Pictures coming soon.
It was yet another morning at the site. The same weather every day: cool mornings with light fog in the deepest thickets of banana trees, slowly warming air, then warm air with a hot sun. No rain. I could wear flip-flops and jeans all day, plus a hoodie in the morning which I would remove by about 10am.
We spent the morning topping off the tower. It was increasingly difficult to explain to the villagers not to touch our tower or climb on it. The children were eager to scale the sides, especially when I had to help compact dirt on top or place fill. We had already spent so much time explaining why there was no need for cement on a tower using geotextile and friction to hold it together.
The market was up and running today, so we left the site briefly to join the rest of the villagers. It was a swarming mess of people, some from more remote parts of the village who had not yet encountered us. The people are pushy to sell, but it’s definitely not like in other places I’ve been. The loosely assembled stands that we’d seen passing through the village before were now bustling with people and stocked with all sorts of goods. There were a lot of random electronic stands with random assortments of radios, cables, and things that seemed to old for me even to identify. There were of course also hot food stands and big burlap sacks of sugar cane being pulled from overloaded cars. Perhaps the worst section was the meat section, where fish that looked whole and shriveled laid, skewered, on mats in the sun. There were goats lying on tables, cut completely open with the fur still on. The flies were incredible and the smell was putrid.
I passed the section with the more pleasant food and bought a classic white-and-blue striped plastic baggie of twisted beignets. Some of the students went around purchasing machetes and clothes. Everyone liked my dresses I had tailored in Benin, so I was helping them buy material for their own. I ended up finding a used dress for a dollar which needed a new zipper. I had the zipper replaced at another stand for about the same price. I also bought my grandma a dress, myself more fabric and clothes, and my brother a shirt. While standing around looking at the shirts, Victor came up and started asking for me to marry him. He was in hysterics as I said “no” and kept sucking on a plastic bag. It was the same kind of plastic bag I’ve seen kids suck on after picking them off the ground. Victor eventually turned to go and I realized the bag was actually a little sack of to-go whiskey.
Emily was glad to find something to wear the funeral that we were then expected to attend for Tomas. I too found something to wear. We went back to the house and washed up. After everyone was dressed traditionally, we started a long walk down some new trails. The people around us kept multiplying. When we got to the thickest of the group, it was amazing how much of a party the funeral looked like. There were drinks, the music was loud and live, and people were singing everywhere and dancing too. We stood for what felt like an impossibly long time, observing Tomas with his family sitting around an opening where the casket was. Apparently it’s traditional to be buried by your ancestor home or something like that. This was certainly not the kind of area Tomas currently lives in, with his large mansion and Italian marble floors.
When we were told to head back, we were followed by a select…hundred or so…of people. We all walked through the afternoon heat in our bundles of fabric and found seats at one of the tables under the tents set up on the soccer field at Tomas’s house. There was sooo much catered food and so much alcohol too! I was surprised how much alcohol is accepted where I’ve been. Some man even in and took photos with us… and he was really drunk. It was kind of funny, until he got aggressive and we all stopped acknowledging him. When we left the party, we ended up just doing our own things for the rest of the day because everyone was so tied up with the funeral that we couldn’t get enough hands to finish the work. What a typical workday in Cameroon…