Making friends when you come to a new culture is not always easy. First of all, there is the language: conversations do not flow freely when you feel your communication skills are comparable with a three-year-old (luckily they have improved along with the length of my stay).
Secondly, you have to figure out the social and cultural codes: what do they talk about, what do they do? How are their lives, and how can you relate to them? And even more deeply; what does the world look like in their eyes?
Many times during my five months here in Cameroon, I have asked myself if I will be able to look back on my stay here and remember faces, names and friends. Often I have been discouraged, thinking that the answer would be no. Most of my relations are utterly shallow and superficial.
Thinking further, I find that maybe I have to redefine my conception of friendship a little. All friendships start with small steps. To grow closer takes time, and half a year is not so long after all. If I turn from how well I know certain people, and look upon how many people I have actually gotten in touch with during my stay, I find that I have many friends; names and faces that stop and ask how I am doing when we meet at work, choir rehearsal, volleyball or on the street. We actually have a relation.
Sometimes that is all it takes. That is how well you actually need to know people before you can go one step further. Tonight almost my whole choir came to our house to sing, pray, dance, laugh, play and eat "poff-corn", beignets and makala (different kinds of doughnuts) together. We had the most wonderful time, and I could really feel that these are my friends. My being part of that group makes a difference. They notice if I am gone, and care about my well-being.
I belong a little to them, and they will always stay somewhere in my thoughts and memories and e-mail adress list when I return to Norway. We are friends. Nous sommes ensemble.