Je suis calée

The area where we live has a number of bars in nearby and there is also a large hotel across the road that plays loud karaoke into the night.  So, even though we’re set back from the main road a bit, it can be a bit loud in the evening (the karaoke crowd likes Celine Dion).  But subconsciously, we are all becoming familiar with Cameroonian pop songs — even if we aren’t actively seeking them out.  They get pumped into our heads as we sleep, or try to sleep.

This particular song has played frequently at night and I started recognizing it often as I was at the grocery store and other contexts.  And now I can share it with you all — try listening to it as you fall asleep.

Also noteworthy is its interesting uses of cam franglais: lyrics like “Est-ce que tu know que je t’aime” is strangely appropriately Cameroonian, as well as the general mix of languages throughout the song.

(Disclaimer — I’ve attached the music video, and while it doesn’t contain anything you can’t put on youtube, it is a music video and therefore might not be appropriate for everyone).  Click “Continue reading…” (if you see it) to continue to the video.

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Hello, Lizard

Last week, I had to investigate a network problem on the campus.  The school where the boys attend wasn’t able to connect to the rest of the campus network.  There are little boxes with networking equipment attached to various buildings and inside random offices, so my first order of business was to check that all the cables were still attached and the network equipment was operating correctly.

So I make my way over to school — it’s a short 5 minute walk.  I find the network cupboard and I open it.  The inside looks like this:

Immediately a small lizard starts running around inside scared that his hiding place has been discovered and there is a human at his obvious exit point.  Eventually, I am able to shoo it away and I can begin to continue my investigation.

Watch out for lizards, folks.

Small Money (ou La Petite Monnaie)

In Cameroon it’s best to have small money (or in French: la petite monnaie).

This means, you should have 100 CFA coins, 500 CFA coins/notes, and 1000 CFA notes available all the time for your purchases.  This is because many merchants just don’t have the change to give you.

Shannon and Eila went to the local store down the street to buy some flour and a few treats.  Two kilos of flour and a Sprite were 1200 CFA.  Eila paid with a 2000 CFA note, but shop keeper didn’t have sufficient change for her.  Well, what happens now?

This happens often.

In this case, as if often the case, the solution is to buy more or less until an appropriate amount of change is reached for the shopkeeper/cashier.  In Eila’s case, we bought a roll of toilet paper to bring our change to what the shopkeeper had available and everything was fine.  There have been other cases where if a grocery store order brings the total to 10,150 CFA — items are not purchased to make it  so change can be made.

Taxi rides to a destination that is nearby is just 100 CFA or maybe 150 CFA.  But if you don’t have exact change, you’re expected to tell the driver as you get in.  He might not take you if he doesn’t have change.

In my western mind, it always seems odd that transactions are not made to ease the exchange of change, but that’s how things are.

So, in Cameroon, it’s best to have small money.

One Month

We’ve been here in Cameroon a little over one month now.  We’ve had a buddy family help us through the ropes.  And, we’ve had lots of people around to ask questions to when we weren’t sure.  We’ve also had an official orientation to expose us to a variety of topics for living here in Cameroon.

Here are some of the things we’ve learned:

  • We’ve learned where to get most groceries: meat and cheese is best from one store, some groceries from another, others can be bought at a store close to us.  Some things we haven’t found yet.
  • We’ve learned what we can get from the stores around us within walking distance.
  • We’ve learned it is hard to get dental floss (only from the pharmacy) and maple syrup (expensive).
  • We’ve learned about greetings.
  • We’ve learned about making friends.
  • We’ve learned to cook njama jama and fou fou.
  • We’ve learned about driving differently.
  • We’ve learned about taking a taxi.
  • We’ve learned to shake hands with people, a lot.
  • We’ve learned to cross the road.
  • We’ve learned how some things react to a tropical climate, usually with mold.
  • We’ve learned to deal with blackouts.
  • We’ve learned where to go running.
  • We’ve learned what to wear where.
  • We’ve learned some nice places to eat.
  • We’ve learned to appreciate the clouds and rain.
  • We’ve learned to ask for help.

There is so much still to learn, but we are learning a little more each day.

A Nice Day

We’re still not that used to going out and about here in Yaoundé yet.  But, we have some friends here that helped us get around today before we find our own legs.  We picked up some sandwiches and had a little picnic in the park downtown.

We followed that up with some gelato at the Italian ice cream shop in town.  The kids had a hard time, as usual, deciding what to get.  There was lots of tasting involved.

Once we got back home, we played a few board games.  It was a great day.

Cameroonian Lunches

As a follow up to the post on Njama njama, here are some of the other Cameroonian lunches we’ve enoyed.  The first is Ndolé.  It is a bitter green cooked with a peanut sauce/paste and various meats or fish.  This one is with beef.  It comes from the Littoral (coastal) region near Douala.  It’s considered the national dish of Cameroon.  It’s traditionally served with boiled plantains. Here’s more information.

Ndolé

Another dish is Poulet DG (Chicken of the Director General).  It’s chicken with sauce served with plaintains in the sauce.  This is a pretty normal dish by western standards being like any braised chicken dish.  Very tasty.

Chicken DG

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Eila’s School

Eila is attending a combination middle school and high school (7-12).  It’s a bit of a drive from where we live, but it has a beautiful campus with lots of space.  She is really enjoying the school and her teachers and is finding it refreshing after being in a french collège (middle school).  Here are some pictures.

Ready for School. First day of seventh grade.

Reading on the school bus.

Eila’s school buildings. This is taken from one building looking at another.

Another view of the school. (It’s upside down, but if you click on it, it’s the right way — I can’t figure out how to fix it)

 

Holiday, or not Holiday?

There have been two holidays during our time here in Cameroon.  The first, Assumption, was on a Tuesday.  Since it’s a holiday on a Tuesday, there usually is a bridge day to make it a long weekend.  However, a bridge day has to be called by the president and that didn’t happen officially until right before the day.  Thus, no one knew if the day was going to be a working (or school) day or not.

The second holiday (which is upcoming) is fête du mouton, which is a muslim holiday.  Thus, it could fall on a Friday or a Saturday.  And again, no one is really sure if the day will be a holiday or not.

I suppose this is all normal here, but another cultural difference on how things are handled.  Plans must be made for if the holiday is called and if the holiday is not.

(Edit: Friday is a holiday after all)

Njama njama

As part of our orientation for newcomers to the Cameroon branch, we are provided lunch.  We’re on our third week (of three) of the orientation.  They started us out on familiar meals like pizza, tacos, and spaghetti.  However, now that we’re in the third week they have been introducing lots of Cameroonian dishes (Note: I need to catch up on posting some others we’ve had already).

Today for lunch we had Njama njama with corn fufu and Kati kati (smoked chicken).  Njama njama is the greens, and corn fufu is basically thick polenta or grits.  It was delicious.  A few people here have mentioned njama njama to us (plus it’s easy to remember with a name like that) as something particularly tasty in the local dishes here.  Altough, it’s not really local to Yaoundé, it comes from the english-speaking Northwest region.

Also, they didn’t give us cutlery for this lunch, as you eat with you hands using the corn fufu as something to “dip” into the greens with, i.e. your spoon.  Also, you must only eat with your right hand as your left is reserved for “dirtier” purposes.  For me, as a lefty, it’s a bit awkward at first.

Njama njama, corn fufu, and kati kati.

Bit of corn fufu in a little ball.

 

Then together with the njama njama and eat.

Highly recommended next time you are in Cameroon.  We also got a demonstration in the kitchen for how to make it.  It didn’t see too difficult.  Here’s a recipe for you to make it yourself.