As a white girl in Cameroon, it's inevitable that you get a lot of stares, and a lot of (often unwanted) attention. Whether from children who shout "white man!" as you pass, men who ogle you and ask "How can we meet again?" before even knowing your name (or if you would actually want to meet them again at all) or ladies who introduce you to their fair skinned baby, exclaiming that "she looks just like you". Walking down an ordinary street, I meet more people than I can remember, and am often searching my memory when I happen to bump into someone more than once, and have no clue who they are, or how I know them. People are friendly and curious pretty much wherever you go, which is why I wasn't overly shocked when I met Regina this morning.
I was hiking up the hill on my way to the internet cafe, past the Alliance Franco-Camerounaise, when I glanced to my right, and saw a middle aged lady lying on her back on the edge of a bridge. Her shoes were cast off beside her, and she seemed quite occupied waving her feet in the air. Before I could imagine her reason for assuming such a posture, she sprung to her feet, arms outspread, and embraced me like an old friend. For a moment I stood there stiffly, gazing down at the top of her head, and trying to recollect if I'd had a previous (but likely less striking) encounter with this petite, affectionate woman. This time however, my memory did not fail, as I truly had no idea who she was. Her arms remained around me for several moments, and it was only after asking a few questions, that she stepped back and I could take a good look at my tiny assailant.
Barefoot, about 4 feet tall, and garbed in traditional Cameroonian dress, her personality seemed fairly to explode right out of her small stature. A brief conversation followed, in which she inquired about what I was doing in Cameroon, where I was working, and where I lived. Subtlety does not seem to be highly valued here, and before we had even introduced ourselves, she demanded where exactly I lived, and whether she could come visit me. Veering away from this awkward proposition, I came up with a compromise: I politely told her that I was planning to attend an art exhibition at the Alliance this evening, and if she would like to see me again, we could meet there. I started off again, wondering what the evening held in store, and knowing that Regina was one Cameroonian I wouldn't soon forget.