Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Your prayers have been answered...

On May 28, 2011, I remember thinking at my going away party that there is no possible way that I will be able to find the same support system in Cameroon. I wish each one of you could visit Meiganga, have tea or a cold beer with my friends; just sit and talk with them. They are my support system here. You would love them! They ask about my friends and family back home and I respond, "My family is a HUGE; my friends and my neighbors are my family." Normally the response is shock and shortly followed, 'WOW! You have an African family!' And that is true.

I want to share with you all my family here. Here are some of my closest friends. They are the reason why I love where I live. So my friends where ever you are in the world right now, just know that I have found a community, support system, and friends in Meiganga. I wish though I had a picture of the Peace Corps Staff because they too are my family.

I wish that you all could meet my Cameroonian family, but photos will have to do. See you all in August!  :)

Dennis is my soccer buddy! Dennis invited me to play with his friends and playing again has made me happier at post. He is a great friend! (The girls, left to right, Samantha & Charla are my postmates)

Amanda, my neighbor, and me on her birthday! I made her a cake and we all sang Happy Birthday in French and English. We sit on my porch daily together discussing gossip, preparing food, or sharing food from each others' home towns. She is my cheerleader in Meiganga and my go to person who will defend me from creepy men in town!

After church Easter morning with the Dokos, my landlord's family who lives in the concession with me. They have 7 boys who always seem to put a smile on my face when I am having a bad day. And Mr. & Mrs. Doko are always the first people I ask when I need help!

Hadidja and Salilou are wonderful. Always offering a warm meal, a cup of tea and a place to rest my head when I am not feeling well. 

Fanta, my Community Host, and I after the Fete du Mouton celebrations. She offers insight on the Cameroonian culture, she is a person to laugh with and grab a beer. Plus she is an amazing cook!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gbaya Funeral

It’s never a fun topic. What is fun about death? Lately, the stories here have been beyond anyone’s imagination. A young adult who had his whole life to live whose 2 year old daughter died the year prior, the father of 5 young children, a woman who was too ashamed to acknowledge her HIV status and did not take the free treatment that would have prolonged her life. These are just a few of the stories. Everyone has theirs', but somehow here they are just heart wrenching. But we can learn from peoples’ experiences; we can learn how to laugh amongst the tears.

The family I lived with lost their grandmother one Monday afternoon. She passed away at 13:30 and I was there shortly after. It was Emmajene’s mom. She had been sick, could not help with the birth of her daughter’s 7th son, it was expected. But as with any death, expected means nothing. Death is death. I have been to my fair share of funerals, but in the states you know what to expect. You pray the Rosary, may or may not see an open casket, there are flowers, there are quiet tears. The funeral was of a Christian, Gbaya beloved mother of 3 girls and 1 boy, countless grandchildren.

Immediately after hearing the news of her passing, Amanda (my other neighbor in the concession) and I went directly to her house. Amanda comes from another region of Cameroon where there are different mourning customs, so we both were in for a cultural shock. The grandmother was lying on a foam bed in the corner of the room. There was a white sheet, which is customary, covering her body just until the nose. Each nostril had a bit of cotton in it. And women were surrounding her crying; a cry that is none like anything that we are accustomed to; a cry that was like a scream, a plea, a prayer, a whaling. When another woman walks into the room, she greets one of the family members with a handshake that is reserved only for giving your condolence. Then the women start the loud cries. Its gives you chills and immediately brings tears to your eyes. People do not cry here; it is only for mourning. Women do not even cry during childbirth. Men especially do not cry.

Therefore, when seeing the youngest son, 20 years old, burst into the room, threw himself on the bed that his mom laid on, and screamed. It was surreal. I have been to enough funerals, but the last time I really saw death, it was my Grandma Nicolai and I was in the 4th grade. I did not understand that my dad and I were going to the hospital to “claim” her. Life here is hard, and sometimes I forget that people actually feel. That may sound insensitive, but in the States we are so accustomed to people wearing their emotions on their sleeves. Here that is just not the case.

The next morning, I went to the house to bring a kilo of sugar as a gift and to greet the family. I was told to come back later that afternoon for the funeral. The funeral happened in Gbaya, one of the other local languages here. As they were lowering the casket a family member jumped into the grave crying; in order to get him out people had to throw in money. (100 CFA about 20 cents) After the funeral, family and close friends were invited to drink Buie together (the spelling is wrong, but it is like a rice drink and depending where you are in the country they will mix in sugar, peanut butter or cinnamon). A mat was placed in the center and people who aided in taking care of the Grandmother were invited to sit on the mat together. Then 2 elder women rubbed oil on them all. Apparently, it is a tradition which mean, ‘Congratulations.’ I interpreted it as, ‘you did your part in taking care of the person. Your work is done and we thank you.’

Charla, my postmate, and I taking care of the babies at the funeral.

The women greeting one of the Grandmother's daughters after the burial. A sign of respect at a funeral is to greet someone by laying on the ground. Then who you are greeting will then lift your head to say 'thank you.' 

Before the burial greeting someone on the ground there were tears, but after the burial it is a celebration of life and joyous. 

Taking care of Emmajean's youngest son.