Thursday, June 02, 2005

Malaria is a Very Bad Sick

("Malaria is a Very Bad Sick" is a song kids in Cameroon learn in school)

Today was the first ful day living with a host family, and you'll be happy to know that I've done nothing to diminish the stereotype of the incompetent American. I took my first bucket bath today, to the amusement of my host parents and later, the whole neighborhood. Apparently you are not supposed to dump the bathwater over your head and let it cascade down your body as the grand rinsing finale. Normally one's whole neighborhood wouldn't know all about one's bathing incompetence except that the bathroom is right next to the kitchen which is next to my parents' bedroom, and then my baba hosted a nine-hour meeting in front of the house, during which everyone basically talked about the mzungu and stared at me. At one point there were about eight adults and 15 kids watching the mzungu sit in a chair. Later they watched the mzungu wash the dishes. ("Do you know how to wash dishes?" -"Yes." -"With your hands?") Later they watched the mzungu put on a flip-flop to show that she knew to put the thong part between her first and second toe. Later mzungu Amber and mzungu Shinita came over and everyone watched the wazungu (more than one mzungu=wazungu) talk to each other.

So it is day two and the homestay experience still has the freshness of day two of camping. People and kids walked for miles to come over to our house to meet the mzungu. Nearly everyone can speak to me in English, and the one that don't are mainly limited by their shyness. Well, actually they are limited by my incompetence in Swahili. The first thing they always ask is, "Are there poor people in America?" And when I say yes, they don't believe me. So after the fifth time I say yes, they say, "Oh, I thought everyone in America was a billionaire."

My homestay brother asked if people in rural America farm their land. I said some do, but most farmland now is owned by big corporations that use machines to do the work. He said that since American kids don't have to stay at home to help with the chores like in Kenya, that all American kids must be so smart and well-educated. HA! Laziness is a difficult concept to explain to people in a country where kids say "no" if you ask whether they're happy that today is a school holiday. I said, "Some kids don't want to study, instead they go to parties or get into trouble." My brother just looked confused. Kids here are really obedient and so far I have yet to see one cry.


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