|TotTK and his buddies|
Did you know there's a separatist movement in Cameroon? Well, there is! I did not know that myself. I mean, I don't know much of anything about Cameroon, but that seems like one of the more important ones not to know. So there are over 200 languages in Cameroon, but the two big ones and French and English. I'm not going into the historical details here (because I don't really know them), but basically, the Anglophone part of the country is upset with the Francophone government, accusing the government of being negligent to that area of the country (which also just so happens to have most of the natural resources) and having a very heavy pro-Francophone bias, where people from the Anglophone area feel they are excluded for jobs in the government, etc. Again, this is all a pretty sketchy outline of the issue based on superficial conversations I've had with Cameroonians. I imagine there are all sorts of factual errors with that assessment, but I think, in general, we can just distill it down to the Anglophone regions (or factions of people within these regions and people abroad) are upset with the government and want to secede.
So within our first month in country, these protest really started ramping up. Of course the protests are all out in the Anglophone regions, not here in the capital, so don't worry for us, 'cause we're fine.
But! The Peace Corps volunteers that live out in that region? They were not fine. Well, I mean, yeah, they were fine, but still, in the interest of security, Peace Corps pulled them out and brought them to Yaounde. In an interesting, country-specific twist, Peace Corps volunteers in Cameroon are also not allowed to stay at hotels in Yaounde. I'm not sure if there just aren't any hostel-esque places or nothing that passes security muster, so the Peace Corps has a whole house for the volunteers to stay at! It has wi-fi and stuff! It also fits like 26 volunteers and there were 40 in town so as you can see, math majors, that left quite a few homeless volunteers hanging around town. To solve this problem, the embassy sent out an APB requesting volunteers to host these homeless PCVs (that's "Peace Corps Volunteer" for those of you not in the acronym know.)
Now Mr. ATK and I are both proud RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) and Mr. ATK, being the kind-hearted soul that he is, volunteered ChezTK as a refuge for one lucky volunteer right away. I, on the other hand, being a touch more on the misanthropic asshole side of the spectrum, was not quite as eager to open our home to a total stranger, even if they were a PCV. I realize this probably makes me look pretty bad, especially to my fellow RPCVs and PCVs, but let me explain.
I had a couple reasons for not jumping at the chance to welcome a stranger into my home. One, we had just arrived at Post and were still unpacking so things were pretty disorganized and though we have an extra room, that happened to be the place where I was randomly putting crap that I didn't know what to do with. Two, we have a small child (TotTK, if you recall) who does not believe in personal space and while I make an effort to contain his unbridled enthusiasm for strangers outside of the home, I was not interested in policing him in the home, so anyone staying with us had to be cool with having the most adorable shadow in the world. Three, and this is perhaps the most important, I had been through a Peace Corps evacuation. A couple of them in fact and while for one, we were spirited away to a resort where we were self-contained, the other one, where we had free run of the city was crazy debauchery at its highest level. I mean, bring a bunch of isolated young people who are living in the boonies to the city where good food and alcohol abound and things are bound to go off the rails. I found it to often be like college but dirtier. So I wasn't keen on hosting someone who would be out 'til all hours of the night, hungover during the day, and might poop the bed (or at the very least vomit all over the place. But seriously, I've known a few bed poopers. Heavy drinking and all those stomach bugs don't make for a good mix.)
Anyways, Mr. ATK succeeded in making me feel bad about my misanthropy, so I relented, because, you know, I do like to help people. I told Mr. ATK to let the folks know, we'd be happy to host someone, but no weirdos and preferably a woman. I guess that got a lot of side-eyes when Mr. ATK specifically requested a female, despite his protestations that it was his "WIFE! Not him!" that wanted a female volunteer. So less than 24 hours later we met the non-weirdo female volunteer we had been hoping for.
And let me say, it was the best decision we made in our first two weeks in country!
It was like having a live in tour guide. We went fabric shopping in the Muslim quarter (or the Britiquerie or Brick as it is commonly known) and I may or may not have gotten engaged to some random fabric seller. We went to an artisan market where I probably overpaid for some wooden spoons, but they were cute. We went to a Turkish restaurant where the shawarma was quite tasty and a Lebanese restaurant with great hummus and falafel. She showed me the parking lot where a guy sells the "best grilled chicken in town" and advised me on where to find the best cheeseburgers.
But most of all, she let TotTK climb all over her and bust into her room (though I did try to impart the importance of personal boundaries to him.) And then when her husband (who TotTK called Rafis) came to town, TotTK promptly climbed all over him too and he did not seem to mind.
|There's some sort of army crawl going on here.|
Now it's been over two months since Ca and Rafis returned to America and TotTK still talks about them, though not as frequently as before. In fact, just last night when I was putting him to bed, I asked TotTK, "Who do you love?" and he said, "Ca." And I said, "Who else do you love?" and he said, "Rafis." And I asked again, who else do you love?" and he said "Mia" (that's his nanny) and so I asked one last time who he loved and he said, "Chips." So then I gave up.