Sunday, Sept. 21
Dschang, Cameroon

In a few hours I’ll be in the village of Fongo-Ndeng!

I can hardly believe it. I’ve been thinking about this day for years, looking forward to seeing the smiles on the faces of my second homestay family, my rural family, when they see that I’ve made the effort to return to their home and visit with them once again.

I stayed with them years ago for just a few weeks, but village life moves so slowly it felt like months. La famille Ndi Wamba — a man, his four wives and heaps of children — were the basis of my research project on polygamy.

This family lives entirely differently than the Djoukams in Dschang. The Ndi Wambas farm their land and have no electricity or running water, the sort of African life you’d see on National Geographic. The women spend hours in their kitchens preparing couscous over open coals, and it was during those hours that I forged close relationships with them.

Over the last few years, I’ve corresponded with the family several times via snail mail, and they let me know in a letter about six months ago that the father had died. But since I wrote them back, advising them that I planned to visit sometime this fall, I haven’t received a response. They have no e-mail. No phone. And so it’s impossible for me to inform them of my arrival. I’m simply going to show up and, because there are no other options, surprise them.

I’m quite nervous. I wonder whether they’ll remember me (But how could you forget the only white girl who has visited your village?), whether I’ll remember how to get there on a moped taxi, how things will proceed once I arrive. If (perhaps I should say when) I were to write a book on my travels, this moment would serve as a proper climax.

And for you, it’s about to double as a cliff-hanger, one of those horrid ones that comes at the end of a book or television show where you have to wait until the next novel or episode to see how it turns out. Because there ain’t no Internet in Fongo-Ndeng. So just sit tight and wait, and when I return to Dschang — perhaps in a week or so — I’ll get back to you with the ending. Let’s hope it’s a happy one.

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