Lucia has something to say

Saturday, September 30, 2006


So right before publishing a long post about cold water showers and streets that are entirely potholes and laundry draped across the room and the terrible service of Cameroon Air (Camair), the electricity went out, and zap, there went my entire post. A good object lesson on life in the developing world. Not only are the rooms sparse and the roads awful, but the electricity goes out at minimum 2 times a day, sometimes more.

Cameroon has the dubious distinction of being named the most corrupt country in the world by Transparency International. I guess every country is number 1 at something.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Gracy's Cafeteria

In the last few days, I've become a regular at Gracy's. The restaurant is about 10' x 15', with 2 long tables. Laminated placemats are tacked to the entire tabletops, half of which say "Jesus Loves You" and half "Breakfast." The menu is limited. Omlettes and fries. Omlettes and fried plantains. Omlette sandwiches. You get the picture. There's egg, plantains, bread and potatoes. That's about it. My regular lunch in Bamenda, Cameroon. Costs about $1.25 to eat there.

There's a guy on the street who always says, "There goes my future wife," most likely to any gringa who walks by. And the guy sitting next to me in the cyber cafe just gave a fine rendition of "O, Christmas Tree," even thought it's September and the rainy season.

In Mali, tea was the social drink, elaborately poured and served. Here in Cameroon, it's beer. Or as the menu at Gracy's lists, "bear."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Rainy Season

In northwest Cameroon, it's the rainy season. Everything is lush and green, and there are waterfalls where there are none in the dry season. The rainy season brings fresh pineapple, oranges, bananas, and papaya. It also brings muddy roads that threaten to suck one's shoes into the muck, never to be seen again. And rain, sometime in the day or night it rains, every day.

Coming back to the room the other night, there was a light green frog on the door handle. I shook the door to get it to move. Nothing. I moved the handle to get it to move. Nothing. I looked for a stick to prod it, and of course there were none. Finally a nudge with a shoe landed him on the concrete. He's moved only a couple of feet in two days. Ah, yes, the rainy season.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Under the Mali Night Sky

Under the Mali night sky
one small girl sleeps in a rose petal,
entwined with her twin in a cloud
of pink mosquito netting.
Together as they were before birth.

When light comes, one wanders.
The other walks the same walk
as her father, not leaving his side.
And at night the girls come
together once more to dream.

Under the Mali night sky
the Tuareg girls dance
in the desert under bright stars.
Gently moving to the sound of the guitar,
powered by a car battery.

The music ends; conversation continues.
Two by two they return to their dark mud homes
as the heat of the day lifts,
rising above the forsaken landscape,
far from the cool waters of the Niger.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Meet Bodie. He's my fuzzy Pembroke Welsh Corgi. He's tri-colored, and has one blue eye and one brown. He turned 3 in April. He's not the brightest bulb in the box, but he's always happy. To him, everything is an adventure. He's always a very, very busy boy and has a box full of toys--stuffed (or rather unstuffed), Nylabones, every interactive dog toy that's ever been invented, kongs, and rope toys.

I adopted him from a family in Houston. One day, after emailing a woman after finding him on a Corgis in Need web site, I decided he was my dog. I drove down to pick him up. Everyone thought I was nuts. More than once I heard, "There are corgis in Wisconsin." But when it's your dog, it's your dog, and you'll go wherever to get him. When I got him, his name was Beau. But that was so not Midwestern, that it morphed into Bo and then into Bodie. There are a lot of Bodhis here, but it all sounds the same.

