarials in February which resulted in a brutal rash all over my face, chest, back and arms. I looked like a burn victim with flesh-eating disease. Not pleasant (for others more than me).
- On a smaller scale, it would be nice to have more selection of food. Fufu and rice and beans is getting old. In Belo, we get Jama Jama (huckleberry), potatoes, onions, carrots, bananas and avocadoes regularly (thank goodness!), but I would die for some pad thai….or a dairy product (mmmm…yogurt). Zita once asked me what the word Yogurt meant…they don’t get much calcium out here.
- All the lovely, excited, cute little children in Belo. For those who know me well, you aren’t even surprised that I said that. But really, it’s not the children that are challenging. It’s trying to get to work with a train of ‘youngens’ multiplying by the second, the entire way screaming “Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello!….” at the top of their lungs. I am proud to say I am still friendly (as friendly as can be) and wave and say Hi at least 150 times during my 10 minute walk to work (and back….I’m beginning to skip lunch to reduce my trips). But it’s through gritted teeth. The older children learn English at school, and although they still yell “Hello” a bunch of times, they generally know what it means and will stop after about five “Hellos.” But the young children seem to think it’s some sort of chant. They used to yell Mbagna (white man), to which I respond Nfumbna (black man). They LOVE that – everyone does. They find it hysterical. But they have learned that White Man says the word Hello in his language, which I think they believe to be some sort of song…
- Babies in my office. This is not so much a challenge as it is hilarious (considering the first page of our Policy Manual actually states: No babies in the office.) There is always at least one baby sleeping on the couch in front of my desk. Sometimes two (or more). At least once a day a colleague is breastfeeding in the office (or during a board meeting…or my favourite: in a taxi while I’m squeezed in with eight other people). Amelita has a plan to open a daycare in Cameroon. I told her she’ll be a millionaire – if she accepts payment in Fufu and Jama Jama.
- The words “I want to marry a white woman” without even so much as a "Hello" beforehand. It’s really getting annoying. I have to keep reminding myself that there is no similar concept to our idea of “Love” and I’ve stopped trying to explain why this is such an offensive thing to say. The funniest incident: a distinguished member of council told me (during the Mayor’s speech) that if I moved fast I could be his first wife, but if I doddled, I would end up second. Remind me not to doddle.
- Ironing – especially underwear. Have you ever tried ironing a bra with an underwire? Not easy. Turns out if you don’t iron laundry, you will get “mango flies” - a green maggot that burrows under your skin and has to be cut out. Doesn’t sound pleasant, but I’m so sick of ironing (especially when there’s no electricity!)
|Babies on each surface |
in my office
So that’s enough complaining.
On the bright side, the good thing about having so many challenges in everyday life is that you really learn to appreciate the tiniest little things.
For example: while watching a movie on my laptop, I heard a strange sound I had never heard before coming from my bathroom. While trying to decide what weapon to grab (my beer bottle “candle holders” or my mango-peeling knife), I realized I really needed to pee…which always happens when I hear running water.
There was water trickling into my toilet tank.
It was the best day of my life (the Africa portion of my life, that is).
In the end, the water wasn’t on long enough to fill half of one of my buckets. But the knowledge that water was capable of reaching my house (after one month of “carrying water”), and that it may return, was one of my best discoveries in Cameroon. I still get so excited when the water comes on that I end up running frantically through the house not knowing what do to first.
Since that first time, I’m going on another month without water…the upside being: with the depression of rainy season in full bloom, I get one tiny good feeling when it rains – I know I can put my buckets on the lawn and collect free water!
So...that being said, I promise that this will be the only bitching I do on this blog (well…of course I don’t promise that! But I promise I won’t dedicate a whole blog to complaining again).