I’ve been hanging out a lot with the elite Aledji who is basically my cultural counterpart. I was telling him about my problems with Taco, how he’s too young and my French too novice to really get along well together. However, him and the last volunteer got along great and Taco came over to the house all the time to play and color. I tried it, but it just wasn’t working. I have nothing to talk about with him. Aleji said ‘ce normal’. The last volunteer was a woman, said Aledji, and women get along better with kids. You can’t come here and allow kids over to your house like they’re you’re friends. You’re a ‘grand’, they’re ‘petits’.

As a PC volunteer, I am here to hopefully break down barriers that keep the Camerouneans held back economically. Arguably, one of those barriers is the social hierarchy between kids and adults. You are pampered while you are a baby, but as soon as you are strong enough, you are put to work at the house and you are treated below adults. This works well if you’re an adult since you can chase off kids and order them around and they have to do what you tell them, even if you’ve never seen them before; but harbors a sense of negativity towards all children and they never get any positive reinforcement and probably, their self-esteem drags because of it.

I didn’t want to partake in this hierarchy (does that make me ‘above’ it?) but it was a good way to explain to Taco why he couldn’t come over and hang out at my house.

So the next day I explained it all to him when he came back again. I told him he’s a petit and I’m a grand, and we can’t be buddies; but I also told him, that I know he was buddies with the last volunteer and if there’s something I can help him with, to ask me. So he said he didn’t have the money for his math book. I told him we would go to the market next time and buy it. Then he told me his mom left town and there is no food at home. He asked me if I could cook something up for him and his family. I can’t even cook for myself, unless they want to eat fried plantains and Raeman noodles. Plus I don’t have food for 8 kids anyway.

He has an older sister however, who I’m guessing is 16 or 17. I’ve seen her out ‘on ville’ at night which bothers me, the word here that any girl or woman outside after dark, by herself is a prostitute, is usually accurate. I told Taco we would go shopping and we bought a bunch of stuff to make a meal with, although none of it was really complimentary now that I think about it. I also bought some cookies to give to the 4 youngest kids, which were all under 5, the youngest two were under 2 years old.

It’s a sad life for Taco. I don’t want to dehumanize him and make him my charity case while here, but it’s hard for me to deal with him on a personal level, at least at this point. One thing is for sure; I’m going to make sure his family doesn’t go hungry while I’m here.

 


Aledji, my cultural counterpart, hotel manager and best friend ‘on ville’ and Adolph, my professional counterpart, director of the MC2 in Bangou.

The pastor of the local protestant church on the left, and the owner of the local boutique/bar on my right, having a beer.

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