Friday, July 17, 2015

RULES FOR GOOD AFRICAN GIRLS

Dear African girls, I come to you this morning with a heavy heart. It saddens me to repeatedly see you go about your business of abusing our culture on an everyday basis like no man’s business. We come from a land of greatness; rich in natural resources, beautiful child brides, skillful female circumcision experts and a sense of community that has thankfully not been invaded by the perversion of the Western world. So when I sit down to put these rules together for you, it is to help us all continue to sustain our beautiful culture. Let’s touch on these topics.


Imagine my shock the other day when I found out Ngeri’s daughter does not know how to cook fufu! The girl is almost done with high school and she walks around unashamedly with that kind of flaw?? How will she ever keep a man if she can’t feed him? Talk less of having a family!! I mean how can a woman be a woman if she can’t perform her basic domestic duties?? For shame. But you know what? I blame her mother. I have always said you must get these girls in the kitchen as soon as they learn how to hold a fufu stick steadily. But no, Ngeri would not listen and just brushed off my concerns. Now look what has happened to her daughter. It is sad really, girls. Do not let this be your story. Go in that kitchen and throw it down like every good African girl would. Make your mother proud, attract a man, keep him well fed and thank me later.


Another issue of concern for me dear girls is your manner of dressing. I see many of you good girls trying to copy that American fashion of walking around showing your valuable assets. Don’t you understand that by flashing off all your secrets, you leave nothing to the imagination? You have to stay covered so that when men go to imagine you, they can have the pleasure of un-covering you themselves. You must not take away from your future husband the excitement that is akin to unwrapping a favorite piece of candy.  Remember that a farmer will never buy a cow if he can get the milk for free. You know, despite all the bad things the white man has brought to our land, he has also brought some good. Think about how our female ancestors walked around naked for centuries, the whole time devaluing themselves until the Europeans came to their rescue. I feel sorry for some of those primitive tribes that insist on walking around naked or with their scanty raffia leaves. Thank God for progress my dear girls.


The other day, my dear friend Susan introduced me to this thing called Facebook. Dear girls, I have seen the gateway to hell! Susan was showing me pictures of her daughter who lives out in Florida and one of them caught my eye. She was standing with some boy and guess what? He had his hand around her waist!! This boy is not her husband and has made no declarations of any such intent, yet there he was, carelessly holding her around the waist! Girls, let me break this down for you. You know all your value is topically distributed and as such can be easily rubbed off. 40% is on your buttocks, 30% around your waist, 30% around your thighs and the rest of your body parts make up the remainder. So this dull girl was standing there, letting that man hold her waist and just like that - GBAM - she depreciated by 30%. The Good Book teaches us that our bodies are temples and it is our duty to keep them sacred and pure. You see, the sanctity of this temple is so fragile that something as seemingly trivial as a man’s arm around your waist can cause it to be lost. You must be careful girls, lest all your mornings of bible study, meditation and prayer go to waste because of a boy.


I learned about something that shook me to the core just two days ago and I am still hoping some one will come wake me out of this dream. I hear there are schools in America where children are taught about sex and on top of that, the students receive free condoms? It is no wonder that country continues to descend into the abyss. Why would a topic as sacred as this one be fodder for classroom discussion? And why, oh why, would people give young girls condoms? Don’t you see what that will cause? More and more of our young women would no longer be afraid of diseases and pregnancy and would have no problem spreading themselves around like cheap ashawos.  Girls, I am afraid you are being led down a dangerous path but you must be strong. These discussions are a no-go zone. As for the condoms, run far far away from the devil and do not give him that opening.


Now if you do these things and continue to succeed as an upright and decent African girl, you will catch the eye of one of our African sons and they will honor you by making you their wife. This reflects well on your family and superb upbringing so don’t let your family down dear girl. But I want you to understand that marriage is not a bed of roses. You see, men are wild beings and need gentle and patient women like yourself  to hold them down. Their egos are easily bruised so be careful not to push him to the wall or belittle him in his own house. Be sure to support his every endeavor and keep him satisfied gastric and otherwise, lest he be forced to succumb to outside temptations. Above all, do not buy into that western idea of divorce; we know not such things in our culture. A good wife is known for her patience and endurance and there never was a better time for this to be put to use than when things are going rough between you and your husband. So, for the sake of peace, family unity and to avoid disgracing yourself and your family, stay with him and help him navigate the treacherous path of fidelity.


