adventure, Africa, boit de la nuit, Cameroon, Case Western Reserve University, climate, dancing, engineering, Engineers WIthout Borders, mountains, New Years, night club, solo, student, travel, village, weather, West Africa
Pictures to be added.
Batoula-Bafounda, Cameroon, Africa
Our crew got up early but it took 2 hours for us to actually start. By then, it was 8am.
We were served breakfast (it always seems to be a selection of eggs, potatoes, or plantains with little variety). I curled up on my usual spot on a big, leather couch and waited for the food to be served. It always amazes me how much cooler the mountains of Cameroon are than the beaches were in Benin or Togo. Granted, the days become much hotter, but I can work outside all day in jeans and feel fine. In the mornings, I’m so thankful I thought to bring along a thin zip-up hoodie. I don it every morning and don’t usually doff it until mid-afternoon. I’ll come in every few times in the day to refill water bottles and get supplies and I’ll notice that the Italian tile floors are always cool and always being swept for the constantly accumulating masses of red dust.
Kate J. slept in and didn’t touch breakfast until much later. We, the rest of us, started the tower and the trenches, but not much else happened. When Kate J. finally got up, she left for Bafounda at 2pm or so for goods that we needed. The labor stopped by 3pm for the day. We aren’t sure how many will work tomorrow on account of New Years Day being a big thing here. It sucks to have yet another holiday and getting nothing done when time here is valuable. The locals don’t understand that we can’t just “stay an extra day or two”. They think money is as plentiful as the water we speak of in the States.
Sometimes I wonder how big the village really is. We are living up at the front of once of the entrances, but allegedly there is a river and many more areas that cannot even access what we will be installing. I also wonder how far people travel in a day since I always see the same adults putzing around the well project. They’re the only contributors, but I can’t blame the others. It would be hard to take time out of your strenuous day to contribute to a well that is so far away that you will never access it. But I’m also disappointed by how many elderly people and children show up to work. Do none of the healthy people have time? What can they possibly be doing in the day? Are they all farming and leaving their four-year-olds to tote pickaxes in our trenches?
After dinner, I read in my room and napped a little while the others talked, then I came out and asked if we were going to go anywhere for the New Year. How strange, to be in the New Year a solid 5 hours ahead of the east coast. I would literally be waking up for a day of hard work before people in the States were in the New Year. Kate H., Eric, Ryan, and I decided then to celebrate, so we went out to find a club. As we were ready to cross the road, Eric with a headlight on his head and us with some semi-traditional clothes and sandals on, some villagers came out of the compound and asked us to join them. We suddenly recognized them as the “pool boys” from the compound who spoke only French and their local dialects, wore impressively white pants in the dust, and were always sneaking around us girls and texting people on their phones. They must be the hotties in town, I guess.
We congregated in the darkness. The boys were so dark-skinned that I could only see their pants and the whites of their eyes in the moonlight. We were standing under a tree that was hissing incessantly. Cockroaches? I almost preferred not knowing. When the boys seemed to have a cue of where to go, we followed them 2km into the village to a very odd night club. By odd, I mean… it looked like a garage. It was a big cinder block square with obnoxious French-African dance music playing from some boom box and little colorful disco lights that you might find at a 6th-grade basement party. When we walked in, the boys seemed to wave off the cover. Everyone moved aside for these absolutely out-of-place visitors. The large congregation at the door just stared at us. When we walked in, we were handed glass bottles of Coke and wrapped bubblegum – bubblegum?! We felt like we were given special treatment as chairs were put up on the stage for us and we were asked to sit down. Of course, nothing is free; we then had to pay back for it all later. But, in the meantime, we decided to dance.
Dancing in West Africa is definitely different, and it varies by country. In Ouidah, dancing for men was – men don’t move their hips, the ladies do that. Here, the men literally were grinding on each other to get the ladies’ attention. Oh, and there were maybe a dozen men plus our guys, then me and Kate H. plus two girls who looked like they were 12. The four of us tried to stay in a group, but the men kept stealing us and dancing us away. I lied and said I was married to Ryan, Kate H. claimed Eric, and then the boys struggled to play the same games to win us back. Every move we made was a strategic move to get away from the others, so we would literally cha-cha to a far corner and into a tight-knit circles. But it never failed. The boys danced right back in and made our boys uncomfortable. It was so loud, everyone was speaking the same language: laughter, body movement, and facial expressions. What an experience. It wasn’t so enthralling that we couldn’t leave, it was just a bit tiring and still strangely intriguing – different.
We went back, after paying of course, and stumbled down the long trail by the moonlight. I kept pointing out constellations, causing everyone to look up at the wrong times and stumble into washed-out ditches and cracks in the trail. I started talking about lions, tigers, and beasts, and we gave ourselves chills thinking about the wild animals in Africa and asking ourselves what could possibly be waiting in the bushes of mountainous Cameroon? When the boys led us under the hissing tree and back into the compound, I went back upstairs immediately. Kate H. and I tried to clean up as quietly as we could so as not to wake up Amy or trip over her on the floor. I texted people for New Years, then I curled up on my bedbug-infested mattress, rolled my dirty clothes into a ball for my pillow, and went to bed. Could it really be 2013?