Every single day he greets me in the morning and when I get home from work as if I've been gone for a week. What a happy, happy little guy. He's a real joy in my life.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Auditory Memory

Last Wednesday I missed a benefit where these guys played. They're my favorite musicians--John Munson, Matt Wilson and Dan Wilson. I missed it because I am here, and it was in Minneapolis, and it was the middle of the week. When I was in the exuberance of my youth, and they were young things too, they played in a band called Trip Shakespeare. Auditory memory is incredibly powerful. Hearing any one of their voices brings me back to being younger. And I like it. I think of them as peers who went their way while I went mine. And I didn't pay much attention, because I was busy living my life. When newspaper articles came out about the Dixie Chicks CD, DW's name was there as a song co-writer, and I went back and scraped together all the CDs I'd missed. JM and DW did OK in Semisonic (which I'd never heard of, although I do remember hearing Closing Time and thinking someone has stolen their sound). And this backtracking pulled in Mike Doughty, who has become a favorite as well and is produced by DW. So, in the end, I wish I had taken off work. I wish I had been there. And I wish I would have heard those old Trip Shakespeare tunes they played, and melted back into the freer younger woman I was.

I've been thinking lately if I could pull together elements of different people, what I would like. So far, I'd take Angelina Jolie's looks and Mike Doughty's incredible talent for pulling disparate words together and writing kick-ass lyrics.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Masculine and Feminine

You Are 62% Feminine, 38% Masculine

You are in touch with your feminine side.
Sensitive, intuitive, and caring are all words that describe you.
And you're just masculine enough to relate to both men and women.

This outcome doesn't surprise me. I think most reflective people have a pretty good idea where they fall on this spectrum. Girly girls know they have a higher feminine quotient. Macho women know they'd be near the middle or toward the masculine.

I'm reading Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent. In a social gender experiment, she dresses as a man to see what it's like to be a man.

I think many women wonder (but only in a fleeting way) what it's like to be a man. What I imagine is pretty superficial--talking in deeper voices, having stubble (and not on their legs), and walking and sitting with their legs far apart.

At the end of the experiment, the author says "I curtailed everything: my laugh, my word choice, my gestures, my expressions. Spontaneity went out the window, replaced by terseness, dissimulation and control."

She said that both men and women watch men for signs of weakness or inadequacy. They watch for any failure to observe the rules of manhood. And women, women want men to be in control, and also to be tender and vulnerable. (This could be quite a double bind!)

I'm sure there are rules for womenhood too. But what are they? Not to be loud? To be dependent? To be sweet and kind? To be supportive? To be sensitive? I'm not sure how they'd be characterized, but they must exist.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Travel to Timbuktu

"The journey is my home." —Muriel Rukeyser
I'm tossing out my image of Timbuktu. Whatever I think it will be, it will not be. A city of 70,000 is not the edge of the earth. I found out today that there are even internet cafes in Timbuktu, so all those travel bloggers have a place to go when they're on the edge.

I learn a lot when I'm traveling. I learn how much freedom a woman in the slums of Delhi has when she's educated to read the numbers on the buses. I learn how important it is to a weaver in Kenya to somehow make enough money to send her son to school. I learn from disabled jewelry makers that without this work, there is nothing, nothing for them. I learn that there are so many children orphaned in the world that I can barely comprehend it. I learn that AIDS is real, and that in Africa, every day, people are going to funerals. I learn that refugee camps can run out of rations. I learn what starvation looks like. And this is only a fraction, a very small sliver, of what I've learned.

I just got a friend's catalog ( On the back, she writes, "The Women Artisans are My Role Models." They're my role models too. She says,
"They want to experience new things, to explore a world of opportunities and feelings previously closed to them. And out of all this, they will continually create and re-create their lives."
When I'm sitting on the floor with a basket maker or watching a weaver turn out magnificent silk cloth, when a woman in East Timor shows me how she uses natural dyes or a woman at an orphanage in Madagascar makes cards with pressed flowers, I am enriched. And I am reminded that...
"Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." —George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Writing II

Something keeps a million "I could be a writer" folks from becoming. I'm one of them. What is that thing?

Esereth left this comment to my last post...and it's a really good question. Is it fear? Lack of time? Market competitiveness? Should the market have anything to do with it? Should we write for the sake of writing? Because we feel compelled to write? Because writing gives us a sense of joy and satisfaction?

What stops me? What stops us?