on fait avec

My favourite sayings in Cameroon are:

–       On est ensemble – translation: we are together.  Usually said when parting company with someone which seems like a contradiction in so many ways.  It is used to imply solidarity between people – one of the many wonderful things about the local culture.

–       On fait comment alors? – translation: what do we do then?  Usually said when refusing to pay a bribe or when two diverging opinions on a course of action require a final decision.  Not usually sarcastic, but pointed nonetheless.

And my favourite expression this week:

–       On fait avec – translation: we make do with what we have.  Usually said when the most obvious course of action isn’t possible.  Said in both resignation to one’s state, status or ability, but also used to demonstrate the ingenuity needed to face various situations.

It is week two of the In-Country Orientation for the new volunteers freshly arrived in Cameroon.  While Greg and I have been doing our share of facilitating learning sessions for the new volunteers, we have also been discussing between us how it must feel to see Cameroon for the first time.  After over a year, we have started to take for granted what is normal, unusual, strange, funny or even just plain different.

In an effort to fight complacency, we play one of two road games on our way to work in the morning (we usually use the walk home to vent frustrations, but that is a different matter entirely!).  One version consists of guessing the origin of the occupants of cars bearing diplomatic license plates.  It’s an easy game somewhat because the numbers on the plates follow mostly an alphabetical order – so Canada precedes China, etc.  Once you figure out a few of them, the others become pretty easy.

The second game is the “Cameroon moment of the day”.  We started this as a reminder to look around for things that are different, or that people back home would not necessarily believe without some proof.  This morning was a man wearing orange African pagne pants in the style of MC Hammer.  Too bad we didn’t have a camera with us.  Priceless.

Finding examples of “on fait avec” has been the latest focus of the game and luckily we had a camera on hand.

would the princess feel the pea under all these matresses?

Need to move a few mattresses?  Don’t have a truck?  No problem. Just pile them on, rope them up, and go!  On fait avec.

the contruction bucket brigade

Getting cement up four stories when you don’t have sophisticated equipment is no issue.  All you need is a bucket brigade made up of 18 guys and a good working rhythm.  On fait avec.

now that's what I call full-serve

The power is out and the gasoline pumps are not working?  Should that stop anyone from getting gas?  Of course not!  Just hand-crank the pump.  On fait avec.


~ by Caroline Spira on January 19, 2011.

4 Responses to “on fait avec”

  1. Love the non-judgmental way you tell this.

  2. I am a CUSO-VSO volunteer spouse following your blog from Jamaica. As does everyone, I love it and sometimes check it for inspiration. The photos you chose for this posting are priceless, especially the bucket brigade.

  3. i hope you are enjoying your stay there. the photos are a bit funny its amazing how the guys there make the most of what they have and they are happy

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