Monday, October 1, 2007

Cameroonian Surrealities


Things that make me say “Huh?”

  • Menards: (For anyone that has never heard of it, Menards is a home improvement store in the mid-west.) As I was coming home from a bank audit in a bush taxi, we stopped to pick up more people headed our direction. Whenever you stop, the market comes to you. People run up, slide open your windows, and try to sell you anything from pineapples to toothbrushes. The guy that came up to my window had a blue Menards shirt on. In a circle on the chest it said “How May I Help You?”
  • Trumpet: Almost every morning when I wake up I can hear someone practicing bugle calls. It might be coming from the military school nearby, but he makes lots of mistakes and plays for about an hour so it sounds like he’s just practicing.
  • Road Construchtion: There is a pretty big lack of infrastructure in Cameroon. Police don’t have cars, there’s no garbage collection, no sewer system, ambulances don’t exist, and mail can go to P.O. Boxes but not to your house…But for some reason, road construction happens faster here than in the U.S.
  • Safety on the Job: On the road going north out of Nkongsamba, there’s a one-lane bridge 40 feet over a small but raging river. Upstream, they’re constructing a new bridge. In case anyone falls in, attached to a rope attached to the current bridge is a life preserver thrashing back and forth. I said a little prayer because I was sure it would work better than the life preserver were it needed.
  • Bathroom Tile: A lot of the dead are buried in front of their family’s house. Those that have the means put up a gravestone covered in ceramic tile. It’s usually blue and white and whenever I see one, I’m always reminded of what you find in a bathroom in the states.
  • Addresses: They don’t exist here. The streets don’t have names. The houses don’t have numbers. But people ask you for your address all the time.
  • Coke: When I opened up my bank account with 2 other Americans, there was a decent amount of waiting. Either because he considered us preferred customers or because he was interested in my 2 female friends, he took our drink order and brought us 3 bottles of Coke while we waited.
  • “I’m living in Africa:” No matter how many times I say it, it still feels weird knowing it’s true.

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