Overseas Briefing

By Guest Contributor

After just 15 days in Cameroon’s chaotic capital city, I am still in the process of starting anew. I still haven’t braved the outdoor marché without the reassuring presence of my host mother by my side, and many of my days are governed by the overwhelming desire to find a good Wi-Fi connection so as to maintain contact with the world I left back home. Yet, as I embark on this venture, a daunting four more months in this foreign place looming ahead of me, I often stop and wonder: do I really miss Midd?

Africa doesn’t yet seem like home, but it no longer seems like it couldn’t be. Thousands of miles from the people who have known me all of my life, I feel surprisingly not alone. I find comfort in the smiling faces of the street vendors I pass every day along my road, and in the taunting smirk of my 16-year-old host brother as he teases me for sleeping too much (people here wake up at four or five a.m.; it really is ridiculous). But the fact that he notices my absence at breakfast every morning (does he even eat breakfast? I wouldn’t know…) is reassuring. Not enough to make me forgo my 8 a.m. wake up call, but it’s nice to know I’m missed.

I’m also not dying from lack of creature comforts. Who’s to say that hand washing my underwear in a tub of water on the floor of my bathroom is less comfortable than lugging a heavy bag across campus, to Forest basement, in the pouring rain? And really, Nescafé instant coffee with powdered milk substitute often has more taste than the gray drizzle that comes out of the machines in Proctor.

In a sense, I do miss Midd. I miss teachers who care about you as a student and as a person. I miss leaving my room in the morning without someone asking me if I want to iron my shirt (and oui, Maman, the answer is still non!). I miss having real conversations with people, as opposed to stinted versions of small talk as my brain furiously tries to comprehend what my companion is saying. I miss being able to go out after the sun goes down without a required male companion. And I deeply miss panini makers, melted cheese and fish whose heads and tails have been removed before they hit my plate.

And yet, these things are easily replaced with the unique aspects of life that I love about Yaoundé.

I love the hilarious conversations I have with the other passengers on my taxi ride to school. I love the enormous stained-glass window in the chapel on campus (nearly equivalent in beauty to Mead). I love the abundance of fresh pineapples, papayas and avocadoes I can buy for pennies along the side of the road. I love late-night conversations with my host mother as she teaches me to speak her local village’s dialect, and explains why after living in Paris for 30 years, she realized she belonged in her native Cameroon.

So yes, Midd, I do miss you. I catch occasional glimpses of my life in America on episodes of “Gossip Girl” streaming in French, and in the popularity of songs like “Barbie Girl” and Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me,” and I can’t wait for this temporary “exile” to be over. But I’m also not ready to come home. I’m grateful for the time I have away and the experiences I will have in Central Africa as it slowly but surely becomes chez moi.

Written by JORDAN MCKINLEY ‘14.5 from YAOUNDE, CAMEROON

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