Sunday, 13 December 2015

Bamenda journal

After some soul searching and reality checks we’ve decided to continue living in town. The apartment building is familiar (our third time living here) and central. Step out the front entrance (there is no rear entrance unless I get us a rope ladder)
and it’s easy to catch a taxi going by in either direction. We usually walk though, right, to the Better World office towards Bafut or down Fish Pond Hill to the food market below. To the left goes down past the hospital to get to Commercial avenue or  to French lessons at Veterinary junction.
 This Saturday morning we made our way down the hill for weekend shopping and entertainment. It’s  an engaging descent as taxis and motorcycles laden with all manner of goods hurtle uphill and down often spewing noxious fumes. Both sides of the road there are tradesmen and  small industry making aluminum cooking pots, cement bricks and furniture . At the bottom the road crosses a stream choked with detritus and garbage, plastic, tires and discarded baskets from the market. Upstream, I saw a fellow washing himself.
 It's a busy time, the food market  packed with vendors and buyers, the motorcycle drivers congregating at the corner like vultures, waiting for fares. Crossing the road can be challenging although there is so much traffic and the road is so narrow it is often at a standstill.  The roadsides lined with vendors hawking wheelbarrows full of peppers, groundnuts, onions and oranges, the stalls behind with almost everything else.

We continued on past trays and carts of kola nut, potatoes and stacks of eggs to the fish market (all frozen). Then parallel to the main road up an alley past piles of new flip flops and many little kiosks  with used shoes hanging from strings.
Beyond this is the “clothing district” small booths and stalls shoulder to shoulder along a narrow winding track, densely packed with people, motorcycles honking as they make their way ferrying folks and goods up and down. The whole while in an endless cacophony all these vendors are yelling, calling out, some with repeating recorded messages,”one thousand for pants, one thousand for shirts”.  Piles of used jeans, towels and sheets, hats, new and used underwear. We round a corner past stacks of aluminum pots from big to much bigger, stone grinders, plastic utensils, curtains and used purses. The road was almost impassable, trucks offloading and motorcycles squeezing past the pedestrians and cart boys flogging drinks and snacks.
One had a sign: Special Sale, his cart filled with wines and hard stuff. Apparently no liquor licence required.
 Inside the main market it is laid out in a grid,  a mini medina with darkened passageways running East West and open alleys North South.  From cutlery to contraband I imagine it’s all available. We entered the main entrance off Commercial avenue specifically to see the fabric. Immediately to the right a wide passage of hole in the wall rooms, both sides, with layers of brightly coloured printed fabrics hung out in front. Inside the walls are lined with them, floor to ceiling, piles in the corners. It is almost too much.... I’d like one of each please.
Seriously, it becomes so overstimulating I have stop and focus on what I might use it for…

 In the other direction past the entrance there are three alleys of mostly women producing clothing, sitting at their sewing machines surrounded by the already created shirts, suits and dresses inside and out of their individual workstations. Taking pictures can be challenging. The locals do it all the time but as soon as I point, they want money or they object.
This day though, we were done, and walked out without looking at the clothing. Outside the vendors along Commercial line both sides of the sidewalk in front of the market. We picked our way through then  down the road to a small juice bar where we had a salad, a guava juice and reflected on our next moves.

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