Neni refuses to return to Limbe. Since she was in her late twenties, all she could think about was leaving her father’s house and moving to America. On the day that Jende told her that Winston was buying him a ticket to New York so that he could move there and eventually bring over her and Liomi, she was so ecstatic that she wept and wrote Winston a five-paragraph letter of gratitude. She started watching American movies to prepare her for a future in New York, where she would finish her education, own a home, and raise a happy family.
For Neni, a return to Limbe would mean defeat and relinquishing a dream that she’s had for over a decade. The prospect of going to America gave her something to look forward to. Winston’s offer to pay for Jende’s passage, which would later allow her and Liomi to come over, was a ticket to the promise of a new life. She watched American movies to prepare herself on how to fit in, to teach her how to be American.
While Fatou braids her hair, she tells Neni that she must stand behind her husband and not say no to him. Two days later, Betty tells Neni to tell Jende that she’s not going. She says that Neni will regret returning and asks her about using the money that she got from Cindy Edwards. Neni says that Jende won’t allow them to use that money. Betty flares her nostrils and looks at Neni, moving her eyes up and down her face. She reminds Neni that it was she, not Jende, who got the money, so it belongs to both of them. Neni insists that she’s not American and can’t just tell her husband how she wants something to be. Still, she doesn’t want to return to Cameroon. Betty insists that she tell Jende that she wants to stay and keep trying.
Fatou and Betty offer Neni differing advice, which is based on how much each of them has assimilated into American life. Fatou remains more traditionally Cameroonian and doesn’t believe that Neni should challenge her husband’s presumed authority, while Betty, who’s been in the country for decades, thinks that Neni has every right to assert her wishes. Neni sides with Betty, who reminds her that her dreams are still valid.
Later, Neni stares at her face in the mirror and applies an exfoliating mask. She promises herself that she’ll “fight” Jende to stay in New York. She’ll fight for the “boundless opportunities” that she and her children wouldn’t have in Limbe. She asks Jende how people back in Limbe would see them. Jende scoffs at her for caring what others think and then leaves for work. Neni calls Betty who reminds Neni about the idea of divorcing Jende temporarily and marrying for a green card. Neni says that she’ll talk to him about it soon.
The exfoliating mask is a symbol of Neni becoming a new person—more independent, assertive, and clearer about what she wants out of life. She’s afraid, it seems, to admit to her husband that she’s changing, so she explains her reservations about going back home in the context of how others will perceive them. This way, she doesn’t offend him with her assertiveness.