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Qu’est-ce qui se passe? That is to say, what is up?

Last week was tough. I was having some serious doubts about my commitment to Sparkle Motion. I mean, the Peace Corps. The upside is: it turns out that I have an amazing number of family and friends who are loving and supportive and I would be nowhere without them. Anyway. After spending 4 days inside my room crying, I then spent 4 days exclusively with friends, and it is amazing what a difference not being alone makes in a mood. Things are a lot brighter now.

Well. Two nights ago it was raining something fierce. I was watching the waterfall on the steps in front of the house and thinking, “Hmm. I hope it doesn’t flood!” I pre-emptively put a towel at the base of the door, took a few dramatic photos and returned to the e-mail I was writing. I clicked send and looked behind me, and water is pouring into my room. Balls! I snatch up my pile of maybe-dirty clothes (or can I get another day out of them?) and (ever so smartly) snagged my voltage regulator out of the growing lake (no electrocution, lucky me, and it still works!).

So. House flood number two. My room filled with a good two inches of water (it is, as I mentioned last flood, about an inch and a half lower than the rest of the house). Sigh. The worst of the deluge stopped, and the water outside the house receded to not-entering-house status. Time to start bailing! Also, the water smelled really bad. Like feces. I’m sure there was some percentage of poo in that pool. Especially since I watched a two-year-old attempt to drop a deuce in my yard last week. (I didn’t really follow up).

Bail, bail, bail. Tin cup and 5 gallon bucket. How many buckets to bail out my room? 18. I estimate somewhere around 70 gallons of water. Then on to squeegeeing out Lake Living Room, without re-inundating The Great Bedroom Depression. Two hours later, je suis fini! (This is a French joke. The proper grammar is j’ai fini, or, I finished. Je suis fini translates closer to, I am finished/dead. I was. Also I hurt my lower back with all the bailing even though I thought I was using good body mechanics. I’m still walking around like I’m 100).

Also, I was just getting ready to eat when the flood came. So. It was two hungry hours of bailing. But afterwards I made a little tuna-salad with fresh cucumbers and it was all the protein-y deliciousness I wanted. Well, kind of. Tuna cans are kind of small. I also had some oatmeal, because hot and yum, and it was still raining and cold. In case you were curious.

While the flood was frustrating, it was comforting in that it wasn’t my worst day this week. And I think that revelation was indicative of my mood brightening, even in muddy-floody circumstances.

Also, as of today, the landlord has dug a bunch of trenches and erected a barrier, so this should NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. (Hear that, universe?)

So. Onto something more exciting and productive.

Sunday! I had plans to meet with Maturin (my formerly flaky, but now kind of on-top-of-his-shizz counterpart). He had a meeting in Baham, something to do with his real job, and youth. That was about all I knew. Up early, waiting, waiting. He was only half an hour late on Sunday! Once we got to Baham, we did some more waiting.

The meeting. It was a group composed of delegates from a number of women’s and youth groups in the Bamendjou-Baham area. Maturin conducts bi-monthly (in the every two months sense) meetings to help them with action plans, consult on problems, etc. It was actually pretty cool to see him in that role. He really played up treating everyone as equals, and tried to get the youth to ask each other for advice instead of him. They are also planning a big festival in July, partly celebrating the 59th anniversary of Cameroon’s independence, partly something about what Youth have to say about AIDS, and partly competitions in arts, dance, sport, etc.

Well, this is about 3 hours deep into the meeting, and I’ve been spending the last hour daydreaming about starting a girls group (honestly, after a few hours, my French comprehension is out the window and it’s pretty hard to focus, especially on something that doesn’t actually concern me). The topic of the sport aspect of the festival comes up. People start talking teams, how they’ll be divided, how many games to have. After a while, we elucidate that it is in fact football (soccer) that we are discussing (what else, right?). I’m madly curious inside my brain if these will be co-ed teams. I’m contemplating asking, when one of the women does ask. “And what about the girls?”

“Oh,” Maturin explains, “For the girls, there will be athletisme. Two races of 100m and 40 m. Each town (of 4) will have one girl for each distance.” Wait, WHAT? Hold up. So each town gets to have a team of 16 guys to play 1 or 2 games of soccer, and then 2 girls to run 2 races which won’t last more than a minute? I ask, “What if the girls prefer to play soccer?”

Guess the reaction. Guess it. C’mon. I’ll even give you options.
a) “Sure, girls can play if they want!”
b) “Well, that’s not something we’d considered, but yeah, let’s talk about it.”
c) Laughter.
d) Punch in the face.

