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Sunday, April 24, 2011

509

It has been exactly 509 days since I last wrote an entry here.  I can hardly believe that all this time has passed.  Often I thought about making the time to come back and write (it is not like I didn't have much to write about going on!) but other tasks that seemed higher priorities were allowed to derail me from it.

And why am I writing now after so long and after, certainly, no one is left to read my entries?  I want to say a few things about the time that has passed and use the few moments that it will take me to share these things, to reflect on whether or not I should just close this blog, revamp it, or get a fresh start.

The past 500+ days have been rich in experience, self-realizations, encounters, and all that can happen in one's life.  Some of the highlights that I am very grateful for as I think back on these many days passed are: completely getting out of debt (although the debt was only school-related, I feel so free!), meeting the most wonderful person that I am fortunate to call my partner, traveling through several countries previously new to me (within Europe and Central and West Africa), realizing evermore what is important to me in personal and work (including the confirmation that working for an NGO does not guarantee the moral, humanity focused experience continuously aimed for and just how important it is for me to be closer to my family and friends), and so on and so forth.

It has been an exceptional time that has passed by and I have, unfortunately, not shared through writing but certainly delighted in, even as I was bed ridden with very serious episodes of malaria in two occasions.

I have wondered if the title of this blog, "Edicta: Existence," has misled those that have come across this site to believe I solely feel like I am "existing" (which may seem pretty depressive!) as opposed to more.  The fact is that, for me, in really existing, one is truly, deeply partaking in and absorbing with much delight, the highs and lows--the experiences--life offers us, whatever they are.  Sure, I can't say I enjoyed nightmarish malaria, for instance.  Yet even this experience, I feel, has enriched what the existence of Edicta in this planet has meant.

I will continue to reflect on whether or not I should definitively close this blog or do something else with it.  For the time being, I will continue fully enjoying my life, my life in Cameroon, my life with family and friends, my life fueled by a heart continuously pounding in joy for being alive whilst evermore thriving for ideals.

Be well.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kribi

I missed not being in the States for Thanksgiving.  While I love the stuffing and mash potatoes, it was not even about the food.  Heck, I do not even eat turkey, the signature for the day.  But I did miss the havoc that usually takes place at my mom’s home in preparation for, and during, the day.  I will admit that during the past two years my mom and I didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving at her home, and that instead we were invited to partake in the amazing feast my friend put up, but my melancholy goes back to the years prior. 

My family is not very traditional with the “traditions.”  Mom always tailors what are considered to be traditional foods for the holiday to our Dominican taste buds.  For Thanksgiving my mom goes berserk looking for the biggest turkey and loading up the fridge with food as if there was an impending food famine.  Days before Thanksgiving she stabs the turkey to its 2nd death, filling each of the resulting holes with a mixture of olives, onions, peppers, oregano, and anything else she can find in her repertoire of Dominican seasonings.  Once all the landmines have been created, the turkey has sucked in all the flavor while in the refrigerator, she places tons of bacon over the turkey fastening it with toothpicks.  The turkey now looks like it is in pig costume. 

The smell that permeates the home is incredible.  While I do not eat it (gave up meat a while back), the smell is strong enough to taste the poor bird.  Plus, I remember its amazing—and cholesterol ridden, I am sure—flavor from when I did eat it.  The table ends up looking like a real buffet when my mom is done; potato salad, rice with gandules, white rice and beans on the side, cabbage salad, spaghetti with cheese, onion, and tomato sauce, flan, et cetera, et cetera.  It is astounding what my mom can do with four burners and a few pans.  She is an amazing cook!

Another thing I missed about Thanksgiving was…the day off from work.  Cameroonians do not celebrate Thanksgiving, neither were they about to give me the day off.  Yet, to my delight, I found out that the day after Thanksgiving (Friday) Cameroon had its own national holiday celebrating a Muslim feast with many lambs butchered and eaten (that is as much as I gathered and, frankly, cared to know).  So, what did I do for my three-day-long weekend?  I went to the magnificent beach town known as Kribi situated in the Southwest coast of the country.

