This is the first time I’ve been on my computer since I arrived in Cameroon last Friday (June 2), and the second time I’ve been on a computer at all. The first was at the hotel in Yaoundé to let my family know I had arrived safely. I am now at my host family’s house in a town called Bafia – about 120km northwest of the capital, Yaoundé – where I will spend the next ten weeks. There is no electricity in my host family’s home, and in the rest of the city it is unpredictable. I found out after asking my host father about the lack of electricity in the house that he just hasn’t paid the bill in months, as he showed me a bill that exceeded 350,000 FCFA (more than $700). Maybe some of that money that Peace Corps reimburses to host families will help pay the bill.
In any case, this place is beautiful: dense foliage with tall, thick blades of grass and exotic trees, rolling green hills, deep red dirt, and cloudbursts that give off the kind of light I have only seen in the grasslands of Kenya and the mountains of Colorado. The people are hospitable, the food is spicy, oily, and damn delicious. I’m not the first Peace Corps volunteer the family has hosted, but I’m the first man. My host father (Etienne) and my brother (Junior, 19) seem pretty happy about this, and have both taken me in warmly. My host mother (Odette) and sister (Christelle, 22) are quite cordial, though they address me with much more apprehension. (Perhaps the first example of the endemic gender discrepancy we keep hearing about). It helps that I’m vocally appreciative of their cooking, because aside from bonjour and bon nuit my host mother doesn’t actually speak to me. I think she’s waiting for my French to improve before she bothers. But as long as she keeps the baton de manioc and meaty tomato sauces coming, I’m sure we’ll work it out.