Beri’s son heard me discussing these rules with his mother and he came up to me to ask about the rules for boys. I laughed hysterically; he is only 7 years old – aren’t they cute at that age? He doesn’t yet understand that there are no such rules for them. It is okay though; when he comes of age he will realize that his penis makes everything ok. Silly boy haha.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Marc Vivien Foe

June 26 2003. I was a student at Joseph Merrick Baptist College, Ndu and had just conquered my Ordinary Level (O' Level) GCE examinations. I felt great; the long days and nights of endless studying for this big-deal exam were over. I would no longer have to soak my feet in ice cold water or squirt orange peels into my eyes all in attempt to stay awake and study study study.
Also exciting, the Indomitable Lions were playing a Confederations cup game against Colombia that evening. It didn't matter that the game was inconsequential; a game is always big business for us so this was the perfect way to round out my stressful month.

Now for every Cameroonian, soccer is a religion. I mean, we would wife up soccer and take her home and have babies with her if we could. Every Cameroonian child rolls out of the womb with a little soccer ball tucked under their armpit I tell ya. So everyone was tuned in for the game as usual.
Occasionally at my boarding school, the administration would have mercy on us and pull out a TV so we could catch a game or a movie here and there. That night was tricky though because the majority of staff and students were already on summer break and so bringing out the TV was not really a priority. Luckily, my uncle was principal of the school and lived on campus so I invited myself to his home and chose a nice spot right in front of the chimney (Ndu is a hella cold place, let me tell you).
The truth is I do not remember much of that game. Don't get me wrong; it was an exciting and thrilling game (I mean, every soccer match with the Lions is). But every memory was quickly wiped out by what happened in the 2nd half to player #17, Marc Vivien Foe.
Now for my soccer-hating readers, here's how you watch a game: you look at the ball, you follow that muthaluvin' ball and nothing but the damn ball. You look at players' skill in passing that ball from one person to another, you look at their ability to steal that ball from their opponents and you look at their ability to get that ball in the netted box. Basically, if it's not the ball, touching the ball or pursuing the ball, you pay it no mind.
So when MVF dropped on the periphery of the field, few people were paying attention. I did notice, however, because at the time he was my favorite player on the team. His soccer was good but what I had always admired about him was his demeanor on the pitch. He played his heart out every single time and no matter how hard pressed he was, he always had this air of calm about him.


What made his fall curious was the fact that no one had pushed him. In fact, no players were close enough to have even tactfully tripped him as he walked by. Before long, the cameras panned in on him and every Cameroonian's voice got caught in their throat as we slowly became aware of the fact that his chest was not heaving up and down like it should. But we all thought "Oh it's just another fall, he's probably a little dehydrated. Someone give him a gatorade and send him along on his merry way". But he was not even stirring and writhing on the ground as he normally should if that was the case. 
When the paramedics ran onto the pitch and began to slap his cheeks, the knots in my stomach turned to wrought iron chains. I knew something was terribly wrong. Every one knew something was dreadfully wrong. The camera man knew something was wrong and found himself unable to pan out as well. 
A few minutes later, as the whole world watched Marc's pupils roll to the back of his head, we silently wished the camera tech would've have zoomed out and spared us the heartache.
The knots in my stomach quickly turned to a vast ache and to panic as his body flopped around listlessly on the stretcher as it was rushed off the pitch. I didn't know what was going on but I knew I could not watch the rest of the game.
By the end of the match, speculation was that MVF never awoke from his fall. When final confirmation did come in, the whole country was plunged into the deep and dark silence of shocking grief. The nation had just watched one of its favorite sons die while doing something we all lived for.
The sadness was palpable everywhere you went. It was all we could talk about for weeks on end.
I remember the state funeral. Broadcast on live TV. I awoke very early that day and completed all my chores because it wasn't something I wanted to miss. Seeing his young wife being ushered in and his children (6 years, 3 years and 2 months) sitting through the ceremony with little to no idea of what the heck was going on was just as painful as watching MVF fall. Those were very dark times indeed.
It has been 12 years to the day but I can feel everything I felt on that day even as I write this. Continue to rest in peace, Marc Vivien Foe and I hope the team and country continue to carry on your legacy of hardwork, dedication and outstanding character.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Passport to Hope

