I find Cameroon to be fascinating country with some unique aspects of daily life which I will try to share some here. It seem like formal education is still low in Cameroon, this creat the space between half understand of modernity and striving cultures, tradition with it knowledges. Most of my encounters belong in this space. Those who know less in the rural areas or urban they are simple and ease going which make me wonder if the less the person is informed with our contemporary understand and knowledge is the better he/she can be? Well I assume we could understand if the development and modernity would not have that superiority aspect. I often hear when people what to funny someone or in the argument, they will call each other a villager which means is backward. This complexity or transition is what make Cameroon life fascinating for casual observer of daily life.
The first aspect in Cameroonian life and the one I like is about food and eating. Cameroonians are luck, there is plenty of food here in the large extent is good and vary, natural and quality. Cassava,Yams, plantains and rise might be the main dishes. These are mainly accompanied with fishes. There is so many river fishes here, mostly fresh grilled in the street in the urban and occasional dried or smoked in the villages. There also chickens, half chicken mixed with veggies and spices grilled while wrapped in the cement paper. Cameroonian also love pepper, most of food served with lots of pepper.
Cameroonian portion of food is mostly big, after the big plate of either ‘batton du manioc’ (pond cassava rolled in banana leaves) with fish or smash yams with got, beef or wild meet (though I didn’t see lot of wild meets apart of once find elephant meet in the menu, I was told several time that anything called meet would be eaten here.) The meal goes together with good amount of palm wine or couple of their 0,65L beers. I was once invited for a meal which turn to be meals, my friend order ‘poulet deje’ with veggies and plantains for both of us. As we were waiting we took the big 33 Export when the plate come it was enormous and delicious, although my friend push me we couldn’t finish it. Luckily we got to other big encounter joined us with great up tight. They finish it and order another one, insisting us to join them especial me who they say I need to eat a lot. Cameroonian believe on eat, they eat and drink well.
My friend Peter who spent about 3 years cycling across Africa, he place Cameroon as number one country in Africa where you can easily find a beer. That is true. People here love their beer, at anytime when available. I’ll be searching for coffee in the morning people would ofer me beer which some work up with. Well that is not great ideal when I have 100km of rolling hills. In the evenings people are relaxed and enjoying their beers, in Cameroon this might also be the time for shopping. One can buy almost everything need for daily life; foods, clothes, shoes, phones, art works, drugs, etc. In several times I have been seen mans selling medicine, I find this to be bit strange so I try to have a look like most does even though they would not buy, they like to touch and monk the the price which is funniest part because the seller will give the price and buy will give back the product asking for what? then the seller will ask the buy to give the price. This is also the way sharing taxes works, passengers give destination and price and if fit for the driver will stop. The drug seller has painkillers among others but by surprise there were also viagra, real viagra made in India for $3 lots of pills. The other occasion which I find to be fun or humor f beers is when someone want to buy a cloth and try it straight away in the crowded open are bar.
The spirt of sports…
Cameroonians are active and love sports, anyway most of people here works with their hands. Football is big sport with such inspiration from their national team but as I find out cycling is growing with two international big completion; Tour de Cameroon and the First Lady sponsored tour. Moutain running is another growing sport inspired with international completion of Mt Cameroon annual run. In the weekend in Yaounde, parks and roads were full with ordinary folks running and stretching.
Through sport I was introduced to Mr MInister Atana who players tennis. He show unexpected energy and enthusiasm toward Chile to KIli. He use his position to bring the initiative to Cameroonians through national medials. He invite me for small reception at his home and donate all the money I spend for the Congos visas. More over he gave me the gift of ‘Presidential Diary’ with plenty of Mr President Paul Biya’s photos. He wrote a few words of inspiration and courage, most echo one ‘Power of Positive Thinking’. I’m thankful for Mr. Minister help and support but more grateful for his openness , sharing and enthusiastic character.For the short conversation we had I learnt few important things about African politics and leadership, it change some of my perceptions.
Though most Cameroonians in the rural areas shout to their stomach to ask me what I’m selling while I’m straggling with climbing in the 32 celsiu, this confirm that Africa is imaging market! Their have been supportive in several occasion shouting ‘Courage’ and express their truth feeling of my endeavor. I think this is place in Africa where I feel the feelings of altruistic for my physical challenge.
Cameroon is described as ‘bilingual’ country, guess it is the story of many other African countries. Well it only few I have come across manage these two languages; French and English in the good extent. I think it is not such ease for a child to master mother tongue and two foreign languages. People are well linked with French language which sometime mixed up or carry the accent of the indigenous languages. The small part of the western, the former British protector maintain English to be their official language. Well they are trying their best though what is spoken in the street is what they call ‘Pygmy English’ resembler to what is spoken in Nigeria and Ghana. This is also a political game as the country was divided from it former German drown boundaries, 50 years of reunion haven’t eradicate the differences.
In the National TV news from the interview the English version of the news title me as ‘Humanitarian Cyclist’ while the French version called me ‘Cyclist Solitare’. This is my fascination of transition, possibly it is the art but listen to the languages here, the words they use and the way they use it just amazing.
After the drama of most expensive visa for the Congos; Republic of Congo $200 for 14 days (apparently I was given express price which is 3 days for extra $100 instead of $100 which the waiting is 1 week but the officer didn’t give me the second option.) Democratic Republic of Congo was bit friendly officer with drop of Ki-Swahili verses but visa was $200 come out next day but start when it enter in the passport. I managed to lobby for long visa, the option come out 6 months, price for for another $200 after long negotiation. Where else could you find negotiable visa? Is this official steeling? No one to answer, may be inside these Republic the general situation will answer. On my way to peak my passport at DRC embassy I was surprised refused by security old man because of my tire shoes, anyway I’m not sure if that was reason or because I did’t left beer last time as he proposed.
Now in the south of Cameroon, Sangmelima possibly the last urban before enter what known as ‘Pygmy trail’. Perhaps, this is the heart of Africa then, the territory which bring closer the frontiers of Cameroon, Central Africa Republic and both Congos.
Isn’t this suppose to be ease…?
The other night I saw the constellation of southern cross, the constellation which indicate I’m home now. It is few hundreds kilometers to the equator, it is 32 celsius in the day time and hardy passes two days without thunder rain. I’m not sure how long I have to spend in thisjungle before I see the mountains of the East. I have spend quite long time to read my map but the general feelings remain like the one I had in the begin.