Friday, February 22, 2008

Les Funerailles

'Tis the season for funerals! No, that doesn't mean that a lot more people die during the dry season, but the months of December-March are when people celebrate funerals. So a couple of weeks ago I went "funeral hopping" which no doubt sounds extremely strange. Here in Cameroon funerals are held long after a person dies, sometimes years and years. Families wait until they have enough money to throw their deceased loved one the biggest party ever. One funeral I went to was for the ex-chief of Kekem who died in 1987!!! There is a lot of eating and dancing and the party usually goes on for a couple of days to as long as a week. I only went for the last day when the real party goes down. Everyone buys the same "pagne" or brightly colored and patterned cloth and makes something different out of it. And then you eat and eat and eat.

At another funeral I sat down to eat and there was chicken! Which is a treat in Kekem because it is expensive. Also I never eat it because it would mean killing and cleaning the chicken myself, which I am not prepared to do! So I sit down and I start eating this delicious fried chicken. I pick up a second piece, which is kind of round but I just assume it is some big meaty piece. I bit into it and to my surprise found that it was hard. I looked down and I saw the chicken HEAD! Closed eyes, beak, yuck!
I also ate what I am pretty sure was monkey. When you ask someone what kind of meat something is they always say “meat” and if you press everything is “beef”. But this definetly wasn't beef, and I have seen people selling dead monkeys on the side of the road.

The night before I went to a burial, which is different than the funeral. It was for a neighbor who had died. I had never met him, but I was assured that as a neighbor I should go. I felt kind of awkward at first, but I know his son and after a while it wasn’t awkward. Mostly because it wasn’t like anyother burial I have ever been to. There were 2 marching type bands (ie the trumpets, tuba, trombones, etc) and a church choir…all playing at ONCE, different songs! People danced and the widow cried a bit. The coffin sat in the middle of the living room on the inside of the house while we all sat outside the house. People would go in to view the body and they would sing and dance around it while the musicians played music literally right into the dead man’s ears. I should note though that this was a very old man and with younger people the funerals are much more solemn.

Life is going well in general. I am really coming to love it here in Kekem. I’ve learned how to navigate the culture and have made friends. Sometimes I just think what a huge mistake I would be making to be taking this experience for granted while it is here. Someday I am going to want to be back really bad and crave me some Koki and boiled green bananas! I also started a business club at the high school which I really love doing. There are 20 kids. I am starting off with a ten week class and then they are going to do a project together (although I plan to split them up for a project because I don’t know how much experience each kid would get in a group of 20). The vice-principal of the school is kind of auditing the class and he is great. He chases away the kids who gather around the windows to stare at me and helps me out with the French. The class is also super quiet and attentive with him there. If only he could come sit in my English class as well!

Last week was the “International Youth Day”. The kids all march down the street in their school uniforms and sing some song or hold their school plaque. It was cute to watch all of the kids, but I was annoyed because the students don’t just take the day off they take a week off before to PRACTICE the march and then another 3 days afterwards to get back into school. I kept going to find no one there or only about a fourth of the class.

I am still working at the bank, but that kind of hit a wall and I back pedaled. But I started working more with one of the administrators who is SUPER helpful so hopefully that will start moving again soon.
Life is good. It is just SUPER hot here now as we are in the height of the dry season. I got a sunburn waiting for a bush taxi in Nkongsamba and that was painful. Not only the sunburn but people asking me for days, “Why are you all red?”

How everything is going well aux Etats-Unis! I always like hearing news via email! So send me one once in a while!
Lots of Love!
Autumn.e.brown@gmail.com