Happy Youth Day from Cameroon! We have been here two weeks and have learned MUCH… One of the central lessons is that cultural adjustment is fun, exciting, and really difficult. Almost every social cue and cultural assumption I hold from the US must be reexamined and reworked to fit this world and way of life. Simple things like hygiene in the kitchen and no trash cans in the house and the normalcy of public urination … The list goes on and on. Sometimes these differences are invigorating and then other times they are really overwhelming; I am still working on striking a balance… The home stay, the Cameroonian program staff, and the other study abroad students all make this big adjustment much easier.
Last night was the African Football Cup final- Burkina Faso vs. Nigeria… As you can probably imagine, the city of Yaounde was buzzing with excitement. Many cheered for the obvious front runner, Nigeria, but my host mother and I were rooting for the underdog, Burkina Faso. As I began to open my computer to do some work while watching the game, my homestay mother, Cecile, said, “Lily, do not do work during the match. This is a celebration!” When she broke out the unopened brandy I knew she wasn’t kidding. She gave me money to go to the bar across the street to get the “plus grand bouteille” of Coke to mix with the celebration brandy… And so began an intense ten minute adventure.
I crossed the dirt road to get to one of the many neighborhood bars and discovered almost a hundred people in two open air rooms; one room with dozens of men all the watching the football match, and the other with all of the women yelling jokes at each other and passing around babies. As I waited to order my American Coca Cola, a woman reached out for my hand and said “Bonsoir mon amie!” We then began an amazing conversation about the beer and whether or not I had a boyfriend. Watching these women laugh and celebrate together was so affirming. This moment reminded me that although some days are difficult, the rich spirit, stories, and perspective found here are worth it all.