Trip into town

The thrift store. Literally, a man in Maryland fills a shipping container with garage sale rejects and sends them off to the American Thrift Store in Bamenda. So the contents are a random selection of items possibly not found anywhere else in Cameroon, and of either great value or no use to anyone. I saw a new, still-in-its-box Iced Tea Maker, an old colourful iMac, and replacement straws for a particular sippy cup, of which none of the original product were to be seen. You get the picture. They say it can be a goldmine or a total waste of time, depending on the day you visit.

The bookstore. Now, there were actually many bookstores along the main shopping street, but this was the biggest, most formal-looking, and the only one I went into. The stock was a curious mix of Cameroon-specific books, new books (mostly school material) and really old books. Books were piled horizontally (in the style of the U of W bookstore) on shelves. I found such things as a brand new student copy of Julius Caesar (which I had in stock at McN-R not long ago) and some Dickens published back in the day when books cost only a dollar or two.

Couches. The most incongruous sight. In front of the ramshackle buildings, shipping containers turned storefronts, and stark concrete houses, were brand new leather couches and plush cloth sofas for sale. Amongst the dust, clouds threatening rain, and plain mud buildings, those couches begged a double take.

I was on observation overload in town, casting my gaze about, desperately trying to notice and remember everything. There are very few buildings more than one story tall, and many of those few appear to be unoccupied on the upper stories. Are they too new to be filled? Or is this another example of people putting their savings into buildings rather than banks, so they start a project without funds to complete it? (They erected the walls of the Baptist church here in Bamenda, then left them languishing for 7 years before they had sufficient funds to roof the place. The Presbyterian church across town had a better idea -- they put up the roof first, the building is at least functional even if they walls don't go up right away.)

One thing is for sure, it's a whole other way of laying out a town than I am used to seeing. Urban sprawl in Canada might not seem so bad when I come back....or, it might be ten times worse!


lasselanta said…
I remember the sensory overload too, and feeling that I was only getting about 30% of any long explanations that were being given to me. (And then wondering "when culture shock would hit." :-) I'm sure you're better prepared to recognise it, though, having been overseas several times before!)
Anonymous said…
Wow you give really rich descriptions, Karlab. It really helps to get an idea of where you're living.


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