Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Restaurant Woes

November 21, 2007

Last Sunday, market day in Nkongsamba, I was buying things for myself as well as helping Tara buy things for her new house (She just moved out of Yune’s house and into an empty one of her own). We make a pretty good tag team when it comes to haggling prices so it was pretty fun. We had just about finished and decided to get something to eat for lunch.

Restaurants, in my opinion, are Nkongsamba’s weakest point. For the siwe of the town, there are hardly any. There are two that are good but too expensive, charging 4-6 dollars per plate not including drinks. There are a couple others that charge 2 dollars, a little bit more reasonable, but the food’s not that great. Then there are a couple omelette shacks where you can get out for about 60 cents but there’s never any selection.

Constantly frustrated by these facts, Tara and I decided to go exploring for other restaurants we hadn’t seen or tried before.

The first place we went was where we had seen a sign the week before. The sign was on the side of the road with an arrow. We didn’t know whether the sign had been moved or not, but we went where the arrow was pointing. It didn’t look like a restaurant and when we asked, we were told that the restaurant wasn’t there any more. “Oh, you should take the sign down.” I said. They just kind of laughed at this comment. Why did they laugh? Because the two silly white people were the only ones that didn’t know the restaurant had shut down. If everyone else in Nkongsamba knew, why bother taking the sign down?

Marketing isn’t quite the same here. Just as there are restaurants with signs but don’t exist, there are also restaurants that exist but don’t have signs. One reason is that it makes your business look healthier and you might end up paying higher taxes. So how do you know where they are? If you’re a Cameroonian, you either just know or you don’t go to restaurants. If you’re American, you go exploring. One thing we were looking for were white sheets hanging in the doorways. Most smaller restaurants have them. The only problem is a lot of hair salons have the same white sheets. Tara and I took turns peeking inside the white sheets and asking if they were restaurants. One of my funnier experiences in Africa was when Tara peaked inside not a restaurant, not a salon, but someone’s house. The conversation went like this:

“Is this a restaurant?”
“Okay (short silence)…You live here?”
“Okay (short silence)…Have a nice day.”

What people think of us I have no idea. By this point we had found a couple more omelette shacks and one somewhat sketchy hole-in-the-wall place with only one choice on the menu which was very meaty (still a vegetarian). We were about ready to give up our search when we found a lady walking around with a huge bowl on her head selling rice and beans. It cost us 30 cents per plate and was probably the best rice and beans I had ever had. The only problem was that she was walking around and we might never see her again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lol Rice and Beans
one of many specialities of the Cameroon
Cameroon has yet to become as developed as say Eygpt or Urban Ghana, But since visiting there last I have seen alot of improvements. They ACTUALLY HAVE ROAD SIGNS at the junctions so people (especially tourists)do not get lost.
What a wonderful experience it was though. When i got back to London I became alot more appreciative of my surroundings.
How often do you guys go to Cameroon?