One Moment in Cameroon
"It was written that I would love you,
From the moment I opened my eyes.
And the morning when I first saw you,
Gave me life under calico skies."
Sir Paul McCartney
A misty morning at camp
We have only a few weeks now in Cameroon. These moments, the last ones, are the artist's paradoxical piece to illustrate the fluidity of time. Some anticipatory moments feel long. Yet somehow, the days of the calendar pass so quickly that the heart cannot comprehend it will soon be saying good-bye. They are the same moments, the long ones and the short ones. They are the thorns in the side of physics.
You know this as well as I do: that travel invigorates the soul and reclaims some of the foundational wisdom of youth. It is newness. That is why we love it. It drags us bleary-eyed creatures from the claws of the mundane.
When you travel, it is easy to focus on the differences. The different faces, the different clothes, the different songs, the different smells. Why do they do that? the stupid wanderer wonders. I will admit now that it took me a good ten years of travel to realize that I was indeed closed-minded in ways that I didn't previously understand. My way isn't the right way. It never was. It isn't the wrong way either. That is the beauty. But you can never stop checking yourself, either.
I want to focus on a story of similarities here in Cameroon.
Macaco and I made an impromptu journey to Yaoundé out of certain necessity. We took a seven (or so) hour bus ride from Bertoua out west. About an hour into the ride, a young mother boarded the bus with her infant and her four-year-old. She didn't buy a seat for the older child (there wasn't a free one anyway) and she held the younger one in her arms. The boy would have to stand for the rest of the journey, five- to six-hours at least. I was exhausted just imagining it. He buried his little head into his mother's arm. Macaco and I discussed things and decided that he would stow his bag (which had previously occupied his lap) up above, he would take my own bulky bag onto his lap, and I would take the child. I motioned to the mother and offered our plan and she consented.
The child was frightened of me. Why not? Not only was I stranger, but one that looked much different than the people he knew. But he took a chance and settled into my lap and gave me a go. I was soft enough for him, maternal enough. I wound my right arm around his tiny waist to shield him from the bumps and acute turns of the journey. He pressed further into me, but still his right hand wouldn't let go of the seat in front of us. Though we weren't quite positioned to do so easily, I realized that I would have to wind my left arm around him too. I didn't speak to him about it, instead merely shifting my hip a bit. He immediately knew my agenda. He lifted the elbow of his left arm, which was resting in his lap, making a small opening so that I could snake my own arm through. There. There it was, the moment of connection. We spoke without words, both knowing the goal of the moment's program, both having already occupied the respective sides of our embrace. The profundity of it is stunning, if you allow it.
Remember these things. These are the things that will save us.
Here, if you're interested, are some digital memories of this trip to Africa. We are together.
Final capoeira class with the Meyene kids, where the kids received certificates upon completion of the environmental education course.
The certificate the kids received
Severin rocks out on the berimbau
With the education staff of Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center and the teachers of the Meyene school.
From our final class with the kids, during a warm-up game. We call for a roda at the end.
When we want to use the internet, this is the bridge we have to cross to travel the 26 km to Belabo town.
These driver ants are carnivores to the extreme. If you were on a short tether and in their way, and if their marching line was wide enough, you'd be eaten alive in a matter of a couple of days.
Good-night from Milou the chimpanzee
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