Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Brooklyn. I like to imagine my life there, and all the myriad ways it will be different from my life here. Never mind that maybe I will never actually live in Brooklyn. I just need to imagine for a second a life that allows me to feel capable again. And so I like to picture myself strolling the streets of another kind of village, wrapped in a coat and scarf, on my way to a coffee shop or a bookstore or some other marvel of the developed world. I like to think of paved streets, and trees with leaves that fall off, and lights that will always come on. I like to ponder meals startling in their variety, and of showers hot enough to sting. I think of these things as I sit on my porch and watch my small town go by. My life here is still too new, too uncertain in nearly every aspect, to be much of a comfort to me.
I think I am floundering a bit. I know this is only natural. But still, floundering is by definition not a terribly stabilizing feeling. After a week in my town, I’ve met approximately 87 people, and I think I remember about seven of their names. Twice I’ve tried to make an omelet. I never successfully made an omelet in America. I’m not sure what made me think my skills would improve here. I go to bed very early. I read a lot. In short, as Jack White said, I just don’t know what to do with myself.
I have much to be thankful for here. That view from my porch is spectacular. I watch the sun set into the clouds every night. I haven’t been forced to eat fish in almost two weeks and I learned how to make something that very nearly approximates pita bread. I got to spend a day with the nurses at my hospital, watching as they vaccinated probably 30 babies against polio. Four of those babies peed while they were being weighed, and I was reminded yet again of how many universals there are in life.
So even as I long for an abundance of record stores and Thai food, I feel the beginnings of a quiet satisfaction with this different kind of life. Does any of this make sense? I find myself experiencing a different emotion every 23 seconds or so, so pinning one down long enough to write about it is a bit of a challenge. I think what I’m feeling the most, though, is hyper-aware. Of myself, and how I look, and how I sound. And of other people, and what they are doing, and to what extent they are noticing me. Because for the first time in my life, everyone notices me. Which is ok, and to be expected, but still…my internal monologue never seems to stop because of it. It never seems to stop, and half of the time now its in this terrible Franglish, because I’m trying to imagine conversations in my head, only I never seem to have the words.
I don’t mean to sound so bleak. I expected to feel lost when I got to post. And now I am feeling lost and that is ok. I also expect that at some point the feeling will wear off. Already there are moments here, where I can see that I am figuring things out. The other day, I made a ‘that’s what she said’ joke in French. (Ca c’est que elle a dit!) I made the euphoric discovery that if you kill a cockroach on your floor and just leave it there out of complete laziness, within a week the ants will clean it up for you. I learned that cooking pasta means that you automatically have hot water to wash your dishes if you stain your noodles into your large metal ‘dishwashing’ bowl. I learned that scarabs can fly—although not terribly well—and that I will react like a total nancy if one lands on me. I now know how to say “Don’t touch me!” in French in a startlingly authoritative tone. Sometimes I throw in an intimidating karate-type arm movement, if I’m feeling especially annoyed. (Special note to worried loved-ones, i.e. my dad—rarely do I actually feel afraid of these a-holes who like to grab my arm and tell me how much they ‘love the white women’ when I walk by on the street. Mostly they are just obnoxious, and anyway the arm grabbing only really happens when I am in the larger cities. Here in Cameroon, as in America, men are much more likely to be dickheads when they can do so anonymously.) I took a moto ride, and except for the part where my skirt flew up and I flashed half of Ebolowa, I felt just like a French film star from one of those 60s movies where everyone wears lots of mascara. So you see, things are looking up. In some cases, they are looking right up my skirt. Ha-zing. Looks like I’m back, folks.
Ok. It looks like I’ve talked myself into a good mood, so I think I will stop here. Perhaps I will try to figure out how to make myself a sandwich. Yes, it’s a stimulating life I lead…