Did you guess C? It’s always C. It felt like a punch in the face though. Maturin laughingly explained that at this level, soccer is for GUYS. Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe in the future. I felt frustrated. I get it. It’s a cultural thing. Women’s rights here still have a long way to go. It’s hard feeling transported back decades and decades though. It made me even more psyched to start a girls group.

(PS: Remember the girls I played soccer with in Bangangte? They got a team together and they have been traveling and winning games and trophies and even money! Check that out!)

Also, when we paused for lunch, Maturin says, “Okay, now the women will serve us.” And they did. Without pause or question, they cleaned and passed out dishes, served all the food and ate last. I think I was the only person who said, “Thank you,” when I got served my plate. I still get all flustered thinking about this. I’ve also been thinking about how much more difficult it must be here to be homosexual or have a mental illness. Those are things that still aren’t even talked about. Women’s rights have at least got their foot in the door.

(Lunch was fish and macabo in a spicy fish sauce. Yum. Macabo is like a starchier, harder potato. It’s my second favorite tuber here, after actual potatoes.)

The good thing about the meeting was that I met some nice folks. A girl I’d met at the lycee, Christelle, was there and we made plans to get together. I met a woman who is really interested in Agroforestry, who I think already worked with Nura. And I met a lady from Batie, who is a coiffeur (hairdresser) who wants to chill. I would be so happy to work with just women here.

But. After lunch we went to Fovu, the sacred rock site in Baham. It was wicked cool! Giant, giant rocks (volcanic in origin, not quite my beloved granite). They still do sacrifices there. There were tons of smaller rocks covered in salt and palm oil. And some stained with blood (probably chickens). There was a small stream running through that everyone washed their face in (I opted out, feeling exhausted and prone to water-borne illness). The guide told me if I drank the water I would be very fertile and have lots of babies. No thanks! I bet that’s not all I’d get growing in my tummy either.

After Fovu, we went to CFRASH, which is the handicap center in Baham. It is pretty amazing. I have been there once before. There are 17 residents, people with handicaps and orphans. (I realize that the term handicapped is certainly outdated and un-PC, but it’s the term used here, so I defer). They get classes and physical therapy. There is a German volunteer there (Hi Kiki!) who teaches some of the classes. Also, there is a women’s and a men’s atelier (workshop). The women make jewelry and clothes, and the men make raffia-bamboo furniture. They also have a small farm, a porcherie and some chickens.

After the visit, I stayed behind to visit with Kiki and then headed over to Liz’s for some more friend-time. Then Liz and I went back to CFRASH (she visits often and sometimes teaches English there) to hang with the homies. I sat and talked to a girl named Stephanie. She was really sweet, and it was probably the nicest time I have had hanging out and talking with Cameroonians. She told me she couldn’t speak a word of English, and I said she must know at least ONE word, and she said no, no, no. Then she busted out with like 10 English phrases. Smarty-pants.

Liz and I went out for dinner, I got a spaghetti omelette and she got spaghetti and beans. Yum. Then we made some Kalimotxo, or what I call Classy Juice, which is half carton-wine and half Coke. Yum-ish.

Still working on getting my house cleaned up and in order after last week and the flood. I have a meeting with a farmer on Wednesday with Maturin. So. Things go!

I'm just going to say that for the record, Staircase Falls in Yosemite is way prettier than Staircase Falls in my front yard, Cameroon.

I decided to put in a luxurious water-carpet. It's the latest in hybrid water-bed/carpet technology. My bedroom. Mid-flood.

Bailing tools. Bucket 3 of 18.

Giant flat look-out rock. Half the girls did all their scrambling in heels. Color me amazed, encore.

Immense rocks. Zara is happy.

Big cave, full of salt and palm-oil covered rocks. Don't fall on them!

It was really cool to see how excited everyone was to visit Fovu. I'm guessing field trips aren't a real big thing in Cameroon. Interacting with nature usually means farming or clearing land. And I'm not even sure people get to see sacred sites like Fovu very often. It was nice, and not just for me.

Pumpkin guts? No. Palm oil. I'd never seen it look like that before, but I guess that is probably its' oxidized state.

Walking past the edge of Fovu on the way to CFRASH. It was really one of those beautiful days that puts me in awe of just how beautiful is Cameroon.

Here is my new friend Adeline. Maybe she will braid my hair one day!

Some of the amazing handcrafted bamboo furniture at CFRASH.

Gratuitous. I have the cutest nephew! Miss him!