Some of the things we like the best about Buea are the things we don’t often see in Canada. Here are a few.
In an economy where the limited supply doesn’t meet the many demands, Cameroonians have needed to get creative in filling some of the product gaps. We’re continually impressed with their resourcefulness and use of the items that are common, to improvise the items that are not.
Getting a good TV signal is a priority in every village.
Some of the best:
– Women habitually sell grilled corn or plantain along the streets. There aren’t any barbeques here, so the food is cooked on a grate placed over an old car wheel.
– After it rains, an impromptu carwash appears wherever there is a low enough spot for a large puddle to form.
– Household brooms are made from palm branches and a tin can.
– The average hair salon has one electric clipper, which is used to administer all styles of haircuts, and as a razor for giving shaves as well.
– TV antennas attached to the outside of houses are made of anything long enough to pick up a signal. Usually, it’s bamboo, scrap wood, or disposed shafts of shovels or hoes bound together with electrical tape or wire, and what appears to be a hanger and a pop bottle on top. We’re not sure exactly how this all works together, but it must somehow, because nearly every house has some contraption like this.
– Using sardine cans, water canteens, the foam from flip flops, rope, and some sticks, kids have made some great toys. We’ve seen very few, if any, actual toys, but kids have found ways to use what they can find to make cars, dolls, balls, and of course, guns…
– Fridges that no longer work, or are not being used for the primary function of a fridge, become shelving units or storage spaces.
– Plastic bottles are coveted, we think because they can fill a number of different product gaps. More than our computers or camera, people have been most interested in our water bottles. Any time a plastic bottle becomes available, there is a bit of a scramble for ownership of it. The bottle will then resurfaces in one of its multiple new uses- as a scoop or ladle, Tupperware, a hose or connector of some kind, funnel, or as part of an antenna.
No matter what his reputation may be in other parts of the world, Obama’s popularity is alive and well here. There seems to be much pride in his heritage, and maybe there is also a bit of a hope that by selling or owning some Obama paraphernalia, or naming a shop after him, one will acquire some of his success. Either way, Obama is probably the most common face in Buea, and is definitely better liked than Cameroon’s president.
In Buea alone, there is both the Obama Restaurant and the Obama Café, as well as a clothing shop with a big painting of Obama on its sign. In the markets, we’ve seen Obama t-shirts, flip-flops, underwear, pens, clocks, framed portraits, board games, and shopping bags. Some of the school soccer teams use jerseys with Obama’s picture on the front, and a bakery has an Obama logbook to record its sales. Even in the remote village of Ote, far down the road to Akwaya, we counted 3 different Obama t-shirts. If Cameroon’s opinion held any sway, there would be no doubt of a second term for Obama.
It was a tough choice between the Obama briefs and the pair of Obama Air Jordans.
For organizations and businesses we understand the usefulness of the acronym, and before coming to Cameroon, we thought that its usefulness had something to do with making communication easier, shorter, and more convenient or adding that excellent category to the newer versions of Balderdash. However, in Cameroon, brevity and the acronym have nothing in common. Maybe the strong presence of the UN in Africa and their love affair with lengthy letter combinations (i.e MINUSTAH, UNMOGIP, UNFICYP, MONUSCO, etc.) has served as inspiration for other organizations, or perhaps a long title is reflective of a sense of importance and professionalism -whatever the reason, the long acronym is the norm in Cameroon and a source of everyday entertainment for us.
A few of our favourites:
– GRAGOPF (Grace of God Philanthropic Foundation)
-SOCAPA (Soppo Car Park)
-SOBINAPS (Sound Bilingual Nursery and Primary School)
-SOWEBEFU (Southwest Bee Farmers Union)
-REO (Reach Out. Really? Is the acronym even necessary?)
-BULIFAC (Buea Livestock Farmers Cooperative…Our definite favorite. Just listen to the way it rolls off your tongue.)
-HOTPEC (The Hephzibah Handicapped and Orphanage Training Production and Ecstasy Centre. No comment…however, this is the one acronym that is shorter than the actual name.)
Taxi wisdom, prayers, proverbs and advice:
Taxis in Cameroon offer more than just a jerky, cramped and sometimes prayer eliciting experience. They also offer a wealth of tips, aphorisms, quotes, statements, bible verses or jokes, plastered all over the exterior of the vehicle. From the dashboard to the bumper, almost every taxi will have something to say.
Here are a few things we have seen painted across the bumpers of Buea’s taxis:
-HELP ME JESUS (In huge letters)
-Don’t Ask Why
-God Knows Why
-I Need A Girl
-The Hunter Has Become The Hunted
-No Food For Lazy Man
-A Driver With A Difference From The Others
-More Risk More Money
-Take Life Easy
-No Repentance In The Grave
-Love All Trust None
-Have A Nice Day
-Man No Fit, Move Trousers Wear Skirt