Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fatherhood

Turns out I'm not ready for it.  Who knew?

Ok, it really isn't that bad.  There are some surprising perks.  I'm getting really good at UNO for example.  I tell myself that it does a good job of teaching kids about numbers and colors and such.  The kids learn things about critical thinking and why it's not a good idea to hold three wilds to hope for a quick out.  150 points easy, little bitches.  And I make them add up my impossible scores to support their learning of arithmetic.  Actually, you know what?  Feel free to nominate me for father of the year.

We have exhausted my collection of American films in French.  Forrest Gump and The Pursuit of Happeyness held up well across cultures (though I had to explain all the cultural references in Gump).  Some of the other stuff like Gown Ups or Haunted by my Exes are just kind funny.  There are some random action flicks like Red or 300 that are good on rainy nights since you can't hear anything anyway.  I'm a bit afraid of the fact that I'm going to be re-watching these for the foreseeable future.  Perhaps it will help my French language skills.  They really lack when it comes to understanding the French of Frenchmen.  It is either that or introduce them to French cinema; I've a feeling that won't go over well…

The house is a bit livelier.  Their presence does embolden other children who normally are kept in fear of entering the white monster's sanctuary.  I found two of them in my living room today with no sight of Pitou and Naomi.  That's not a precedent I can allow.  I've suffered minor "lost" items, but nothing worrying and my kids are at least good at protecting everything.  This is mostly since it has all sort of become theirs too.  I wish they would fight less.  I'm a shitty arbitrator as I've no idea what they are complaining about.  Normal French is hard, but when they are both pouting and whining you can forget about it.  I've taken up a quick pop to the head as proper discipline.  That's what my mother did to me.  Mostly because I got in the habit of dropping to the floor as a defense any time she'd raise her hand.  I turned out alright, didn't I?  Anyway, turns out I'm for corporeal punishment, who could have guessed?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Accidental Adoption

My French has greatly improved.  I study it like it is my job (which I suppose it sort of is) and every day I get better.  Cameroonians often are amazed at how well I speak when I tell them I learned it in country and arrived only ten months ago.  But the thing is I'm mostly just good at pretending I know what is going on.  There are certain conversations and phrases that I know so well I can fly through them as well as anyone.  Often these are just filler I've learned specifically for this.  Back when I lived in Italy, that was my game.  To get really good at certain bits and see how long I could fool an Italian into thinking I was native.  Problems arise from this game.  A) people assume you are better than you are and thus don't clarify anything and B) you can easily miss key information and to admit such is to lose the game.  For example: you might hear a sentence from your host-mom like "We will come and visit you and I will leave after a couple days."  It is really easy to miss the key pronoun change from "we" to "I".  A mistake like that might have you agreeing to some visitors and then finding yourself entirely surprised when momma departs leaving three children behind.

What can I say about my new predicament?  I suppose I'm glad I have two bedrooms and that mine has a lock so that I can pretend I'm not an accidental father from time to time.  There are some added benefits.  The oldest can cook and doesn't like cous-cous.  That's a definite plus.  I'd also have to say that all other cooking is better, even the fish (I shall never completely escape).  My house is cleaner than ever before.  They clean the whole thing every morning.  Let's see, multiply by zero… yea, it is been mopped infinitely more since their arrival.  Thank god they all speak French unlike the barbarian children of Mbakaou who know nothing but one of their tribal languages.  The kids have even done a decent job of defending my home against the revived onslaught of interest generated by their arrival in that local heathen population.  I finally have a tiny army I can command against them.

Still, I get no peace.  Even know I'm bombarded by questions I simply don't know the answer to or why I would care.  "Who moved the pot in the kitchen?"   "Why is the bookcase open?  It's ok I closed it."  "What are you doing?  Is that English?  How can you read; it is so small."  For the first time those boring moments at the Health Center where I've no idea how to occupy my time seem like blessings.  I think I'll find myself there more often.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Malaria in Mbakaou, Cameroon

Malaria pisses me off.  It pisses me off for a number of reasons, but the main one has to be the fact that it is entirely conquerable.  We used to have malaria in America, but we destroyed it.  We did it in a very American fashion by killing every mosquito we could find.  This included the use of everything from now banned chemicals to literally covering ponds or other sources of standing water with oil (I saw a great PSA recommending this; someone should find it and post it).  Given there are still mosquitoes in the States, these last efforts weren't the real source of victory, but massive roll outs of bed nets, screening houses, and actually taking drugs did.

Malaria kills untold millions of people across the world and particularly in Africa.  The devil in me says that we have a population problem anyway so who cares But wait there is more!  It doesn't kill most people, it just makes them reoccurringly sick.  To ask someone in Cameroon if they have every had Malaria is a ridiculous question; I have simply never met anyone who could answer "no" to that question (maybe a child young enough, but then I'd have to talk to children).  So malaria just kicks you on your ass, making you unproductive while you recover and brings down the productivity of whoever is taking care of you.  I often recommend that if a family has somehow managed to obtain a bed-net that they let the children sleep under it; they are more likely to die than adults who have survived malaria before.  It's often pointed out to me that if pappa gets sick no one works the fields and no one puts food on the tableEveryone suffers.  I can make no argument against that logic.

There are two things needed to get rid of malaria here.  Number one: sleep under mosquito nets.  The mosquitoes that can give you malaria only come out at certain times of the night.  Yea, you'll be exposed when meeting, greeting, and cooking outside, but at least the majority of the night you'll be protected.  Ideally houses should be screened, but based on the inability to provide mosquito nets I feel that is too crazy a dream to bother mentioning.  Number two: take your damn medicine.  If you are sick, go and take meds as quick as possible.  The main problem here I see is that meds cost money (and often aren't even in supply).  If you know you can possibly recover on your own and have in the past, then it is cheaper to not go to the clinic.  Again logic I understand.  Course, you still have malaria and every mosquito that bites you can now give to everyone else.  My normal lesson here is "don't be a dick".

Cameroon and the organizations here to help have simply failed.  Supposedly meds are free to kids five and under.  If you can find them.  And only if it isn't complicated, meaning you aren't too sick and vomiting up the drugs.  If they have to give you an IV, you'll pay plenty.  I like the strategy to get people to go to the clinic earlier (less time to transmit), but it's not working.  You want to get rid of malaria, everyone has to be able to get treatment.  As far as mosquito bed-nets go, the distribution failed.  They attempted to give one net for every two people under the assumption folks would bunk up (never mind that culturally most husbands don't even share the bed with their wives where I am).  Here at least, they did a crap job of telling anyone they would be giving away nets, so very few were given out to begin with.  What else did they drop the ball on?  I ask people everywhere if they know how you get malaria.  They don't know that it comes from mosquitoes.  No one mentioned this to them.  Thus no connection between mosquito nets and malaria was made.  Instead the few who did get nets had to decide between sleeping under a hot net and not getting bitten when you were probably sleeping fine before or using this nifty new net to do something else like fish or catch termites.  Eat more or sleep under a hot net: easy choice.  Oh and because the nets were given away for free and might be again (though no one knows when), no sensible businessman will sell them.  And no clinic wants to either or else be accused of hording the free ones to see for their own profit.  So if you want a net, good luck finding one.

Maybe this is just a simple case study of Mbakaou, the town lost off in the wilderness, but I keep hearing similar stories from everywhere else.