Shower of the Gods

Every hearty Vermonter, or cold-weather inhabitant for that matter, knows the feeling: the desire to do nothing other than shower.  After a frigid game of pond hockey or a long day on the windy slopes, the numbness in your extremities seeps through to your core.  It’s a cold, wet sensation that only a hot shower or bath will remedy.  That’s what driving back from the jungle felt like.

Not only did I not shower during the weekend in Maboye, but the only shower I had taken since I arrive on May 27th was pouring rainwater on me using a cup.  Spending the weekend sweating through a set of scrubs and one set of street clothes, I was smelling like the damp sock you left in your high school gym locker after playing soccer in the rain, to put it politely.  A shower was all I wanted.

However, Dr. Bwelle had other plans for us, he always does.  One of Dr. Bwelle’s very close friends, a minister of commerce I believe, was hosting the celebration for his son’s baptism, a very big deal in Cameroon.  We were all apparently invited. Had they known the state that we were in, perhaps they would have retracted the invitations.  Never-the-less, Dr. Bwelle assured us that it was fine and I was later informed that part of the measure of your social status in Cameroon is how well you host a party for guests.  Sure this is partly a measure of how much money you have, but I must say that the U.S. could use a little more social measurement by how well you share with those around you.

An example of Northern Cameroonian apparel

This celebration was a true feast.  All the women cooked giant platters of fantastic food: beef kabobs, ndolet, plantains, chicken, samosas, the works; it was beautiful (I forgot about the shower for an hour or so).  Most men were dressed in very dapper collared shirts, dress pants, shiny black shoes, and were all well-groomed.  A few men, who were from the far north of Cameroon (host included), wore traditional garb that entailed a elegant robe just as in the picture.  All the women were enveloped in decorative fabrics that contoured closely to the body, arranged in traditional styles that displayed true skill in tailoring.  I believe most women can make their own clothing here in Cameroon.

Frankly, I was a embarrassed.  Imagine hiking the Long Trail for a week and then showing up to a wedding.  I had on a dirtied, sweat-scented yellowish (formerly white) t-shirt, soccer shorts, one sock, and hiking boots.  It’s possible that I was the worst smelling one there, and possibly the worst looking.  Erroneous.  The host along with every other guest never even hinted that I was out of order, or uninvited, just the opposite in fact.  An awkward entrance into a fine abode turned into a comfortable meal with what felt like friends.

This guy was several levels above my state of being...

The host, Dr. Bwelle’s good friend, is from the far North of Cameroon and also has contributed toward Dr. Bwelle’s medical campaigns.  Missions to the far north are very difficult for several reasons: road conditions, cost of transportation, and raw distance ~1300km.  The man paid for the entire transportation around 2 million CFA Francs ($3600), traveled with the medical team, provided all the food, and cooked most of the food from what I hear.  In total, Dr. Bwelle told me that he ended up spending nearly 4 million CFA Francs,  a humble and generous man.  The mission to the far North is definitely the most expensive of all, most trips are much less in cost.

Everyday I seem to hear stories of astonishing generosity from regular Cameroonians who have seen the work that Dr. Bwelle does for the people.  They get to see the passion in his eyes and hear the depth of his laugh.  If only you all could come visit.  I took a shower that day, the 28th of May 2010, and it was a shower of the gods.

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