I took off on the three-and-a-half hour ride to Kribi with the people I live with and some friends/coworkers.  The weather was incredible, the beaches pristine, and the food scrumptious.  I do not think I ever had as much and as delicious grilled fish in my life.  The fish were caught right next to the restaurant we dined in each of the three days of our trip, brought right to the kitchen, seasoned with an amazing mixture of wonderfulness, and grilled to order.  Yum!!

I am not really a beach swimmer, but I am certainly a beach goddess who just revels in playing with the sand, indulging in the sun, walking with my feet in the water, or simply laying down in a shaded area letting the breeze flow over me while I nap.  Or read.  I managed to read two books this weekend (tap on my back). The hard reality was getting back the work mindset on a Monday.

Paludisme=Malaria

I am not 100% certain, but I am 100% convinced, that paludisme has bitten me…literally.  I can only picture those bloodthirsty bastards (otherwise called “mosquitos”) biting into my skin and depositing their lovely venom that includes paludisme, and a host of other not-so-coveted diseases.  Although I religiously take my prophylactics against paludisme daily, I am seasoned enough to know that this does not prevent symptoms from occurring.  All the pills do is help the eggs not to multiply and, quite literally, keep you from falling so deep into the illness that you die.

I had paludisme before, when I visited Cameroon the first time.  The symptoms felt like I was coming down with the flu.  Every inch of my body ached, my head was bursting in pain, I was exhausted, and my stomach would not let up discharging itself through my two ends.  Luckily the grievance lasted only 24 to 36 hours, and then I was as good as new.  Now that I am experiencing all the same symptoms, developing since this morning, I am hoping I will once again recover promptly.

Now, because I am expecting to stay in Cameroon for up to a year a few respectable superiors at work have suggested I stop taking my prophylactics.  Their logic is that they have heard that anti-malarial medication can have some serious long-term side effects, like liver failure, and if I already took medication before and already had paludisme, my body will survive the next bout more strongly.  They also reason that I have to allow my body to build its own immunity to the illness.

All sounds well and lovely, and I even called my travel doctor back in the States to see what he has to say (in kinder words, he told me I would be crazy if I stopped the prophylactics), but I cannot imagine how much worse I would feel right now if it wasn’t for some sort of cushion.  I have already seen firsthand how paludisme affects veteran residents in infected areas much less than rookies like myself, but man, I have also seen how miserable it can get.  While I would love to rid myself from taking pills daily (I take Malarone, by the way) and would cling to any excuse to be able to that, my symptoms now are a wakeup call indicating that I would, indeed, be crazy to discontinue taking them.

Just so you know, as I was writing this entry while laying on my bed due to immobilizing pain, a freaking centipede decided to appear from nowhere and land right next to me.  The current cripple in me somehow found energy enough to jump off of bed and commit homicide on this uninvited guest.  Geez, can’t he see I am not feeling well?!   I am just happy it did not happen while I was sleeping and was rudely awaked by its bites.

Tear off my stomach…and my skin, while you are at it


I blame it on karma.  Every time I communicate with friends and family in colder parts of the world I purposefully mention the beautiful weather I am enjoying in Cameroon, rubbing it deep into their frozen skins.  No shame in admitting that, right?  Especially when I get punished by the same beautiful weather.  

It has come to the point of me waking up and dementedly looking forward to seeing what new allergy the allergy world has in store for me.  I never really have been someone plagued by allergies, but my luck seems to have expired the moment I arrived here this time around.  And, I am convinced it is the wonderfully warm weather and brilliant sun doing the backstabbing. 

So the cocktail of allergies I have had the pleasure of experiencing (this is sarcasm, in case it is not clear) has included unattractive and painful bumps on my chin, then all over my elbows.  These were seasoned with itchier-than-hell bumps on my left knee, as well as all over the top of my arms, then followed by the terrifying mountains of bumps and sandpaper skin on my nose.  Many of these allergic reactions have parted, but others still make me company. 

