An Afternoon in Bamenda

Sometimes it’s easier to show than tell. I figured I’d take my camera out for a spin and catch a little sliver of what life looks like for me here. Disappointingly, the market was maybe 1/4 as annoying as it normally is, so the true essence wasn’t caught as well as I’d have liked. Nobody grabbed at me, bikes didn’t screech to a halt in front of me, market mamis didn’t beg for my business and block my path. No little boy came up and started a ten minute spiel about how I must find out my mass using his ragged scale. Perhaps I was having an off day and wasn’t looking my best. To be fair, in my worry that people would noticed the shiny camera making a movie from the comfort of my bra strap, I booked it through the crowd and didn’t stop for much conversation. If I had lingered over the passion fruit for a few seconds, I’m sure the action would have picked up.

I filmed covertly in the market to prevent theft of my crappy camera and the change in attitude people adopt when they see someone recording. People can also be offended by filming, or demand money for their image being used, however briefly. I didn’t want to start a riot, but I’m also too poor for all that. I apologize for the slightly tilted shots, walking around an African city does not prove conducive to shoving your hand into your bra and making adjustments for the frame.

The conversations in the taxi were filmed with the prior consent of everyone in the car. I began the foray into permission by explaining that my American family didn’t believe me about the traffic situation in West/Central Africa. We don’t drive on the sidewalks, I explained. They expressed that they thought that was a shameful waste of space.
These talks pretty typical of what I converse about every day. Witchcraft and where to use the bathroom are two of my favorite topics here, partially because they are so different in my world and theirs. Talking about public urination laws and white people’s lack of belief is sure to stir up a taxi full of opinions. Cameroon would not be Cameroon if people did not feel inclined to then share those opinions with me.


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