At the Hilton, there were armed security guards as well as a security checkpoint that everyone had to go through before entering. It was quiet. Besides security, no one was outside. It was the polar opposite of the scene outside of my hotel. As soon as we pulled up, a man began to scream America! The American dream! And other weird things as the "military guys" helped me to unload my luggage. One of them said to me, "How did you find this place?" I responded by telling him that the Embassy reserved it for me and that I didn't choose it. He says, "Well seriously. Call us if you need anything." With those final words, they left me in the lobby and I checked into the hotel.
The room itself was fine and very clean. I felt safe and comfortable in it. After dropping off my luggage in the room, I went downstairs to get something to eat. This is when the night got interesting. Because the hotel was the "no frills" type, the restaurant closed at 10. There was no 24hr. room service option. When I asked if there was something nearby, I was told I could take a taxi to...fill in the blank with some town or area I knew nothing about. I asked if the little bar down the street served food. They said I could check and insisted I walk with the guard. I happily obliged and let the guard escort me to the corner. For the 2 minutes it took us to walk to the bar and back (they had no food either) I was cat-called and followed by about 4 different men. They called me beautiful, sexy, baby in English and other things I didn't understand in French. Prostitutes joked with men just a few feet from the entrance to the hotel. Music from the nightclub attached to the hotel could be heard from my room on the 5th floor.
I immediately called one of my Embassy contacts. "Put me in the Hilton." And here I am; writing this post at a desk that is more beautiful than the one in my apartment in New York. A couple of hours ago, I spent $37 bucks to eat at the buffet downstairs (something I would not have done at a hotel in the US). I'm watching some Kevin Costner action movie in English (I hate action movies but am enjoying watching a film in English).
Was I really all that afraid of the men on the street outside of my other hotel? No. It honestly wasn't much different from what I experience on a normal basis in New York. In all honesty, if that was the scene outside of a hotel in some US city (say Miami for example) I would have probably stayed at that bar and had a drink and checked out the nightclub attached to the hotel (minus the whole prostitute thing of course). But that's the thing. I'm not in a city in the US. I am in an unfamiliar place, with an unfamiliar language, culture, currency, and food. I didn't request to be at the Hilton because it was the fancier hotel, but it was the familiar one.
Part of the reason I chose to teach here in Cameroon was because I knew it would force me to step outside of my comfort zone. On Wednesday, when I go to the small village I will be working and living in for the next 10 months, I expect to be way outside of my comfort zone. But for some reason, here in the capital, I desired to cling onto the familiar for just a couple more days. I'm both excited and nervous for what is ahead of me. I've promised myself to do 2 things as I embark on this new journey: 1. I will take things one day at a time. Anything else seems too overwhelming. I will not beat myself up or dwell on a bad day once it has passed and I will not obsess over what may or may not happen on a day that hasn't even begun. 2. I will trust God and lean on Him for every single thing, both big and small. He created this place. No one knows how to navigate it better than He does. I will pray daily, depend on His strength and guidance to get me through, and thank Him for the amazing experiences I will have here.
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