Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Beyonce, le diable

Today I looked at the calendar, and was quite surprised to see that I only have three weeks left in Cameroon. This is good news, as I am excited to get home to cheeseburgers, greasy pizza, and cheap beer.

I am also pleased to report that this has been one of my favorite weeks in Yaoundé, not because it has been especially fun or exciting, but because I have been the most comfortable, accepting the things that I can not change and enjoying the good moments.

It began at school with a lot of accidental profanity. We were practicing the present continuous tense. I had the students repeat several simple phrases. The last sentence was “I am sitting in my chair.” Stupid me. One by one the students repeated the sentence without a problem until El Haji. If you remember, El Haji was one of the most difficult kids in terms of behavior. However lately, he and I have gotten along quite well, because I don’t beat him like the other teacher does. I think he is beginning to appreciate “le blanc.”

Me: Okay El Haji, your turn. “I am sitting in my chair.”
El Haji: “I am…shitting in my chair.”

A smile immediately broke out on my face. I am too immature for this stuff sometimes.

Me: Okay, good. Try again. Look at my mouth when I say the “s” sound. “I am sitting in my chair.”
El Haji: “I am shitting in my chair.”
Me: Okay, not really. Let’s break it down. “I am sitting.”
El Haji: “I am shitting.”
Me: “I am sitting.”
El Haji: “I am shitting.”

Sigh. He got it eventually but I had to walk out of the room for 3 minutes to compose myself from laughter.

Later, I was grading papers and one of my students, Rachilde—who is the weakest of all the students in terms of comprehending anything---did not understand the directions to write each sentence and then practice reading it aloud. Instead, she wrote the same sentence 10 times.

The sentence: I am in class. You may be able to see where this is going.

Her paper looked like this:

  1. I am in class.
  2. I am in class.
  3. I am an ass.
  4. I am n ass
And my personal favorite
  1. I am in ass.

My co-teacher and I had a field day laughing at number 5.

Monday night, my host mother, brother, and I watched music videos when Lady Gaga came on. Who knew a simple listen to “Bad Romance” would instigate a religious debate. Mercy told me that she watched a documentary from an American man (religious fanatic) about how Beyonce and Lady Gaga are actually in cahoots with the devil. At first I thought she meant that their music was distasteful or too sexual.

No. She actually was telling me that they were worshippers of the devil and that other artists like Kanye West, who has a music video with devil horn imagery, is also in pact with Mr. Devil himself.

This argument got a bit out of hand, as I explained to them that most Americans do not believe this to be true. The conversation escalated into a “how can you not be a Christian you must be going to hell” debate which included discussions about American attitudes towards sexuality and other religious favorites.

Jude even thought that the movie 2012 was conceived by a thought produced by God and implanted into the director’s head. In the end of 2012, only Africa remains, so Jude believes this to be foreshadowing. I told him the movie didn’t sell too well.

They also were offended when I tried explaining that their religious culture is not the same as my culture. To them, religion is absolute not a culture, which any anthropologist would tell you is untrue. Religion is culture, whether the belief is factual or fictitious

“This is getting inappropriate,” I said. “It is just culture. I do not believe the Bible is the absolute truth. Many people in the US do not agree with what you are saying about the Bible. This argument is not worth having.”

I am all about religious freedom, but I am not going to listen to someone telling me that the beautiful song that is “Halo” is actually about the devil and not a glowing, angelic light for the one you love.

Tuesday night, I went to a restaurant with Jamie, Dr. Reynolds (one of my Drexel professors), and her family. This restaurant, La Paillot, actually wound up being a huge expat spot. Jamie and I got there early and chatted with a bunch of Americans who worked for an oil company. I was surprised to see none of them had taken a taxi or a bus here. In fact, they had drivers, house help, cooks, and guides. Jamie and I took pride that we were living something closer to a real Cameroonian life and not some rich, superficial expat experience.

The dinner was delicious. I had grilled pork ribs, because I know that I would never eat that much meat at one sitting for another month while I was here. It was great to see Dr. Reynolds, and I appreciated her ability to relate to how I was feeling about my time in Africa. We shared stories and it helped me really see how much I have grown from the funny nuances of my African life. I hope to see her and her family again before I leave. Apparently there is an American Cultural Center nearby that has a pool and a grill with delicious cheeseburgers and fries. I have to see it to believe it.

I leave for Buea and Limbe on Friday with Jamie, so you will not hear from me for about a week. I will be climbing a portion of Mt. Cameroon, sitting on a black sandy beach, and enjoying my final vacation in Cameroon before my 2 week mark approaches. When I return, I only have one week of school to teach my kids past tense.

I can already hear El Haji say, “I shitted in my chair.”

1 comment:

  1. LOL!!!!!! Well, the students are learning present and past tense as well. Shit, Shitted and Shitting!!!