I will probably never forget the final to the Europe Cup of Athletics vs real. Not because it was a horrible game and real only won through unfair advantages. No, I will remember the game because instead of sitting at a bar, having a beer, I was sitting on a couch with two elderly ladies sat across from me, laughing and chattering away in the local Bamenda dialect, while we ate “achoo” and some sort of soup while the kids sat by, trying to stay awake.
In other words, I had crashed a party in Cameroon, and not just any party. A month after a child is born, it is custom for the aunts and female cousins to come visit and spend the night, celebrating and welcoming a new child to the family. Not expecting it, I was surprised when my host’s brother allowed us to join the festivities, last minute. More surprising was when the eldest woman and head of ceremony made a huge speech welcoming me and inviting me to eat first. This was after I was hug attacked at the door by a mob of delightful grandmas.
As we danced and sang praising Michael’s adorable new daughter, Athletics scored its one and only goal of the night, which turned Cousin Ben’s dance into a cheer. As we ate, the aunties commented on the game to ours and their amusement. They even demonstrated how to cheer, which they thought was silly. I was pleased when I was able to drink a little whiskey on the rocks in the company of one of my new lady friends.
Being part of a tradition like that may seem routine to some, but for me it was an honor I can and will never forget. When you watch a family rejoice like that, and see the happiness it brings, it is hard not to be humbled and awed. As I looked into the infant’s eyes I could only see my hopes for her reflected in my own. I gave her my own blessing, hoping that she will live to have better opportunities and choices than any of us, that she may take on the burden on her shoulders to make her world just a little better.