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Last week, my housemate Jane was telling me how strong Nura (the volunteer I replaced) was. How she would walk from Bamendjou to Batie, Baham, Bafoussam, even Dschang and Bangangte. Which is pretty impressive. Bafoussam is a 40 minute car ride. Bangangte is a few hours in a car. 37 miles, according to GPS!!!

While there is certainly a part of me that wants to create my own name for myself here, it got me to thinking. Why not walking? I love walking. So last week I walked home from Batie (95 min). Yesterday I walked to Baham (118 min) and today I walked from Baham back here (125 min). I love walking!

Benefits of walking over taking a moto:

- I notice so many more things! Instead of just knowing what parts of the road are particularly bumpy, now I know where the dirt turns from clay to sand, where there are incredible vistas from the top of a ridge, where there is a particularly interesting tree.

- I get to meet more people! Instead of breezing past on a moto and giving a half-smile from under my helmet or a half-wave from my death grip, I can say hello to all the Mamans working on their farms, the kids walking to school.

- Less dusty

- Cheaper

- Good exercise

- Better for the environment?

Alright, I'm reaching now. I just love experiencing the world as a pedestrian. It was the same in Humboldt and Yosemite. When you walk, you build a relationship with your environment. When you drive, you exist in a bubble. Not to say driving doesn't have it's place. I'll be taking a car to Bafoussam on Thursday. (Downsides to walking: sweat, sweat, sweat! and blisters. and dirt.)

Speaking of existing in bubbles, one of my friends here got a compliment from his counterpart. That he is very un-American, because he isn't as private as Americans tend to be. (This after stopping to enjoy some palm-wine with some guys he had met once). I'm glad for him, but the truth for me is that I AM very American. I value my privacy to a degree that I think honestly offends Cameroonians around me. When I am out and walking around, I am happy to greet people and have conversations, but when I am at home, I close my door and I want my space to be my own. I'm learning so much...

I fell when I was walking home today. I was distracted by a plant on the side of the road and slipped on the gravel and bumped my knee. What a klutz! Luckily there was no one around to tell me, "Patience."

I walked past the Ecole Publique de Batounta (a village or quartier halfway between here and Baham) and it was recess. All the kids shouted Bonjour and La Blanche, and I waved and smiled at them all. I love the kids here. I also kept stepping in potholes because I was distracted by waving. What a klutz!

I greeted the Mamans on the farms with an Olia, Maman (good morning, in patois). Some replied with just a Bonjour or a Merci, and some asked me questions in patois, which I didn't understand. Sometimes they would then repeat themselves in French. You have come? Yes. Sometimes they would go on and on in patois, laughing. I love the Mamans here! They work so hard. And they are so forgiving of my ineptitude in patois, and french, and the culture.

Here is what I know how to say in patois:
Olia - Bonjour
Autzoca - Bonsoir
Nda - Bonjour
On Intia - Bonjour
Tchamba'a - Thanks

While I was at Liz's I looked through a book she had bought about Baham. It had a linguistic map. Tres interessant! I wish there were better maps of the area here. Anyway, we are in the Nguemba linguistic area. Yup.

Whenever I cross the street to Laur's boutique to buy bread or eggs or TP or what have you, her husband tries to teach me more patois. He will say something in patois. At first, I would just say I didn't understand. Then I would just repeat him. Now I repeat him, and ask him what it means. But I forget to write it down and then I forget it. I'm really forgetful here!

Djudju - the day before market day. I don't really have any time to use this word, but there are meetings on djudju.

OH. When I was walking TO Baham yesterday, I ran into two men who stopped me to greet me. Let me say that the last few weeks I have been extremely frustrated with the guys around here - I am not your girlfriend, fiancee, or wife and I have no desire to be. If you really want to be my friend, stop asking me to go somewhere with you and ask about me. I have no qualms about being friends, but you're not treating me like you want to be my friend. Alright. Rant est fini. Anyway, these two men who stopped me were a relief. One had been walking the same direction as me and had stopped to greet the other man. He offered me some kola and the other man suggested that me and the walking man walk together. Okay. It's not as though there was much of a choice, am I going to stop and hide? But we speedwalked and he speedtalked and I tried to keep up with his strides and his french. He asked if I was a tourist, if I wanted more kola, asked me why i was walking instead of taking a moto, told me it is good to exercise, talked about what he was doing but his french was too fast for me to understand. Once we reached the highway, he caught a moto and I declined and it was altogether a (fast, but) pleasant interaction. I was in such a good mood, I greeted the next man I passed. He asked me what I had to give him. I sighed and told him nothing. He kept talking and I ignored him and kept walking. Oh well.

So. Kola, you ask. What is kola? Kola nut. Traditionally significant in Cameroonian culture (and other West African cultures). Something you would bring as a gift to a Chef, or offer to guests. The seed of Cola acuminata. About the size and shape of a large unshelled pecan. Pink. It breaks apart into irregular sections. To do things properly, you would give a section to each person in the group. You chew it up, some people spit it out after chewing, most don't. The taste is comparable to chewing aspirin. The texture is somewhere between a raw carrot and wood. It's high in caffeine! People here also eat it when drinking beer. Beer and Kola is the Red Bull and Vodka of Cameroon, except it's mostly old men who drink it instead of the cool kids at the club. Apparently Kola is good for asthma, hunger pangs, hangovers and depression. But too much of it may be toxic. It's also what puts the caffeine in your Coca-Cola. The more you know.

Alright. All for now. Love.