Can’t Shake It

Recently, I (DeAnna) was asked if there are things that are embedded in my head from living in Cameroon that I can’t seem to shake, even though we’ve been back in the US for more than a year.  Below are a few things that immediately came to mind.

  1. I still think I need to be inside, curtains drawn and in for the night as soon as the sun sets.  In Cameroon we didn’t take malaria prophylaxis and were vigilant in staying inside from dusk to dawn in an effort to prevent being bitten by a anopheles mosquitoes.  Plus it wasn’t safe to be out at night and dangerous to drive after dark.
  2. I feel every edge, pocket, waistband, etc… of every piece of laundry while folding it.  In Cameroon the tumbo fly lays eggs in wet clothing/bedding/towels that are hung outside on clotheslines.  It’s imperative that all laundry is bone dry before using it since that means the eggs are dead, however, if there is still moisture in the laundry, the eggs will borrow under your skin and use you as a host.  A large pimple type thing appears and then the egg hatches and it’s necessary to suffocate the grub looking worm that has hatched so it will come to the surface and you can pull it out of your body.  Even though I use a clothes dryer and don’t have the threat of these flies, I still feel every piece of clothing, towel, etc…before I fold and put away any laundry.
  3. If the needle on the gas gauge reads 1/4 of a tank, I need to fill up.  We made sure to always keep more than 1/4 of a tank of gas in our vehicle at all times because we needed to be able to evacuate at any given time and that way we  would have the fuel needed to escape.  We don’t have to be vigilant in that way here, however, it’s embedded in our minds and we still feel like if we have a 1/4 of a tank, we are on empty and it’s time to fill up.
  4. If it’s late and we can’t fit all the dishes in the dishwasher, I HAVE TO wash all the dishes that can’t fit.  In Cameroon our kitchen would be overtaken with ants if we ever left any dirty dishes out.  I still feel the need to make sure all the dirty dishes are washed and put away even though we probably wouldn’t be overtaken by ants if I left them until morning.
  5. Handshakes…in Cameroon there are different kind of handshakes.  If you are showing respect to someone you place your left hand on your right wrist and then shake a hand.  I still do this and I’m sure people who I’m shaking hands with think I’m crazy.  I did this the first time I met Joshua’s principal at the beginning of the school year (and I made sure to only glimpse in eye contact).  In Cameroon when someone has dirty hands from working or whatnot, they’ll offer you their forearm to shake instead of their hands.  I did this a few days ago when I was mowing the yard and someone came up to talk to me and extended their hand to shake and I offered my forearm.
  6. I still feel the need to keep certain shelf stable items on hand at all times in case we have to stay inside for up to two weeks.  We never knew if something would occur where we would need to stay held up in our homes for days or potentially weeks.  I still take stock on the items I have on hand and I’ve caught myself hiding some of the items so it’s not eaten prematurely.
  7. I struggle with wearing clothing that comes above my knee in length.  I would always wear long skirts, dresses, etc… and wouldn’t ever wear anything that landed above my knee.
  8. I still keep produce in the refrigerator.  In Cameroon if we wanted to eat raw veggies or fruit, it was necessary to first soak it in a bleach water solution then rinse it in filtered water.  After it dried, place in the refrigerator so it’ll keep and to keep it from having flies land on it/dirt settling on it, ants covering it, etc…  We don’t need to refrigerate all produce here, however, I still place it all in the fridge.
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4 Responses to Can’t Shake It

  1. Pop-pop says:

    Some things you may always do – it’s in your mind to stay. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It can bring to mind those moments in Cameroon that brought such joy.

  2. Tracy Pickett says:

    This list is so telling of the lifelong impact that living in another culture has on us. I could relate to some of these, and I was only there a short while!!! These transitions fascinate me, and I STILL feel like we’re in a transition after five years!! Weird. I don’t have a rhythm about life yet. I have a feeling of unsettledness. So interesting.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Love, Tracy >

  3. It took us years to get away from the feeling that we should always use our right hands when paying for things and accepting change. It wasn’t until last year that I discovered this isn’t even an issue in CAR (some of the translators had a great laugh at my expense at this point!) so we had learned it in our Cameroon orientation in 1996 and lived with it ever since, even though it wasn’t a big cultural thing in the country we were in!! Now I *have* reached the point where I can use my left hand in such transactions in the UK 😀

  4. MawMaw says:

    Wise and safe practices to live by, DeAnna, even when living in the USA.

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