Olfactory observations

Smells. Maybe I'm hyper-aware after one character in The Poisonwood Bible commented on it, but I sure have noticed smells here. To be crude and less than flattering, I could echo the sentiment I read or heard recently to the effect of "the smell of Africa is body odour." Nearly all Cameroonians I've met (and some Africans of other extractions I've met elsewhere in life) carry this pungent and striking smell, no matter how well-dressed and well-spoken they are. I don't say this as a criticism so much as an observation.

My nose has also caught the smell of burning garbage (from the compound's incinerator), of Malathion (from the worker spraying in the resthouse compound in Douala) and of course, the library.

The library is built on a hill, with a half-round circulation desk, and back office on the level of the door while the books and a play area are down 5 steps. A skylight above the reading table in the far half of the room has the place so well lit I spent a few minutes trying to find the switch to "turn off the light." But the greatest impression the library makes upon entrance is olfactory. You know that musty-old-books smell? Imagine hundreds of books of varying ages (majoring in old) neatly ordered on shelves, doing their regular bookdust manufacturing...then add a tropical climate with a rainy season, high humidity, and the rampant dust of dry season.

But I digress from the senses to a matter of time. Not yet here one week and they're already trying to get me to stay forever. I'm not surprised and I view their efforts with amusement, not rancour, but I hadn't expected it so soon. They really ought to wait and see if I'll make a decent tutor/worker of any kind before they invite me to inflict myself upon them for longer than the allotted time! Becky asked today exactly how long I was planning to stay and said Elsie wanted me for a month to help her with the library and her myriad sundry tasks.

Though I can't help but be interested, I've made no promises either way: the plan, I always said, was to be here 10 months. But I've ever acknowledged that plans go awry, or simply change, so the possibilities that a) I'll return to Winnipeg in 10 months as planned, b) I'll stay on longer in Cameroon or return soon after a short period in Canada, or c) necessity or circumstances will bring me home long before May 2008 are all equally open at this point. Who am I to tell God what He's supposed to do with my life?


lasselanta said…
I hear you! (on all of the above!)

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