It must have been sometime past midnight when Fanwi heard him approaching their mud-thatch hut. She knew it was him because she heard the familiar “Thump-Shhh-Thump-Shhh” sounds his feet made as he walked; the thump from his over-compensating right leg and the shhh from his limp left leg as he dragged the foot along. Word around the village was that when he was a child, Pa Nkem had stolen mangoes from Ma Ngwe’s compound and as he descended the tree to run away with his loot, had stepped on the talisman she had made specifically for the children who stole her mangoes before she ever got to them. That night, he awoke with sharp, shooting pains in his left leg and even his mother’s special herb brew did not relieve the pain. He was in agony for three days until the village elders went to plead with Ma Ngwe to reverse her juju. She agreed, after the children promised to leave her tree alone. The next day, Nkem’s pain was gone but when he stood up to walk, his left leg was shriveled up and limp. He could barely lift it off the floor and walked with great effort.
            Fanwi quickly wrapped her loincloth tightly across her chest and tucked the excess material between her legs. She curled her legs up under her as she lay facing the wall and splayed her arms to mimic the reckless abandon of a deep sleep. She tried not to gasp when Pa Nkem opened the bamboo door and the cold dry harmattan winds rushed in. Almost instantly, the pungent cloud of palm wine that always hovered over Pa Nkem moved to envelop Fanwi as if to assure her that yes indeed, her husband was home.

He thump-shhhed his way towards their bed and tapped her on the back “Fanwi! Fanwi!” She stirred ever so slightly, murmured a tired “Hmm?” but showed no signs of getting up. He reached over her shoulder to find the knot where she tied her loincloth across her chest but she slowly rolled over, like a sleeping person would, and came to rest on her belly. He moved to the foot of the bed and tried tugging at the ends of her cloth she had tucked between her legs. Fanwi again did her slow and deliberate sleep-like roll back to her left side, crossed one leg over the other, then snorted and exhaled loudly for good measure. Pa Nkem heaved a heavy sigh, resignedly threw himself onto the other side of the bed and within five minutes was snoring like a bull.
Fanwi sighed a deep sigh relief, thankful to have dodged another one of his advances. It wasn’t that she did not like being intimate; she did. Just not with Pa Nkem. He smelled like stale palm wine and a thin red film of Kola nut juice always lined his teeth. When he attempted to kiss her, he slobbered all over her face and he never made any attempts to actually please her.
She thought back to the day when Pa Nkem and his entourage had shown up at her uncle’s hut with a 50-gallon container of palm oil, several bags of dried corn and beans, 5 plantain bunches, 3 chickens and a live goat. She knew what those gifts meant; someone from Pa Nkem’s family had come to “pluck a flower” as her people said. Being the only girl in that household, she knew they were there for her. She was excited; it was a big honor to have a man come to ask for her hand in marriage. She hoped it was Pa Nkem’s nephew, Jato. She had seen him around the market square and often swished her hips a little harder when walking past him. He would smile back at her, as if in appreciation for the gesture so she was hoping he had come to show quantitative gratitude and claim what was his.
Her uncle’s wife had called her into the small kitchen behind the main hut and sat her down. She did not like the long, drawn look of her face. Since her parents died a few years ago, her uncle had grudgingly taken her into his care but his wife had been nothing short of a second mother to her.
“Fanwi”, Aunty Bih said, reaching out to hold her hand, “I have begged your uncle for the past three days to leave you alone but he has been adamant. I want you to know that I did everything I could to dissuade him. But he insists you are a woman now, and he can no longer afford to feed one additional mouth. Our friend Nkem has been kind to us and now that he needs a wife, your uncle says we cannot turn our backs on him”.
Fanwi’s mouth dropped open; she could not believe her aunt was saying those words to her. She quickly pulled her hand out of her aunt’s, like it had suddenly sprouted thorns and spat “WHAT?!” She had run out of the kitchen in tears straight to her friend Nangah’s place, where she remained for one week. After much pleading, cajoling and a few mocking chants from every one in the village, Fanwi eventually decided to accept her fate and move in with her husband.

