After clearing immigration and customs at Douala Airport, the curiosity of the country took over. What kind of people are they, the Cameroonians? Will we be able to connect during our stay here? I was moreover curious how they would compare to the Africans I had met in other countries, and memories came back of friends in the region. I had read that the country has some 280 different ethnic groups, and was looking forward to getting to know the people. Our first introduction was a visit to the visitor centre at the airport. Even though a plane had just landed, we found the office closed, while only 5 minutes later, the three ladies staffing it came back. They were friendly, but only of limited use. The driver who took us to the city turned out to be a modest, soft and very friendly guy, as were the people of the restaurant we had our first ndole, the typical Douala dish with bitter vegetables. The tone was set: with almost every new encounter, our positive feel was confirmed. Moreover, the variety of the inhabitants of the country was clearly visible in the streets, especially in Douala and Yaoundé, the two main cities of Cameroon. Tall, short, pitch dark to light brown, black-eyed to light green, broad shouldered to delicate build: just walk the streets of the cities and you can find a mix of all of these - and then some. Cameroon is called an ethnic melting pot for a reason.
Mostly, the people we met were very helpful, and would go out of their way to assist the visitor. They would often greet us, and it happened several times that, when I said "Bonjour" to someone, he would answer saying "Merci" - as if I had done him a favour just greeting him. Whenever asked if I could take their picture, the vast majority was honoured to be photographed, or even asked for it - which was a little misleading, as I had one incident in which a guy went bezerk just because I took a picture of a bus station where he appeared as well. In that case, a lady sitting behind us - who later turned out to be a local queen - intervened on my behalf. We were fortunate to get to know one guy a little better, and ended up traveling for four days with him, which gave us the chance to see the people from a different angle. Just walking the busy Saturday market in Foumban showed us beautiful people in beautiful dresses - a feast for the eye! Often, Cameroonians have a prompt sense of humour, which makes communication so much easier. One case in point was a guy selling various products in the bus; when he started, half the bus was sleeping, but within ten minutes, everyone was listening and it turned into a standup comedian show.
Regularly, there were cases in which people would enter heated discussions, giving me the impression they were truly mad at each other. In one such discussion, I was involved myself: we were about to leave Yaoundé by bus, and our "banquette" had four passengers on it already, when someone showed up from behind and claimed that I should move. I was on a foldable seat, and could not see how and where he could fit in. The whole bus ended up shouting at each other; even worse, a guy with a mental disorder who worked for the agence, continued to shout unintelligible things at me. We finally left without the passenger, but with a half hour delay, and quite soon, peace was back in the bus. In another case, our bus stopped after ten minutes in Bafoussam, when it turned out that a girl had run away from home and was in our bus. The driver gave a short explanation, and as soon as he opened the door, there was a row in the bus between all the passengers, of whom many disembarked to have their say about it - even though no one knew the girl or her mother, who was duly called and showed up to collect her daughter. It showed their involvement, and their desire to get involved, and be heard. Thank you, Cameroonians, for making our visit to your country a pleasant one!
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Cameroonian people (Cameroon). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Cameroonian people. Read more about this site.