Wednesday, June 11, 2008

La Japonise!

Today, I had those favorite moments of mine where I felt like I was in a movie, and everything was absolutely surreal. After training, the two hosting PCVs took a few of us to the market. We walked approximately 10 minutes down the busy main street to get there. The market was amazingly exotic yet familiar all at the same time. The stands were located on mud grounds (red mud, by the way) and really closed to each other. The things what were sold are completely random but they reminded me of Taiwan. While we were walking down the main road, we walked by various food stands that were selling for the large number of cab drivers; the variety ranged from grilled corn to baked sweet potatoes (whole potatoes), to peanuts with shells (dad, you would love these). When I smelled that sweet potato, I felt like I was 10 years old again. I will have to buy one of those before too soon. It’s street food, but it can be peeled! Hurray!

The market was huge and it was really amazing. I got a piece of true life of the locals in this capital city. The size of this market was grand and there were stands in narrow alleyways on bumpy grounds. My friend referred to shopping at the market as an “adventure sport”. I was on a hunt for my first Kabba, a traditional dress that Cameroonian women wear. After trying on different ones and then haggling with the guy who sold them, I walked away with an ultra cute dress that cost 2,500 CFA (about $5). This was my first bargaining experience. I did fairly well considering, and especially in English. I think it also helped that my friend had also bought one from him while I was still deciding. Oh, the decision process was also hilarious in that 3 guys and only 1 girl were there to give me advice, making sure the Kabba was not only cute but meet Peace Corps non-risqué standards.

After spending nearly two hours at the market, we walked back to the PC office. The giant grey clouds started spitting some rain as we walked. The time was about 5:30pm and the traffic was even crazier then usual, with exhaust fumes looming the air. Just before we got to the office, the dark clouds couldn’t hold it anymore and began an unkind downpour. Luckily, we were near a small building with a shade, so we ducked under there. It was quite the scene seeing the locals ducking from rain, covering their heads, but all the while going on about their businesses. I stood underneath this awning with a good dozen or two Cameroonians, seeing the bustling traffic on the main road, and the lady next to me was sitting on a stool grilling corn for sale. The entire thing was surreal.

Oh, during our cross-culture training session today, we talked about how Cameroonians often call out to Americans, often by their color. La Blanche for the whites, La Chinoise for the Asians, and apparently the word for coconut for the African-Americans (brown in the outside, white in the inside). I hadn’t really notice the catcalls and remarks since I am not really paying attention or comprehending French that well. But today, my friend pointed out that someone just called me Japanese, so I began perking my ears, and sure enough, a while later, I heard someone calling me, “La Japonise!” It’s pretty hilarious that they didn’t follow the usual stereotype and instead calling me something I am not.

8 comments:

Jenna W said...

oh those sweet potatoes you mentioned! Brought be back from all the sweet potatoes I bought on the street in Beijing! yum yum!

Sounds like Cameroon is amazing already! GL! :)

Steve said...

BTW I am more and more impressed by the quality and thought you put into the layout of the blog--tags, side links to important posts, local time (you might want to switch it for the actual posts though, I think that is still on US central time). Very geekily impressed!

Sebastian said...

NOIX DE COCO!!!

Steve said...

Are you going to get your hair in cornrows to go with the kabba like this girl? http://www.flickr.com/photos/hevtalbot/246680807/

;-)

Michelle said...

please post a picture of you in your kabba. i'm waiting for it! again- loving the time you're putting into blogging. you'll love it too, looking back especially. "La Japonise!" made me laugh out loud. I guess it's something new to get used to, huh? :)

Love you. Miss you. Have you gotten my letter yet?

Michelle said...

P.S. I second the dreads comment. :)

Michelle said...

uggghhh...not dreads- cornrows. You know what I mean. :) I'm done being a comment whore now.

Megan said...

I third the cornrows and can't wait for a picture of you in a kabba!