Trente-trois (Saturday, 2011 February 26)

February 26, 2011

Woke up in the Binam Voyages bus back to Bafoussam; we’d only left a half hour ago but I was in desperate need of sleep. Had a brief moment where I wondered if the last two days were just a wonderful dream. It was easy to figure out that it would be dark by the time I got back to Bafoussam — the sun was yellow and low in the sky — and apparently "binam" means "le soleil couchant", "the setting sun", in the Bamiléké language family, so that was appropriate.

I got out at something like 9:45 PM, which is super late by Cameroonian standards, and I knew finding a car back to post would be extremely difficult. I screwed up my courage with the aid of five brochettes of soya, basically grilled meat, and went into the road to try to flag down a car.

Cameroonians have fairly specialized roles in the travel business — some drive the cars, of course, but others merely charge, or load, the vehicles. They get a commission for each passenger they furnish, and since they know the "lay of the land" in terms of where passengers are likely to be found and where cars are likely to go, they can play optimization games, along the lines of "Well, it’s really hard to find a car to that outlying village right now, but if I get enough of them together, I can talk some driver into taking all of them," or "There are five people for village A right now and only one for village B; I better assign one car to village A and hope for the best for the guy going to village B". A good chargeur is resourceful and creative.

So it came to pass that one of them called out to me as he clung to the outside of a truck driving by. This was one of the extremely recognizable trucks used to ship "33" Export, a fairly popular beer in this country (and one of my favorites). The chargeur had set up the deal; I paid 2000 CFA for what is normally a 600 CFA ride and I got to go back to post in the cabin of a 33 truck. It shuddered and it strained like it had worms, but it did the job. This post is thus named for that beer, which in Francophone Cameroon is pronounced "trente-trois", but in Anglophone Cameroon is called "export".

I’m back home now. It’s midnight, which is astonishingly late, but there’s a deuil going on tomorrow in my compound, so people are still out and about and I can still even hear them talking.

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