**The following blog series is told in brief from my perspective, and only my perspective. Any names that may be used have been changed. **
I knew I wouldn't like my boss from the second I met him. My discernment is a prayed for and practiced gift. I remember letting out a sigh to myself after he called out “Ms. Marshall?” I had JUST stepped into the Douala airport, a hot and slightly confusing place, after almost 24 hours of travel. I extended my hand towards him. He shook it and pointed to my nose stating “ You know you’ll have to take that out right?” He was pointing to my tiny nose ring. We’re 5 minutes into this and he’s already proving my gut right. I didn’t answer. Anyway, I asked to call my anxiously waiting parents to let them know I had arrived. I spoke to them briefly and told them that I’d call them again once I settled in a bit. We drove to my housing. Along the way, we made small talk and I gazed at all of the beautiful greenery and people in the various neighborhoods. Some parts along the way reminded me of Jamaica or Trinidad. We pulled off of the paved road onto a bumpy, dirt road. He had to swerve to miss tire-swallowing craters in the ground. The people walking looked into the car as they avoided the car’s direct path. Could be genuine curiosity. Or that we were in a Benz. When we approached the front gate of the house he honked, and it opened. A young woman with a skirt, blazer, and heels smiled and closed the gate behind us after we drove in. The young woman would be my roommate. I was led upstairs to a simple but spacious room in a relatively sizable house. I was then informed that a welcome dinner would be happening and that I should change. A little later, I put on the least wrinkled thing unrolled from my donated suitcase and went downstairs. My boss and a few of his friends were in the dining room that was decorated with children's’ drawings and photos of Black American and African leaders. It turned out that the home I was living in was the old facility of the academy I would be teaching in. I sat down to a table to full of food, while my roommate was going back and forth putting dishes and utensils on the table. I hoped the scurrying and heels weren’t for me. As I reached for different foods, the others at the table explained what each dish was. I was introduced to ndole, eru, pounded fufu, miondo, and more. I received a collective warning when I took a large spoonful of what I thought was sauce to go over my rice. It was pepper sauce, considered to be very spicy. I poured a tiny bit onto my plate and dipped my roasted fish in it to taste. I HAVE NEVER FELT SUCH FIRE. I tried to play it cool, but I’m pretty sure the stream of tears gave me away. It’s okay though, I recovered.
Much of the conversation around the table was geared towards learning about who I was and what I could expect from living in Douala. As we were finishing the meal, my boss said were were going to his friend’s house. Honestly, I was not interested in meeting anyone else that day. I felt like he wanted to parade his new American for his friends to see. I never saw any of the people from that day again. Alas, he and I, along with my roommate, got into the car and drove out of Bonaberi into another part of the city. The people we met were nice. I refused the food they offered ( we JUST finished eating), but accepted something to drink. You do NOT go into someone’s home and not accept SOMETHING. It’s… “unAfrican”. Ha!
If you have ever been on a long flight or changed time zones, you know that jet lag can be rough. While I was at these folks’ house, I started to get really sleepy. I was dozing off while my boss and his friends were trading stories about….who knows. I asked to excuse myself and wait in the car until they were done. Sleep hit me again as I sat in the car. I shifted slightly as I heard the car doors open and close. I jumped up, startled, when my boss’ arm grazed across my breasts as he was reaching for my seatbelt. I snatched it from him and stared into his eyes as I buckled my seatbelt. Neither of us spoke a word. I was asleep, not unconscious. He never tried anything like that after that incident, but it did not stop him from being a horrible boss. It’s interesting that he could not open his mouth to tell me to buckle up, but had no problem telling me about my existence and saying blatantly mean things to and about me. More on that later.
The first week in Douala included meeting my students, getting lost, a proposition for marriage, an argument with a taxi driver, paying too much for things, trying to adjust to the heat, and trying to learn enough French to get me to and from work. I was not provided an escort or much assistance in transitioning into the city or the culture, so I dove in and, after some bumps, lots of questions, and confusion, started to get the swing of things. This was my new home, and I wanted to get the most out of it.
Sexy people rock.