I passed a man on the street today. He was wearing a nice tan overcoat with some sensible casual outfit on underneath. In my mind's eye he is wearing a long scarf as well, but I can't recall if that was real. He seemed plucked from a cobbled road in London. We said "good morning", though in French, as we allowed each other space to pass. It was then that I noticed how surreal the moment felt. We were walking in a particularly muddy spot on the dirt road where only one can pass. It has been a long time since I walked on cobblestone. It's been a long time since I walked on a sidewalk. In fact, the only things I've been walking on for any period of time are the muddy dirt paths of Mbakaou.
For a moment I was transported to my daily walk to and from work in DC. Standing aboveground at the entrance to the metro in Southwest. I could see the buildings, the streetlights, the cars and roads, and my tree-covered sidewalks lining the way home. I imagined myself flopping onto our couch in that big house with its huge wall-sized windows. Lounging in front of our flat screen TV and throwing my feet up onto our comfy ottoman. One of my roommates asks, "So Dale, how was living in a small village in Africa?" "You cannot even begin to truly imagine," is the only valid response.
I've been here so long moments like that are rare. It was been months since I've complained that there isn't a comfortable chair in all of Cameroon. The seating situation has in no way improved of course, but I've gotten used to it. No expectation and thus those thoughts have disappeared. I have trouble writing to my mostly American audience about my time here because it has simply stopped being different. At first it was astonishing and difficult to live without all the comforts we take for granted. Living without those things I would have incorrectly called "necessities". Now those things rarely cross my mind…
Shit, I've gone native. I need an evac. Get me the fuck out of here!