Cadeaux!

Day 6 – March 31, 2016

When I woke up this morning, I did not want to get out of bed. My body hurt. My feet felt tight and hurt like an SOB (approaching period coupled with murderous hike), then I remembered that I had to change naira to CEFA and organize my schedule with M. and C. My original plan had been to follow M. to work and then drop off at the French Institute but I was just too tired to be ready so early. New plan: Mount Febe’s Benedictine monastery and the market to buy hair extensions (meche in Cameroon, which is what I called it until my late teens when I realized everyone else called it attachment. Cue the era of E! and we’re all about extensions now).

The drive to Mt. Febe is shorter than expected but oh so beautiful! Cameroon is truly a beautiful country. It warms my heart to see that buildings are erected with some kind of respect for the natural topography. In Nigeria, at least in Abuja, we just chop down our trees, blast our rocks to gravel and pave everything over with interlocking tiles.

 

The monastery is much simpler than I had expected. I blame my expectations on the Da Vinci Code’s cathedrals. As I walk in through the gate, a reverend father driving past stops and begins talking rapidly in French. I lean over the car, listening. When he finishes, I ask, “English?” He continues in English. “I do deliverance prayers and can pray for you because of this thing on you.” He gestures to his shoulder, referring to my koi tattoo. He continues with, “Some people have lions and other things. It can disturb your sleep and your dreams.” When he finishes, I just say “Okay.” And continue with “I want to look around the monastery. Is there somewhere I can register?” He points me in the right direction and I go to meet the priest who would be my tour guide – Well, not really. The second priest says I can wander around at my leisure and then finish up at the museum (at least that’s what I gather. We both make use of extensive hand gestures).

I begin my tour at two graves and what I suspect is a tomb. Either way, I have a massive headache while at this part of the monastery and this is not an exaggeration. I must have become more sensitive or something or maybe because I just generally dislike graves (I would like to be cremated and dispersed in three places).

I walk up to pay for the museum visit which is my main interest and boy, I am not disappointed! So many great pieces, such wonderful craftsmanship in wood and brass and even ivory. There are so many pipes! Apparently cannabis sativa was a major thing in Cameroon before the introduction of European tobacco. There is a very helpful brochure in French and English explaining the history and social significance of the pieces. The priest who founded the museum also commissioned some local style stools that are arranged before the altar in the chapel to represent the apostles. I wonder if any Nigerian church would agree to something like that?

Tour over, I leave a contribution and depart.

J.M. then drives me to the market in Nkoleton where I buy mangoes, colourful meche and a kaba. Growing up, we called them kaba slot, but in Yaounde no one adds slot. It’s just kaba.

Note: I spent a few years in Yaounde as a child. My dad was a military attache. My younger brother was born there. And, my biological maternal grandmother is from Cameroon. Maybe another trip will result in some research and another journal.

Shopping over, I come home to sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!!!!!!! I am sooooooo tired. Instead of sleeping, I end up playing Candy Crush and watching 30 Rock. I don’t know how I kept my eyes open. Lunch, however, knocks me out. I sleep till 4:11 pm when I rushed out to visit Wood and Toys just up the street from where I am staying. The items were a bit costly but I bought some cars for my nephew, godson and goddaughter. My godson’s sister will get some coloured meche for when she’s on holiday (last year, I promised her pink hair and I haven’t fulfilled it yet).

The entire day, the refrain of a church chorus is playing in my head. “Cadeaux!” the French word for gifts. M., C., and the children were singing it at the breakfast table and I think it’s apt for how I feel today. Not just because I’ve bought gifts for loved ones, but because this holiday in itself was a gift to myself. Now, at the end of this trip, I’m even more appreciative of the chance to explore, to experience the beautiful seaside and mountain in Cameroon; to meet new people; experience a different culture; and quite frankly, take a break from the daily grind.

 

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