This afternoon I went for a bike ride to Bafut (west of Fonta). I had driven through there two weeks ago when I went to the church in Nchum with Pastor Pascaline and it looked like an interesting ride.
It is quite a bit hillier than Fonta Rd. to Bambui and about twice as far, but it was a good ride. Geez, there is nothing like having a million gears to choose from (well, really only 27, but still a lot). My biggest challenge was controlling my speed going downhill. And some of the road was pretty bone-rattling--there is a way that the red dirt roads get, kind of like an old-fashioned washboard--and my personal shock absorption is apparently in my neck and shoulders. . .
So, 16.7 miles in an hour and forty minutes, with a beer stop at the turnaround point. This was my ostensible reason for going -- to see Beatrice's place. It's called the West Life. Yes, for those of you in the know, it is named after that concocted boy band of Simon Cowall's of the same name. There is a DVD collection of Westlife music videos that apparently every bar in Cameroon (or at least every bar in the North West) has a copy of. And I think it must get a lot of airplay because everyone knows every word to every song. At first I thought it was just the young people, but today in the bar, there was a guy who was my age singing along with every song. Of all the great music in the world, how on earth did Westlife make the big time here? Now, granted I haven't gotten out much, but this DVD is the only non-African music I've heard in the two months I've been here. Eegads. It makes me want to buy a bunch of CDs and just burn a pile of them to distribute to every bar around.
And I'm not even anti-pop per se. My sister used to make fun of Barry Marshmallow (as she called Mr. Manilow) and, sure he was schmaltzy, but at least he wrote his own music.
Riding the bike here is a new experience. I've ridden a bicycle since my 5th birthday and the goal has always been speed. Whether I was riding for fun or transport or exercise, the name of the game was always to go as fast as I could. But when you are riding on trails, that's not the game anymore. I'm sure all of you who mountain bike already know this. (Oddly, although I have a great mountain bike, I never took it off-road when I lived in the Bay Area--the birthplace of mountain biking.) Now the game is control. A game that my two bike crashes indicate I am still learning. It is fascinating and fun to be approaching something I know so well in a totally different way.
And it makes me look at my equipment differently, too. Hard, slick tires are NOT a good thing. Soft and knobby is much better. I appreciate the front shock on my bike enormously. And now I understand why the woman in the bike maintenance dept. at REI was asking whether conditions would be wet or dry when I was picking new brake pads. ("Wet! Wet!" I wish I'd said.) I've always had a thing for good quality appropriate tools -- the kitchen knife that slices through tomatoes in a single pass, the software program that lets me think the way I find natural, the watch that tracks my speed and distance and time and pace and even maps it. Now I am falling in love with my bicycle--a Cannondale F400--designed to fit a woman, which is why I bought it, and tough! The color is a bit garish (really bright blue), so everyone around sees me coming a mile away (as if my being one of the only white people isn't enough of a beacon <g>). I thought I'd cover it in black tape, but I'm not going to go that far, just decorate it with stickers. When I'm done I'll post a photo. So far I only have "We are One in the Dance" (the motto of the Rhythm Society, of which I am a member: www.rhythm.org), Cold Steel Tattoo (where I got my latest tattoo, the day before I left for Cameroon, something I would not advise) and Conexus Cathedral (which I could not attend at Burning Man, since I was on my way to Cameroon, but I am blown away just to know the people that did this: http://conexusvillage.org), but there are a few more to add.