Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Speak African?

One of the boxes my dad sent the other day contained the book "Cours de Foulfoulde," my faithful companion back in the day when I was desperately trying to stuff as much Foulfoulde vocabulary into my head as humanly possible. Foulfoulde, also known as Fulani and Peul, is something like the 3rd most spoken language on the African continent. Maybe 4th. I read it somewhere and now forget.

Gosh, what a wonderful language it is, though--and it was easy enough to pick up that I could gossip with the best of them (which means most of them) in my village. The only stuff I really remember now off the top of my head is, "me deeli loomo" (I'm going to the market) and "me idi wamoogo" (I want to dance). And then there's that song I remember in its entirety about Maigasina getting her watch stolen and then later told not to cry since the guy who took it is getting his comeuppance because the girl he's marrying is already pregnant. Ahidjo, one of the teenage boys in my neighborhood, taught me that song along with a ton of others, and I have relatively vivid memories of sitting around in my living room with him, Manu and Husseini just hanging out and talking about random stuff.

It's a hard call whether Foulfoulde is as exact a language as others. I remember hearing my Cameroonian love tell me "me idi ma"--which translates to both "I want you" and "I love you"--and it just didn't have the same depth as bahibek in Arabic. But fun Foulfoulde was. Silly sounds--at least to our English-speaking peoples' ears. I'm flipping through the book and totally remembering great words I'd completely forgotten--"guinnado" for crazy person, "maayo" for river. How could I forget these things--they were such a part of my every day for 2+ years. Various versions of my resumes have stated that I'm "fluent in Fulani," which was always a great hoot, because how random is that, but also because it used to be true. But even though speaking Foulfoulde again doesn't really figure way up there on my list of things to do, it makes me feel nostalgic for this language I've lost.

Cameroon's on my mind a lot these days. Not any less so since I saw the following on a post from developmentex.com:

Almost a quarter of a million people in neglected northern Cameroon are faced with serious food shortages and more than $1 million is still needed to ensure they all get emergency rations, the UN World Food Programme said Sept. 22. "For one month... WFP is providing an emergency ration of cereals to 237,700 people in the Far North province of Cameroon, the poorest part of the country," the agency said in a statement. Free food will be handed out to everyone within affected communities. Officials put the total cost of the emergency operation at $2 million but so far they have only 43 percent of the funds. The French government has stumped up nearly $900,000 but another $1.1 million is still needed. Rains in northern Cameroon were poor last year, and food production fell about 200,000 metric tonnes, the WFP said.

This is so scary and upsetting. Our old stomping grounds--who would've thought our villages would see the day when there wasn't enough food? It always seemed like a delicate balance in many places of the Extreme North, but Yagoua was lucky that it had the river to provide us year round with tomatoes (unheard of!), salad, and many other kinds of produce no other villages had. I am desperately hoping that Yagoua--and the rest of the Far North--pulls through.

And in saying this I feel like a complete, self-centered wimp. Isn't there something I can do/should be doing to help keep it from happening? My years in Cameroon were wonderful and hold such a special place for me. For so many reasons, though, I feel like I just can't go back or ever know Cameroon the way I once did.


At 2:23 PM, Blogger Gizmo said...

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