As if these were not torturous enough, there is also the random body aches, as well as my favorite (not!): nausea.  All right, so the last two do not necessarily qualify as allergic reactions, as far as my non-MD training is aware, but considering all that has been happening outside my body maybe there is a connection. 

These “minor” things don’t succeed in robbing me from my joy and wearing a seemingly permanent smile, but…what the heck?!  Why now?! What is going onnnnn?!? Worse of all has been my nausea.  I had a friend who had nausea through her nine months of pregnancy, and for the love of god, I could not imagine myself surviving one day of it, never mind nine months!

Now I will return to enjoying the beautifully warm and sunny weather along with caresses from soft winds that envelop me here.  Yeah, I hope someone suffering from the wretched cold and snow is reading this…

Friday, November 27, 2009

When Photography Becomes Lethal

Every corner in Yaounde seems to have an open market were local fruits and vegetables could be purchased.  These are usually lively, full of people at all hours of the day talking non-stop.  I would recommend going to these with covered shoes given the amount of waste lying all around, a especially troublesome fact when the waste is mixed with the water from a recent rain shower and settled in puddles in every step. 

Once you get acclimated to the infinite number of people (usually men) aggressively shoving their goods and services in your face (including recyclable plastic bags for the purchases, and three-wheel barrels as a grocery cart pushed often by a child) you can begin to enjoy the spirit of the place.  The screaming across vendors and towards the customers, bargaining of prices, and sights and smells of the produce is mesmerizing.  There is always the extra attention created by someone like myself who is a female and especially of fairer skin resulting in endlessly being called "the white".  Yet this detail is minor considering that I will never be able to escape my gender nor the color of my skin, hence facing the only option of not being bothered by such attention.

I wish I could take pictures and maybe a video of the market to share with you how it truly is, as no words I use will ever be able to properly describe the scene.  But this is impossible unless I pay every single person who is recorded, or paying the owner of the products being sold and recorded.  That means going broke. Alternatively, I could make a hole in my pocket from which the eye of the camera could emerge and snap away, but that just makes me feel like a bad person.  Not the avenue I want to take...yet.

A couple of weeks ago a woman who is visiting from Austria and has been staying with us went to the market with the rest of us.  She took a picture of me in the midst of the market.  Then....all hell broke loose.  The women who were selling things several meters behind me started yelling at us claiming we were taking pictures of them without us even asking for permission and that we had no right to do so.  She would not let go until we moved to a different area, and even there we could hear her yelling at us, and about us.  That is to say that it is lethal to even take pictures of one's self in this setting.  Heck, I was really scared of these women.  I could only imagine them taking us with their strong, muscular bodies and whipping us into shape until all that was left of us was dust, if anything at all.

To be fair, these angry, menacing, scary women were... right.  The Austrian woman made believe she was taking a picture of me so that she could get some of the background.  That was the only solution we had come up for being able to take a picture of the place.  How these women were right on, I will never know.  I really thought we were being very inconspicuous.  Obviously we were wrong or weren't aware of additional senses present in the place.

Whuft, am I happy to have lived to see another day!!  I am certainly not going to even try to bring another camera to the market anytime soon.  Heck, police officers and parents from all over the world should take some tips from these women on how to set people straight.  Being scared to death worked on me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Birds that Irritate

One of the things atop my list of enjoyable aspects of Cameroon include listening to the birds sing midday and throughout the night, as well as seeing them in flight at appreciative proximity.  Waking up to the warm sun filtering through my windows and the choir of birds has always been a loving memory of my childhood in the Dominican Republic, and I am happy to be able to experience this anew here.

It might have been due to my over 12 kilometers of hiking up one of Yaounde's highest hills (or mountain, depending who you ask) in the heat of the day, or indulging on a deliciously filling meal right before leaving, but by 10pm I was already on the verge of falling asleep walking.  I was completely exhausted, which seemed strange at such an early hour for a prideful (except when it backfires) night owl like myself.  I kept myself awake enough to clean up before plopping down on my heavenly bed.  Happy would have not succinctly described just how great it felt to be on my bed, until.....the usually lovely sounding birds started IRRITATING me!  Why couldn't they just shut up! They were not letting me sleep.  Were they being louder tonight, purposefully to annoy me?  Or where they thinking "hey, since she likes our sound so much, let's sing more to soothe her".

