Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Happy X-Mas

January 8, 2008

After IST and a few days before Christmas, Tara sent me a text message that said something to the effect of “Tim, I love you, but I changed my mind. I’m going to stay at post with Brad and Abby and Dan for Xmas. You should join us. Hope you’re not mad.” My response was “Tara, I love you too, but I’m going to the beach.” And that’s what I did. I knew there were other people heading toward Limbé for the holidays. And it won’t be for my whole life that I have a tropical paradise 3 hours and five dollars worth of transportation away.

Early Christmas Eve morning, I headed out to the big intersection to find a car headed toward the ocean. A few hours later, I was walking up to the door of Joe and Debbie’s in Tiko. Already there were Angie, Vanessa, Alyssa, Abby, and Abby’s boyfriend and sister visiting from the states. By noon we had all headed to Madison Park. It’s the beach where we went for Thanksgiving, but I was a little bit general in the description, so I’ll tell you more.

To get there, you take a cab just outside of Limbé to a tiny town called Batoké. For the longest time I thought it was called “That’s OK.” Just after the main drag of Batoké is a sign for Madison Park. The cab will drop you there and you walk about ¾ mile down to the beach. Closer to the road you pass a few houses where small children are running around yelling “White man! White man!” but this doesn’t bother you like it might at your post because you’re going to the beach. You simply smile and wave and say good afternoon. Headed further downhill, you pass a small palm plantation on your left as the sound of the waves reaches your ears. When you make it to the bottom, you go through a gate and the first thing you see is a magnificent array of plastic toys. This might catch you off guard at first, but over time, somehow it only adds to the charm. There are countless plastic cars, slides, and basketball hoops of all different sizes. After this somewhat random playground is a grass lawn with umbrellad tables and chairs, hammocks, beach chairs and sometimes tents set up. Down a couple of steps from the grass are beautiful black sand beaches and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s hard not to imagine that if you went straight out to sea, you would eventually end up on the East Coast. (Now that I look at a map, it turns out you would actually end up on the East coast of Brazil, but oh well. I can still imagine.)

This private getaway, known almost exclusively by Peace Corps volunteers, is run by Roland. He always makes us feel at home either by serving cold drinks, renting boogey boards or a tent for the night, or just by striking up a conversation. The tents, by the way, are one of the best deals in Cameroon. For five dollars a person, you get a tent with a nice spring mattress (better than at my post), and sheets. Roland, a francophone, also speaks English better than just about any Cameroonian I’ve met – all this from being self-taught, never learning Pigeon, and practicing with lots of Peace Corps volunteers. He’s a great guy, and because it was Christmas Eve, decided to share his lunch with all of us. We stayed and relaxed until just after the sunset and then headed back to Tiko for the night. Christmas Eve dinner? Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It’s weird how good that stuff tastes in Africa.

Christmas day, we woke up leisurely, enjoyed some Christmas cookies made by Abby’s mom in the states, and entertained all of the Trick-or-Treaters that came by. That’s right, I guess they needed to make up for not celebrating Halloween. We had numerous kids in large groups ringing the doorbell to wish us a Happy X-Mas (Pigeon for Merry Christmas), some to sing Christmas songs, and then wait for us to give them candy. In all honesty, I’m not sure if giving treats is part of the tradition. Word probably just spread after the first couple of kids that the white folks were giving out candy. Instead of staying home with family, though, like we do, they go and visit their family and friends on Christmas day. This made for lots of people coming to the door to wish us well.

Merry Christmas to everyone back home! (a little late)


Hev said...

I love Batoke and would love to be there now instead of cold rainy England.

Say Hi to Roland, next time you are there.

Joe and Heather

Anonymous said...

Tim, you don't know me but I worked with both your parents at Indiana National Bank, and have the highest regard for both of them. I've enjoyed your blog and admire your sacrifice and commitment to such a worthy cause! I'm not the least surprised considering you're the son of Tom & Molly.
Tom Spall