To market, to market

After a couple of trips into town, I’m beginning to get a sense of the place. I’m still far from comprehending how Cameroonian cities work, but I’m beginning to see what is going on.

Before I continue, I should perhaps mention that we wrapped up FES with a lovely program Friday with all the kids showing off something they learned. We are now all very knowledgeable about chocolate and nearly–though not quite–“chocolated” out. Facing yet another chocolate dessert at supper after yet another afternoon of working with chocolate in art/cooking class, one 8th grader commented “Chocolate again! After that book we read [Chocolate Fever], I beginning to worry I’ll break into brown spots like Henry [book character]!”

Elsie took me for a quick trip to the market this afternoon which was great fun. She’s a hard bargainer and she explained some of the different types of cloth and pointed out various things. I picked up two voluminous ready-made dresses with pretty detail and an overly large pair of rubber boots. Size 41 was the smallest they have. I believe I’m a 38, but the man assured me there simply could not be anything any smaller and they could not be any cheaper. When we returned Becky said yes, there would be no difficulty getting something smaller in Kumba, but the urgency was that we’d be passing through Kumba on Sunday when there’s no market and not going back for weeks during which I would most certainly need the boots.

Oh yes, that’s another thing about the market. (We went on Saturday which is the busiest day, so it was bustling, but not crowded.) It was very much like the markets in Ukraine with each little shop displaying all their wares on the doors and walls, but where Ukraine had shop upon shop of skanky clothes, Bamenda has shop upon shop lined with bolts of colourful cloth. Another aisle had shops full of tailors and weavers with their machines, labouring furiously over school uniforms and encouraging us to come in to view their handiwork on the ruffled dresses and embroidered men’s shirts which lined their stalls.

I find it interesting that the market here should more closely resemble that of Ukraine than that of Myanmar, but maybe my memory is faulty, or the time elapsed since I was in the latter accounts for the change. In Bamenda and in Ukraine, the wares were displayed in stalls whose walls close up or have doors which come down to leave behind a tall box at the end of the day, whereas in Myanmar, the wares were displayed on a platform almost waste-high which turned out to be storage space for the hawkers’ wares at the end of the day. I just expected a the two “third world” countries to more closely resemble each other than the “developing” country which is so close to—and trying so hard to become part of—the West.

Turns out the rubber boots may not have been such a crucial purchase after all, since the clutch on the Scotts’ vehicle is not working properly and Mike wants to stay in Bamenda until it’s fixed instead of heading home and running the risk of having it stop working entirely once we’re in the village with no recourse for mending it.


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