She tasted the bile in her mouth as she now thought of that word – husband. It had been two months and it still did not sit well with her. She hissed and looked over at the sleeping pile on the other side of the bed. Beads of sweat trickled down his face and his belly galloped and gurgled with every snore. This was certainly not the husband for her.
She quietly flipped first one leg, then the other over the edge of the bed, careful to keep it from squeaking as it so often did with any movement. She moved swiftly to grab the small bag she had packed the night before from under the bed. As she got dressed, she heard three very faint raps on her side of the hut – Jato’s signal.
She looked over once again at Pa Nkem passed out on the bed and for a split second she felt sorry for him. She thought, “Maybe if I stay long enough, I can learn to love him. Maybe if he freshens his mouth with those lemon-grass leaves I set out for him…RAP RAP RAP!” Her thoughts were interrupted by Jato’s signal again, this time louder and even more urgent.
The noise caused Pa Nkem to stir in his sleep and as he did, his loincloth came undone to reveal his ashen genitalia. Fanwi was immediately taken back to the three times he had forced himself on her. She had cried and begged him to be patient with her but he was intent on having his way. She remembered how he laughed like a hyena afterwards and called her a good wife. She thought about his crooked fingernails scratching her back in his pitiful attempt at romance and the anger began to rise from that dark place in her stomach. She had a mind to slice off his “precious parts” and let him bleed to death as she made her escape.
But the loud whisper of her name from just outside the hut reminded her of the opportunity she now had to escape this hellhole. She dabbed at the tears that had begun to well up in her eyes, cracked the door open and quietly slid out and around back.
There he was, waiting with his own little bag and a kerosene lamp needed to guide their trek in those wee hours of the morning. They would walk 10 kilometers to a nearby village where motorcycle taxis came by once a week. They would journey 50 kilometers on the bike over muddy roads carved into hillsides to a small town where they would catch a clando, the overloaded minibuses that would take them to the heart of the big city. Jato had a distant relative there who was willing to take them in until they got to their feet.

He smiled at her as he took her hand and ushered her onto the path in front of him. She was unsure of what lay beyond the green hills sprawled out in front of them, but was certain and hopeful that it would be better than what she was leaving behind.
   Bonglack, M.                             Cincinnati, OH                               January 2015

Sunday, August 3, 2014

New beginnings

Just another Sunday morning and I'm up early - earlier than I need to be as usual. Not that I'm an insomniac or anything but my body has just learned to survive on so little sleep without crashing. At least not yet.

It's nice to be up early because that means I have time to be with just my thoughts. Normally that's a scary thing for most people :) but I like my thoughts and I seldom have time to be with just them.

I'm thinking: Wow! Has it really been 3 years?? 3 years since my dad took his last breath?? 3 years since my family was walking around in that haze that accompanies the loss of someone so dear?? Sometimes it feels a lot more than 3 and more often than not it feels less than 3. Like my dad was just here; advising, coaching, coaxing, setting us straight, loving, laughing...living. And a breath gets caught in my chest as I marvel at the brevity of life and the suddenness of change.

I'm thinking: Yay. Medical school. And then Shoot. Medical school. The very one that seemed so far away at some point is now staring me straight in the eye. I wonder if I my drive is sufficient to get me through. I grimly anticipate the long days and nights of intense studying and sprawling concept maps. I get sweaty palms when I look at a USMLE step 1 question and have no idea what the hell it's talking about. I wonder if I'll make all the right connections with faculty and have access to all the research labs I want. I wonder if I'll make new friends ( lol, yes. It's like middle school all over again). I wonder if we'll all bond like everyone who's gone ahead of me has sworn.

I'm thinking: Dang that tiny Honda made it safe and sound over 700 plus miles?? Plus all my ground cargo that I chose to haul?? And even though my driving leg felt numb as ice it still worked when I tried walking on it?? I'll drive this car forever. I'll drive it to the ground. Then when my first child turns 18 guess what the big present will be :)

I'm thinking: Will my family be alright? Will I be alright being physically removed from them like so? How would things be different if my dad was here? Is there an African store nearby? No no I mean is there an African store nearby that sells calabar chalk??? Important! :) (Don't nobody come preaching to the choir 'bout how it's unhealthy and all that now).

