Cameroon Journal: Ernest

8 June 2006

Ernest stopped by yesterday. He works at the cab stand in town. He began explaining  (after a while of sitting there and staring at me) that he’d had some kind of weird head injury. The injury had been scanned, he told me, and could only be treated in the U.S. He started asking me if I could help him to get a visa. I explained that I had no personal connections in the government. Beth told him he’d have to get an application from the embassy.

Ernest told us that he had an uncle in the U.S. who would pay for his plane ticket and give him a place to stay in the states if he could get himself a visa. Beth explained later that often immigrants in the U.S. will tell their relatives here that they will buy them a plane ticket if they can get a visa, banking on them not being able to get the visa. Ernest asked what kinds of foods I like. I told him that I like chin chin, which are 1cm cubes of sugar cookie dough that has been deep fried.

It occurred to me later that Ernest was asking about my food preferences because he wanted to bring me some foods that I would like. It’s easy to think cynically that he would plan to bring me a gift in order to make me feel obligated to help him with his immigration plans. But these sorts of relations, and issues of obligation in general are more complicated here.  I’ll admit that I am unable to determine the truth or seriousness of his medical condition.

Explore posts in the same categories: Cameroon, From the Road

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