Yes, I was being irrational and generating all sorts of "questionable" thoughts, along with imagining myself taking a huge nest, catching all them pestering, loud, aggravating creatures and locking them up away FOR LIFE.  I love animals, but something possessed me (a retaliating body denied rest?) and all I could think of was how in the world I would actually manage to sleep now.

Then came the festive sounds of a nearby party.  Loudly the sounds of drums pounding, beats, and laughters reached my room.  These are sounds that I would otherwise consider entertaining, but all I wanted to do was curse all that moved!!  The loud partying and bird singing went on until about 3am.  On a Sunday night.  What were they thinking?!?

So this morning, having to wake up by 6am to make it to work on time, all I could think of was coffee, coffee, and more coffee.  And boy did I have coffee!! Four cups full of strong expresso-type Cameroonian coffee by noon, and my ingestion of it only increased as the day went on.  I am now still shaking from it, with a stomach ache from all the acid in the coffee, and a pain-reliever resistant headache. Nice.

I blame it all on the birds.  And people who like to party!!  I shall remain bitter until I am finally able to rest, and restore my "normal" self......Now, where are my ear plugs and the whisky??

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Women's" Work?

I declare myself guilty: I am not free from the influences of stereotypes and generalizations.  When I was told about our two additional home helpers (besides the one I already knew) I immediately assumed they were women.  Their names were shared, but somehow they didn't register.  Would they have registered and would my preconceptions not shared a part, I might have gotten a clue as to the veracity or the mistake of my assumption. Maybe, just maybe.  Although with the uniqueness of many Cameroonian names I could have also not known the difference between a male's or a female's name.

In any case, my living arrangement this time around in Cameroon has significantly "improved" from what I had when I was previously here.  I say "improved" in parenthesis as I am not too certain whether I believe them to be improvements, or simply changes.  Previously I was living in an SOS Children's Village in a town called Mbalmayo, and currently I am living in a private home, in the capital, in one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, but also one of the wealthiest often referred to as the "Embassy Neighborhood".  Most of the people who live here are either diplomats or work for international organizations, including several of the United Nation's branches, as well as Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, Plan International, and like me, SOS Children's Villages (also known as "SOS Children's Villages").  In fact, the offices for these organizations are also in this neighborhood which makes it an equally office and residential neighborhood.

Some of the "improvements" in my new living arrangement include having the option of hot water AND a shower (previously I had only cold water, unless I heated some in a pan and mixed them up, as well as only one bucket for bathing), someone to clean the home, AND someone to wash and iron my clothes (how I painfully remember how I had to wash everything by hand!!)  Recently I went into my closet to search for an outfit (duh!) when I noticed there was a beautiful sight to behold: sparkling clean, freshly pressed, and perfectly folded clothing.  It was heavenly. So long raw fingers from hand-washing!!

And then I found out who was the saint: a young man by the name of Adamou.  He does all the clothes washing, pressing, folding, and even dish washing.  Then I walked into Ousman, another young man, who was sweeping and mopping the home.  I was pleasantly surprised, followed by being shocked for being surprised, then finally giving in to pondering on my challenged, although unconscious, influences of societal stereotypes and assumptions.  It is true that most housework done worldwide is done by women and that this is part of the "unpaid job" description usually expected of women.  Yet, that does not mean that men are not involved in the task.  My brothers are honorable and prime examples of men who challenge these types of male-versus-female role assumptions.  They can beat me anytime on cleaning and cooking! And not just me, any women!  I bet on that.  They do most of the housework in their home and their marriages are all the better for it :-)

Sure, there is a great and important difference that allows these men to challenge my assumptions of who was doing the work.  These men are doing housework for a LIVING.  They are getting PAID for the work.  I have not heard of one man here who does housework without getting paid.  The job is still reserved for the women, even if both parties work outside the home.  Still, I was happy to see these men doing such a magnificent job in doing a "women's" work.