But I'm sitting here watching the sun rays bathe my unfurnished new abode and something deep within me just knows I'll be aight :) Maybe I'll rename this blog Glorifications and Frustrations of an M1 so I can make y'all part of my pleasure and pain. We shall see.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Something like poetry

The idea of this poem came to me over the course of several years. As a maturing young woman who’d been thrust into the American society, it came slowly to me (mostly via the internet) that the black woman was not viewed as beautiful by a good number of people. Having grown up on an almost entirely black continent, I was initially quite surprised. Over time and after reading way too many comments than I should have under certain Yahoo! articles, I came away more baffled than surprised. I had always seen beauty in myself and the women around me, so how come it there were so many people out there who did not? And then it hit me that there are many black girls growing up in parts of the world where this message is all they’ve heard for as long as their young minds can remember. So I decided to put in words the beauty I see in myself and in other black women, to serve as a reminder for women/girls whose societies have labeled them undesirable and ugly. My message? Dear brown-skinned girl, you are so damn beautiful even if they don’t see it. (I don't like being too preachy so this one was a little bit of a reach for me but oh well)

So you braved the odds and came to the world a month early
And loved to roam the outdoors when you mastered using those little feet
But long before you knew it school days were here
Where you were told by fellow mates you weren’t all that

They said your hair was too nappy and puffy
That it did not ebb and flow and cascade like theirs
But how could they not see the beauty in its versatility
And the tiny ringlets that were a delight to play with?

They said your facial features were not what they liked
Your nose too wide and the lips too thick
But how could they not see how perfectly the nose framed your face
And the luscious kisses that your generous lips provided?

They said your body was too full, too non-svelte
Your bosom too voluptuous and your hips too wide
But how could they not see that these same things
Were the very essence of your womanhood in which you took pride?

They said your skin was too dark
Not white and pale like they would rather have
But how could they not see the beauty in your chocolate
And caramel skin so fervently maintained by daily moisturizer?

They took not the time to know you
Just went with the assumption that you were air-headed
But they didn’t even know about your extensive readership
Nor did they care to hear about your academic achievements and goals

They said you were cold and non-deserving
Since the talk was that you had room only to be angry and wild
Yet they failed to see how big your heart was
And the open arms you held out to everyone who was in need

And so whilst the world has drawn up its own picture
Of what you should and should not be
Hang tight to the core precepts of your being
Lest you become what they wish you were.

                                                Mildrede Bonglack

                                                Minnesota, January 2014

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Back at it! Blogging, that is.

Hello blog!
Well it's been a minute has it not. And by minute I mean nearly 2 years!
You see, I've been busy. Wait wait wait.  Now before you go rolling your eyes on me, I should have you know that I now have something to show for it!
What is it you may ask? Well I'll tell ya. It's an acceptance letter. Medical school acceptance letter yo! Ha ha yes indeed!
You see, I've been a pre-med for the last 5 years and boy has the struggle been real! One day you're on cloud 9, thinking how the admissions committees got nothing on you and the next day you're like oh crap I will never get in any where. But yesterday brought that whole drama to an end for me. (And handed me a whole new different kind of drama but that's talk for another day lol).
I'll tell you how it happened. So yesterday morning I had a neuroscience exam on the worst taught (in my opinion at least) topics: basal ganglia, cerebellar function,  upper and lower motor circuits, yeah that stuff. I felt uneducated walking into the exam and even while taking it I'd pause every 2 questions, gaze off into the distance and shake my head. Then I tolled through it and knew I had to get my ass out of there so I did.
I put the (I presume bombed) exam behind me and head out to the library to tie up loose ends with homework and papers seeing as this is the best time to do it cos nothing's getting done over Thanksgiving break yo.
Log in to email. See that UCincinatti has updated my status on their secondary page. Oh. Is that right. Heh. So I drop the mouse, cross my arms and start thinking about if I want to check that. Then it occurs to me that it wouldn't be a reject! They're surely not cruel enough to send me a reject the day before Thanksgiving right?! My whoa-this-must-be-correct-analysis gusto pumped me up enough to log in to that page.
I had to scan the page like 5 times before my nerves calmed down enough to see the "Congratulations you have been accepted! Choose Confirm or Deny". And I'm like "Or deny? For why in the hell?!" Lol. Now on the inside, my little African spirit was dancing and catapaulting through the air. But on the outside? I did a little victory fist pump and whispered a resounding Yes! And danced a little because I was (unfortunately) at the library. In retrospect, I should've whipped myself out of that chair and danced a little makossa yo. But it's all good. I surely shall in a little bit here.
Happy Thanksgiving folks!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Barriers at Mbingo Baptist Hospital: Got Milk?

The Barriers at Mbingo Baptist Hospital: Got Milk?: Breastfeeding is important in Cameroon.  There is often no access to clean water for mothers to make formula and the formula is prohibitive...