Friday, January 18, 2013

Le Dérangement

Scene at a bus station:

Cameroonian:  "Chinois, est-ce que c'est ton sac?"
Me:  "Non, ce n'est pas le mien.  Aussi, je ne suis pas Chinois."

Whenever I'm walking around town, people would "derange" or annoy me with shouts of "Chinois" or "Ni ho".  I've had several approaches to dealing with these annoying people.  One of my more successful approaches involved wearing a foulard and growing a really long beard:

Instead of the usual shouts of "Ni ho" or "Chinois", I would get "Salam Aleikum" or "Arab" or "Tu es musulman?(Are you muslim)".  Sometimes, I would get "bin Laden", but not that often.  I decided to abandon this approach however when people started calling me "pere" or "papa" (father).  And they weren't trying to be funny or anything.  They were sincere in calling me "pere".

    My approach now is just to look as I would back in the US -- no more foulard or long beard.  This new approach invites trouble because Cameroonians in the South love to "derange" or annoy Asians while being more reserved towards Muslims.  Go figure.  But its fine.  I've decided to follow the advice of a fellow volunteer who told me that the worst thing to do when people start annoying me is just to ignore the "derangement".  Its weird because when people "derange" me with their shouts of "Ni ho", its usually because they think that its the way to say "Hello" in my language.  I don't think they're being jerks or anything.  On occasion, I would even have a decent exchange with the "dérangeurs" and they learn that I'm a Pinoy.  Sometimes, however, they ARE being jerks and so I would usually reply with "Ce n'est pas poli" or  "Je t'amuse?" ("Do I amuse you" a la Joe Pesci in Good Fellas) or if they're really annoying, "Tu es malade?" (Are you mentally ill).  Either way, after a few weeks of this more "confrontational" approach, the "derangement" has died down.  I still get deranged, but not as much as before.  The decrease could also be due to the fact that the townsfolk now know that there's an Asian guy in town, who is apparently not Chinese.  My goal in my remaining time in Cameroon is for the people in my town to yell "Magandang araw" or "philippin" at random Asians they see.  


emilie said...

calling someone pere in Indonesian is just like "mr". beard plus head covering sounds like a great idea to me. I got that shit all the time (and always from men, who always thought they were being 'friendly') in the big cities of Morocco and it got old fast. Maybe you're much more able to retrain yourself to think it isn't harassment. If I had to do it over again, I'd wear a jeleba. Come to Indonesia -- it is a gift being able to blend in!

Bing said...

hello, Ping-i!

the head gear and the beard look good on you.

must be a challenge to be living in a strange place.

hope all is well.