Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I dream of Africa

I wonder if there are counselors out there that specialize in the counseling of people that went to Africa and can't get over it. People that feel like they have left a little piece of their heart there. (I just said that in my Janis Joplin voice impression.) Does it sounds that crazy ? Have you ever visited a place that was so out of the ordinary that it left your sense of discovery unsatiated upon your return ? I don't think I could live in Cameroon permanently. I'm a child of the rich spoiled world. I take electricity, water (even cold water), and fast food (as in dead meat) for granted.

What is it that I miss so much about Cameroon ? Is it the tropical climate, the incredible fruit, the relaxed lifestyle or perhaps it's the gratefulness oozing from everyone ? Some might wonder if it's not the feeling of being treated like royalty, the resulting weight loss or the lack of winter. But I don't think this is the case, as I didn't truly begin to enjoy Africa until I was treated like one of the locals. (Especially after I had my hair braided, I just looked like one of the many African albinos, who stand out quite a bit among the sea of dark skin.) The best meals I've had in Cameroon were the ones that cost me 45 cents on the side of a road. (Macquerel and onions charred on a fire burning inside a tire rim, eaten with fingers.) And I only realized that I had lost 50lbs when I returned to Canada.

Before leaving we were trained extensively to maximise the chances of adapting well to this incredibly different 'world'. They warned us that this experience would change our lives forever. They told us that either two things would happen : Some wouldn't be able to adapt and would beg to come home early and wouldn't want to talk about their experience, and others would have a lot of difficulty returning to 'normal' life and wouldn't be able to shut up about Africa. Obviously I'm in the latter group. I had no idea. No idea what they meant. Now I completely understand. I wonder if the lenght of one's stay in Africa determines the degree of nostalgia they feel after. Yesterday I was grocery shopping and a group of three young African students were browsing the dairy aisle speaking in an African dialect, sometimes switching to french, and they had a Cameroonese accent. I pretended to ponder over the frozen broccoli section just so that I could hear them talk. It took everything I had not to rudely interrupt them and ask them if they're from Cameroon. What would I have said if they said yes ? OMG! I went there! Isn't it absolutely amazing ? What would they have responded ? Chances are "Are you crazy?"

Most Africans that I met think that America is absolutely amazing. If they know someone who has a television, what they see are hip hop music videos or Friends reruns translated in french. They have this amazing concept that everyone is America is rich, popular and beautiful. Therefore, if they can somehow get invited to Canada, they will become rich, popular and beautiful upon arrival. (Inviting someone there, means sponsoring them and financing their lives for I think it's five years.) When I whipped out my camera, they would strike rapper-like poses, it was so funny hehe. Crazy and incredibly sweet innocence.

Of course maybe a random African stumbling onto my blog would also sense the same feeling of innocence on my part. I keep repeating "Africa", but I only discovered a tiny speck of Africa. One country. It's like saying I miss The USA after staying in one state. I'm sure life would have been very different had I been assigned to the Ivory Coast or Burkina Faso instead. Although they say that Cameroon is like all of Africa into one little country. Therefore I'm incredibly blessed to have lived there for almost half a year.

A thought just came to mind. Maybe I want to return to Africa so bad because I know that I can't possibly go back. Isn't the unreachable often appealing? Why can't I go back ? Well my brain says : Hello, mortgage, car loan, studen loan, job, yada yada yada. My heart says : My husband, I'd probably miss him so much that I wouldn't enjoy myself anyway. Why can't we both take a vacation to Africa? (If we could afford to.) 1 : Unless we win the lottery, we would only be able to take three weeks off work. Assuming Steph's boss would break the rules and let him book his three weeks of vacation consecutively. That's just enough time to take a long expensive flight and back, a few days of major jet lag, and a few days of experiencing Africa as an American tourist. There wouldn't be enough time to attend friend's family events in the jungle and even visit all of my friends there. It's rude there to say "Hi!". It's custom to say : Good morning/afternoon! How are you ? The family? Health? Friends ? In that exact order. And "Good, fine, fine and fine" are not appropriate answers either. They are genuinely asking.

And finally, 2 : My husband is NOT one for adventurism. (Unless the adventure takes place virtually in a video game.) He would absolutely hate Africa. First, I don't think I even saw pasta there. He would hate walking everywhere, the heat, the fruit, and everything else I can think of at the moment. Although it saddens me that the person I love the most in the world will never understand my amazement in Africa, Nature and Traveling, I understand that we're two different persons, with a lot of shared interrests and a lot of things that we will never agree to agree on. For example : What is acceptable regarding the amount of visible electronic cables visible in any particular area. We learn to compromise though. We have enough in common to enjoy spending a ridiculous amount of time together (I think that we spend more time together than the average couple for sure.) without boring each other to death.

This entry is getting lenghty. I'm still not sure why I can't get over Africa, but I absolutely enjoyed boring the hell out of you all with my sweet memories once again :D

1 comment:

miika said...

I know how you're feeling, I get nostalgic like this all the time. Not so much about Canada anymore, because I keep going back :-) But about France, and now I really miss Singapore. I wish I could go back to France and relive the three months I spent there, and I wish I could move there and my entire future life would be like the three months I spent there. And I feel now that I know of the pitfalls and hidden obstacles in Singapore, if we could go back, everything would be perfect. I'd love to go back to either place, but I think in the future it will only be for vacation. I can't see us going back to Singapore permanently, and I can't see Joe getting over his dislike of the french language (too many years with a bad teacher) to ever consider Paris for a post... But I totally understand how you're feeling. You could rewrite your post and substitute France for Africa, and that would be me.