Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Month in Cameroon: A Guest Entry

Where to start? How about a humorous story? Okay, here goes. On the first weekend of my African adventure, on the beaches of Kribi, we checked into Hotel Le Paradis. Upon arriving at our room, we found that there was no hot water in the shower (not a shock, most hotels we’ve stayed at didn’t have hot water). We could see where the theoretical hot water knob was detached from the wall, and the valve that the theoretical hot water would be dispensed from. Brandi decided that she would attempt to fix this problem. She began to pull the fixture the half inch or so it would take to maneuver the knob back onto the valve, as I said “Don’t force it.” Actually, I had gotten as far as “Do…” when I was hit with a blast of water in the stomach, as Brandi had pulled the entire fixture off the wall, releasing a torrent of water into the bathroom, immediately beginning to flood it. She ran down to the office while I looked around for a knob or something to shut off the water (nothing in there, it was controlled from the outside), and someone came to turn off the water, and show us to another room. This one had hot water (But no working TV).

Here’s another one. We were on the bus from Yaoundé (capital city of Cameroon, where my plane landed) to Bangangte (where we would catch a cab to the town of Bazou, where Brandi’s house is located). The bus pulls over to stop at a small market where someone was getting off, also so anyone could use the bathroom if they wished. A bunch of children run up to the bus selling various food items (Brandi bought some Meat on a Stick, coated with some kind of pepper. Not bad.), and one in particular stuck out. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but afterwards, Brandi filled me in. Here is their loosely translated (based on what I was told) exchange:

Boy (to Brandi): Hey, buy these limes for that big boy there!

Brandi: He is big, isn’t he? Are you jealous?

Boy: No, I am skinny because I run. He probably does not run.

He’s got me there. Little punk.

So what else is there to talk about? Since I’ve been here, I’ve tried various foods for the first time, such as crocodile (was okay, not great. Brandi says the first time she had it, it was much better, but she couldn’t remember the name of the place, so we ended up eating it at another hotel down the road). While in Kribi, we also went to a fish market on the water where they’d have boys catching fish, bringing it up, and you could choose your fish to be grilled for you. We had red snapper (Kuni was right…very tasty). We’ve actually eaten a lot of fish, often with a sauce of some sort (Brandi says her favorite is the peanut sauce, and it is excellent). And the spaghetti omelets, a staple of Cameroonian breakfasts, were very good as well.

Also, we got together with Brandi’s host family (the family who she lived with for the first few months, and who helped integrate her into the culture), and took a car to Foumban, where we got to see the old palace, which had since been turned into a museum. It was pretty nice, got to see some artifacts and such going back around 700 years. We also did some shopping, where Brandi’s host mom took over with some shrewd negotiating. Well, it would be “negotiating” for most people, she tells the merchant what she’ll pay, and will not budge from it at all. And more often than not, she gets it. Got me a pretty good price on some stuff, too. Oh, and on the way out, we saw the chief, just chilling on his porch, reading a book.

Besides that, it’s been a lot of hanging around at Brandi’s house in the town of Bazou, preparing meals (lots of rice and pasta, and some sandwiches, mostly), doing laundry (by hand, hanging out to dry), and generally living the African life (Cold shower or bucket bath? Take your pick.). Honestly, the accommodations aren’t bad. We have electricity (most of the time), and running water (cold only), so it isn’t as primitive as one might think.

That’s about all I have for now. Today’s my last (full) day in Bazou, tomorrow we head back to Yaoundé, and on Monday, I’ll begin another 24-hour journey to get home. So, I guess I’ll see (some of) you in a week or so, and maybe I’ll have more detailed stories too. Until then, this is guest blogger Elliott Kuhn, signing off.