Monday, October 10, 2011

You go girl!


Ants in my pants, but I didn’t dance all the way to France…
While traveling in Cameroon, I discovered that like in other African countries, the idea of a rest stop and public bathrooms remains somewhat an enigma. “So where do you go to the bathroom when traveling?” I ask. “On the side of the road.” My friend Trixy tells me. Huh. Well, this is not surprising, but as we were going through a town at the time, I said, “Really? Just along side the road here, with all these people about?” She tells me yes, that’s what you do. Huh. I don’t have a problem going to the bathroom in the woods, or tall grass, or in a privy. But when you’re surrounded by people who pick you out a mile away and shout “white man, white man!”, I think squatting over the ditch in town might draw a *little* more attention than I’d like. And for all you are wondering, yes, white people are really white ALL over. 
On our way from Douala to Buea, I was blessed with being able to use a gas station restroom that was clean, had a flushing toilet, a functioning sink, toilet paper, and soap!!! It was amazing. Then a few days later we traveled to Dchang, about a 4 hour drive from Buea. Normally, I can make a 4 hour drive without needing to stop with little problem. However, today we started soon after breakfast, during which I had a cup of coffee, and a glass or two of water. Still thirsty, I continued drinking water while en route. About halfway through, I needed a place to pull over. We searched and waited for a place that 1)Trixy could pull the car all the way off the road, 2)Didn’t have a ton of people around, and 3)had tall grass to hide behind. It took a little while to meet all these requirements. Finally, we found a nice place, I relieved myself, and we continued on. The next day, on the way home, Trixy says, “if you want to stop to go to the bathroom we should start looking soon, because soon we’ll be on a bigger road where it will be more difficult to find a place.” I was a little unsure of whether I really needed to stop or not, but going on my mother’s keen advice of, “you can always at least try.” I decide that if we can find a place, then stopping would be a good idea. We search and search, and finally she finds a place. There are two children on our side of the road, but the tall grass is opposite. I pray that the children don’t follow the “white man” into the grass, and cross the road. As I part the grass (which is several feet taller than me), I notice I could go a little further, but then realize there is a pineapple plantation there, and decide it would be rude to use such field for my business. So I part the grass around me, make a nice little space, and squat down. 
Can’t go. 
Still can’t go. Can’t relax. Notice something crawling on my foot.
Look down-
It’s ants. I think, “ok, I can handle this. If I just go then I can get out of here. I can ignore the ants.”
Still can’t go. 
OUCH! What was that? 
These are biting ants!!!
I pull up my pants, and hop out of there before I get bitten where the sun doesn’t shine. Crossing the street, I stomp my feet and shake out my pant legs. I can feel them crawling on me! I stomp really hard before getting in the truck, but then as I sit down, I still feel several crawling on me. I hop back out of the truck and shake my pant legs out some more, looking under them to find the ants and exterminate them and stomping my feet. Soon, I get back into the truck and we take off.  I still found at least 3-4 more ants in my pants once in the car. They did not live long after being found. 
While it was a bit uncomfortable for me, Trixy tells me my little dances were quite amusing! Before I left to come to Africa, a friend of mine gave me a Go Girl. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s a little oblong silicone funnel that when placed correctly, allows a woman to pee standing up. I’ve never really had reason to use it until that fateful day in Cameroon! 
There are a few lessons I’ve learned:
  1. Be careful where you squat
  2. Aways bring your Go Girl! (But what will they think of a white woman standing up and peeing like a man, I wonder?)

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