09 April 2011

Supervisors, speaking, and soirees

It has been a satisfying past few days. My supervisor recently came to visit. Before I go on I must admit that in the past my relationship with my supervisor has been tense. He is an intelligent man, but he no longer lives in the village and he loves to lecture me. I have been trying to find the best way to interact with him, but I seem to either only zone him out or listen to him and give feedback. He would prefer if it I simply nodded in agreement to everything he says. Well for whatever reasons, probably that both of us have been trying harder, we were able to have an enjoyable weekend. He listened to me when I spoke, I listened when he spoke, and he did not proceed to lecture me. We just talked and it worked out. I think we have both found new found respect for each other!

On a different topic, I just attended my village's annual development committee meeting. It was held all in patoi, so I did not catch much of it, but my friends were translating as important things were happening. Then all of a sudden someone was whispering in my ear that 'Mme Christina is going to talk about the water project.' What?!? No one said anything about this. And this entire meeting has been in patoi, which I certainly can not talk about the water project in. Slowly I stand up, the only white person in the room full of people dressed in only two different pagne outfits; one for the villagers and one for the migrants who now live in Bafoussam – I am neither. As soon as I stand up and walk to the front I call up the president of the water committee to translate for me since I think it would be rude to simply speak in French. But amazingly somehow I just start speaking to the room full of hundreds of people. I know before coming to Cameroun I would have just about had a heart attack if I was faced with this situation. I would lose my train of thought, forget what to say, and I would be shaking uncontrollably. I was able to stay very calm and just speak. It went so well and people even clapped when I was finished.

This week was development week, so along with the committee meeting there have been other events, one of which was a cultural soiree. For whatever reason I was expecting a high school dance (because it is put on by the youth). But it was a lot closer to a talent show. Most of the performances were either dancing or theater. There were even some teenagers from Cote d'Ivoire who danced. One thing that struck me as I was watching was the tradition here of giving performers money (particularly dancers). It is done by approaching the stage, jumping up there, dancing with the performer, and then placing the money on their forehead so that everyone can see. I remember when I will still in stage back in Bamena and this happened to me. I was so confused and awkward and quickly ran away from the money, letting it fall on the ground. Later it was demonstrated to me that this was a way of telling me that I was doing a great job. I am not sure if I will ever completely agree with this method, but at least now I understand it better.

My favorite act of the soiree was a short skit. Two boys, who I know well, were in it along with another girl. Each of the boys was trying desperately to flirt and get the girls attention. They were calling to her sweetly and touching her leg or arm. She did not respond and proceeded to put on her make up. Each of the boys sat down on either side of the bench inching their back toward her. In the mean time she stood up and walked away. Eventually the boys were back to back and so excited that she was finally responding to their flirtations. They were so surprised to see that it was not in fact the girl, but their friend who they were flirting with. The skit ended with them running away from each other while the audience laughed. Even though the play was all in patoi, the words were circumstantial and the humor was clear.