Day 8 (June 23, 2010)
After the day at the office I wanted to pick up my shirt but Levi was gone and I wasn’t sure about how to get back to the tailor’s shop. At this point, the gentleman, who later introduced himself as Pascal, offered to take me to the shop. He had ended up sitting around and talking with me and Deric (the guy that works/volunteers for HINT) the rest of the day.
Unsure what to talk about I inquired a bit about the local geography. What I didn’t realize was that this essentially booked me a guided tour of almost every region in Buea that we had discussed.
“You see that street over there?” He pointed.
“That’s mbako village, remember?”
“Ah…yes” I replied, not remembering. Pascal has a penchant for talking and I had decided early on in the walk not to try to interrupt him when he was trying to explain something.
“Do you want me to show you the street? Or go straight? The street loops back around into this street again remember?”
“Yeah, I remember.” I did remember this time. I tried very hard to remember everything he had said but the terminology and all the Cameroonian names he had thrown out were too overwhelming for me to remember.
“Do you want to go see it, or just go straight?”
“Yeah, you know, I think we should just go straight” I said, not really wanting to walk anymore on a journey I thought would entail taking a taxi anyway. It was uphill and a good distance away.
“No no, I asked if you wanted to see the village, or just go straight.”
Oh well, It was worth a try.
“Oh ok…Yeah, let’s see the village”
The village was much like the rest of Buea that I had experienced, with shops and stall along the road with plenty of cars honking at me to squeeze out of the way on the roads which were much narrower here. I was actually glad that Pascal took me to see the village afterwards. I think he’s a pretty intellectual guy and we chatted about a lot of things from living a life of excess to the benefits of having a man tailor your clothes instead of a woman. We tried some more beef from the street, but this time he pointed out that I could have the intestines as well. I think he expected me to play the foreigner card and decline on principle…not a chance. Tasted about the same as the rest of the cow really, just a little chewier.
It’s interesting the perspective Cameroonians have of foreigners (and I imagine this can be generalized to some extent to other African countries). When I bought the shirt and trousers with Levi, he sat quietly as the woman told me it cost 15,000 XAF. I thought this was a bit pricy but consented because I didn’t want to haggle prices in front of Levi. Later though, I got the impression that he thought the price was high. Why not tell me then and there then? Well, I think the mindset here often is that if I’m willing to pay the price, than it was a fair enough price. I actually argued with one shopkeeper who tried to make the assertion that as a “rich” American I had an obligation to pay more than Cameroonians.
Also, when Pascal found out that I had gotten traditional African clothing at the tailor he was extremely impressed. He told me he liked it when he saw foreigners trying to do Cameroonian things like eating the mbanga soup (I had inquired about his favorite Cameroonian dish and told him some that I had tried so far…his surprised but impressed reaction was similar to the one I had received every time I told a Cameroonian that I ate that dish. Apparently it is the traditional dish of Buea) or wear traditional African clothing. Levi seemed the same way. This surprised me because I was worried I might appear to be…touristy and pretentious in trying to wear African clothes as if this somehow made me more cultured or one of them. That certainly has not been the reaction I’ve received so far and I definitely think I can appreciate that willingness to view people’s actions positively that I’ve seen multiple times here. Sure, they’re human and have doubts and suspicions like everyone else (perhaps not enough when it comes to computers) but I’ve found them to be very much more accepting and welcoming, despite their stony, stoic exterior (small talk doesn’t really exist here—neither is smiling when not happy just to set each other at ease).
Pascal declared us friends (“Though you are only here for 2 months, we are friends” he declared, standing there awkwardly afterword as we grappled with how to go our separate ways given our newfound title) and gave me directions to his home. Before we parted he promised to introduce me to even more Cameroonian traditional dishes, a male tailor, and the other regions that we had discussed that we missed because they were too far for the evening. Oddly enough—I’m looking forward to it all.
P.S. I’ve been asking a bunch of people what their favorite Cameroonian dishes are, trying to get a feel for food that I should eat—that’s how I came to eat the guacoco and mbanga soup (delicious albeit tedious to pick out the bones in the fish). Salee said that hers is fufu and eru. In fact, as she put it, “if you go to a party and they do not have fufu and eru, oh no, that is not a real party and people will be angry.” I thought that was pretty funny. Pascal’s favorite dish apparently is this fufu as well.
Oh yeah, Genesis came back today from America.