I start the day with a thought as unexpected as my residence: the monastic life these dudes live isn’t all bad. They basically just strip everything away from life and find their meaning in hanging out quietly, worshiping some distant god who probably doesn’t exist and, if she’s somebody worth worshiping, certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to do something as masochistic as sit around silently with a bunch of dudes all day. The people at the other end of the extreme, focused on relationships and hedonism above all else, seem to be getting much more out of life. Take a Hunter S. Thompson, for example. Yeah, he shoots himself in the head when faced with serious medical problems, but he had a hell of a run and left behind enough friends to fill an issue of Rolling Stone. I guess what I’m trying to say is the simplicity of monk’s lives is great, but everything else seems to suck.
I think today’s officially called Cameroon Unification Day, but I’m a little hazy on the exact details. You see, I was supposed to dress up. Although this was meant to mean a suit coat and other nice stuff that I wouldn’t use the rest of the trip, I interpret it towards functionality and comfort. However, even cargo pants with a polo shirt make me so sweaty that I’m ready to doze off instead of dealing with it. I do exactly this, sitting in the “grandstand” right behind the Senior Divisional Officer who’s important enough to be the only guy who gets a padded chair. And probably the most audacious lie I’ve ever told: the mayor of Mbengwi turns around halfway through the 2+-hour uber-parade to ask me if I’m bored. Fortunately, he caught me while I was relatively awake. “Oh, no: we’re fine. This is very interesting!” It was noteworthy that they had reused the sign from last year, complete with a “together we can win the fight against aids” note at the bottom, and simply put a new piece of cloth over “2004,” but other than that the megaparade was basically a bunch of school kids matching in lockstep that would make any military dictator proud.
I get to leave early to attempt talking with the electricians. Anyone with advice on how to effectively communicate one’s need for 5 1.5 kilowatt voltage transformers and voltage stabilizers of the same specs across cultures? In the end of the hour-long ordering process, I’m optimistic that our desires came across. Delivery’s scheduled for tomorrow morning, so I suppose we’ll see.
A few hours of fiddling with the computers makes it time for dinner at the Senior Divisional Officer’s House. Apparently we should all be flattered by the invitation, but I decided today that I really could care less about authority except for in how it can affect me and mine. But I’ll put what my parents would call “disrespectful” and most other readers would call “pointless and boring” ramblings aside:) Much more entertaining than the officer’s speech, which had a strange punch line about making babies because it’s raining out, was some random reporter guy who started talking to me. Highlights of what I think he was saying include that he worked for the U. N. Security Council, got part of his leg cut off when on assignment covering some way, and now covers whatever people will pay him to report upon, but I could be totally wrong on all of that: after a half dozen times asking him to repeat himself, I figured I’d just nod and look interested. As at all meals in-country thus far, there’s funky but tasty food. For the third dinner in a row, I get my fill of some fish of indefinite identification.
Rest of the night is a computer extravaganza. I won’t bore you with the details, just some quick highlights: incredibly dangerous but successful power conversion/stabilization/outlet creation plan, ridiculously productive 5-student team plus some local audience members, and we’re able to get 24 of 29 machines fully functioning by the time we call it a night. We get back to the monastery after 2:30; if they’re on schedule, the monks are already up.