The road through East Province

It's a bit belated to be describing this now, I suppose, but time has flown since our return from "Baka-land" and the scrap of paper on which I jotted notes as we drove had disappeared from sight and from mind. Nevertheless, here's my description of the region we passed through -- in condensed form (my description, that is, not the region).

Brown trees: It only takes a short while without rain before things become coated with dust, and the trees close to the unpaved roads are the first to evidence. Coated with rust-coloured dust from the red clay, they are a startling change from the lush greenery beyond.

Cows with horns: We saw whole flocks of them, once were slowed by a herd crossing the road, and I thought, "cows, how lovely, I haven't seen those in ages." Of course, a short while later, I saw a small herd in Kumba. But I hang on to the impression made by those long, curled-horn cows on the road to Dimoko.

Toucan: Wait, was it my imagination, or was that a dead bird hanging upside down from a pole on the side of the road? Nope, Becky saw it, too. In fact, she saw two -- and further down the road a dead monkey. "What exactly are they doing there, those dead things, strung up so eyecatchingly like that? Is someone trying to sell them for meat?" I asked. Yup.

Roadwork: They were working on the road. Really! Like, paving it, or something. I was impressed. Working on a Sunday, even: that shows commitment. (Hmmm, do I detect some of that cynicism Dan accused me of coming through here? I don't mean to belittle the Cameroonians; it simply is fact that many roads are abominable so I truly am thrilled to see road work, even if it does kick up more dust and cause delays.)

Yams and bananas: If roadside vendors are any indication, it was sweet potato and banana season -- down south anyway. It was pomelo/shaddock time when I left Bekondo. (If you're thoroughly confused, don't worry, so I am -- the only thing the "Southwest Province" is south of is Nigeria.) Mmmmm, bananas.

Yards: two things impressed me about the yards I saw along the roads.

One, that they were yards. [Most houses in Bekondo simply have a muddy (or dusty, depending on the season) expanse of dirt in front.] The cheerful red mud wattle and daub houses in general had a solid and well-kept appearance and were often fronted by yards planted with flowering bushes and the occasional fruit tree. My logic (such as it is) tells me wooden houses should be sturdier, and seem more fit for housing than mud and sticks, but the impressions I gleaned passing by contradict.

Two, that many houses had a large white or blue tiled grave out front. Occasionally there were two, but never more than that. So I wonder, who rates to get buried out front? What happens if a third person makes the cut? And where do the rest of the departed go?

Churches: We passed a number of Catholic churches along the way (about which I'm going to make a sweeping generalization and attribute to being in the French part of the country). I've observed that churches are often the fanciest buildings in the village, and it holds particularly true with Catholic churches which are nearly always tidy, solid, large, well-kept and artfully constructed structures. I've gotten a sense that Cameroonians believe it is very important that their churches -- as houses of worship -- reflect the honour and glory of the God they serve, and thus deservedly should be nicer than the houses of their parishoners. My Mennonite bias says that in Catholic churches this makes sense, but for evangelical churches, though I understand the principle, it seems the worship in your heart is important; the house in which you do it is secondary. But perhaps I have something to learn about showing reverence where reverence is due, and about extravagant sacrifice for God, like that of the woman who poured nard on Jesus' feet.

Hydrowires: A familiar but long unseen sight. Big towers, too, carrying electricity across the country. "Wait," I stopped myself, "not necessarily 'hydro' -- the Manitoban in you is coming out again," but they informed me as we crossed the river in Edea -- in view of the dam -- that Cameroonian electricity does indeed come from water power.

Carryall: also known as buses. The little minibuses, packed with people, are often piled as high with cargo as they are tall, but the most interesting thing I saw on the roof among the bags, mattresses, furniture, and produce was a large live pig.

Carryall: also known as motorcycles. Trucking home palm leaves, presumably for a roof, one little guy wore a tail three times as long as his body from the green fronds lashed to the back. Functions as a streetsweeper, too!


Anonymous said…
Great read as always Karla. Just wanted to drop you a line and extend a very merry Christmas to you. I'm sure it'll be another beautifully foreign experience for you over there. Hope you're well. God bless and keep you.

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