01 November 2005

Un week-end à Bamenda

[As far as I can tell, "stagiare" seems to be the French equivalent of "trainee". If you don't know French, try BabelFish. -- Dev]

Pour que cet article soit à la portée de tout le monde, j’ai decide d’écrire en anglais et en français. Nous parlons d’une visite dans une province Anglophone, après tout. Alors tout ce qui se passé à Bamenda sera en anglais. And if you can no longer read English after a heady week of immersion, come find me and I’ll translate gladly.

Le voyage a été facile, 2 heures en bus, coincés les uns contre les autres comme on a bien l’habitude. Après seulement un pneu creusé en route (et un arrêt qui a bien servi de pause-toilettes) on est arrives à la gare routière de Bamenda, toute en haut de la ville.

And there our adventure in English began – and then the other stagiaires began to understand the trials and tribulations of your editors in Cameroonian French. Taxis sped us partway down the mountain to Mondial Hotel, and then onto the rest of our trip.

On through Bamenda! Anglophone style is very different: more subdued, less aggressive, but at least on this trip, more willing to gouge prices for us. Among the highlights: a medicine man selling cure-alls with pictures of STIs to rival Dr. Laura’s in Yaoundé. The trip also yielded a few artists’ studios, including a triumphantly-argued purchase for a friend. It’s really nice, and it really shows off the “coc du Cameroun”.

Onto the waterfalls! Or, chutes de Bamenda! Or, where we ended up, White House! Taking three taxis that started off our short excursion by crashing into each other, we pulled up in front of a very nice, very large, yellow house overlooking the city.

“It’s White House!”

Or… house of the whites? After more arguing, we did get to the head of the trail to the waterfalls. It was a slippery climb down, with only a few casualties, and the trip back up was precarious only for the two who stumbled into some sort of merde. The view and the journey through “African jungle brush” were spectacular. Go see it yourself - and you might get to see the White House too, if you’re lucky.

Later, a valiant seven, including PCV Kelly, set out in search of a night club and ended up at Dallas, Bamenda’s premiere sing-along bar. Karaoke? Yes, but without the prompters. When we entered, it was a mix of African tunes and Céline Dion, but after their shout-out to “our white friends in the back,” we were summoned to sing Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World.” Did we know the words or the tune? I didn’t, but after several rounds I managed to catch the chorus. The fearless Health president led the bar in clapping along – and – well – I have to say we improved everyone’s evening entertainment. For an encore? “La Bamba”, oddly enough, followed by us dancing - somehow - to everything sung for the rest of the night. We stayed out past midnight (so late for stagiaires!) but half the evening was yet to happen.

Our taxi driver on the way back to the hotel was kind enough to wait patiently while more prices were argued for fairness. Finally on the slow, steep climb back, he discovered he had a car full of Americans willing and ready to sing Bob Marley and Céline Dion with him. He was so excited by us that he stopped – at least twice – offering to take us back to his house so we could all drink palm wing together and sing. We and the taximan serenaded Mondial Hotel as we waited for the gates to open.

Et le matin, c’était tôt l’heure de partir, mais non sans du café et du pain avec le beurre reel et la confiture. Le voyage de retour a été sans incident, grâce aussi à la cassette géniale achétée par Kelly à la gare. Épuisés, déjà de retour à Bafoussam à 10h30, le week-end s’est terminé, mais bien achévé.

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