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Trip to Kribi

Saturday, October 15th, 2005

For my mom’s second week in Cameroon we wanted her to see more than Douala, so we went on a bit of a road trip. It was also a chance for me to see something new. Kribi is one of the beach towns that is a must-see in Cameroon. It’s about a 3-hour bus ride from Douala. We didn’t get to stay very long, but what we did experience was awesome.

Patrice’s family is from the area, so he recommended an excellent hotel right on the beach (and it actualy was!).

Anyway, take a look at the pictures.
Sundown-Hotel des Anges at Kribi
William at Kribi beach

Music and Dance at the Wedding

Friday, October 14th, 2005

One thing that can’t be captured in all of the pictures is the music that was constant on our wedding day. And not just the subdued classical that played in the background at the ceremony, but the singing, clapping and drumming after we left the city chambers.

Everyone was outside on the lawn in front of the building singing. It’s a traditional upbeat dancey tune about how there shouldn’t be any bachelors here and everyone should get married. (Of course this was based on a translation I was given afterwards.) I was dancing from the time I left the building. It’s all a capella and everyone seems to know the chorus, but one person plays the designated soloist.

There were also a group of young men who provide a good dance beat. Weddings are posted at the city hall weeks in advance, so they know to show up and start to play, confident that they will be compensated. On the walk from the mairie to the place where we took pictures everyone was dancing along with us down the road. Patrice actually ended up transporting the musicians back to the reception in the back of his pick-up and they continued playing in the pickup and for a while back at the house.
Our Wedding Band

Presentation of Gifts

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

One of the Cameroonian wedding traditions that gave me the most pause was the presentation of gifts at the wedding reception. The custom is that the MC gets the names of everyone who has brought a gift for the newlyweds and then there is a ceremony where the couple formally receive the gifts when the MC calls the names. I thought it seemed almost rude to highlight who had and hadn’t brought gifts, but I was assured it was a very enjoyable event for all the guests.

William and I had to stand in front of the head table and the attendants were also there to take the gifts from us after we had accepted them. The MC called out the name and the DJ played some music to accompany the person who came forward with the gift. Most of the people who came up danced to the music and generally made a production of the presentation. (It reminded me of the presentation of spoils in one of my favourite movies, “The Ten Commandments”. How un-PC is that?) People also made a show of being reluctant to give the gift and wanting kisses and hugs before handing them over.

It was a great new tradition for me to learn and I thoroughly enjoyed getting all our presents. It also makes the wedding video very interesting.

Miss Manners Takes a Taxi*

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

* in Douala

She would stand in the right place to get a taxi going to her destination, or she would ask a driver where she should stand.

She would always tell the driver if she had 500 francs or more as soon as she got into the taxi because he might not have change.

She would say “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir” in the general direction of the other people in the taxi (or just to the driver).

She would check for traffic (especially motorbikes) before opening her door to exit the taxi.

Bride’s Breakfast

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

Many people came into Douala for the wedding from Bafoussam and even an uncle from the North province. Most of the family stayed at Yokoua’s house in Bonanjo. There were mattresses leaned against the walls in the day and covering all the floor in the living room at night. One of the things that had to be coordinated was breakfast for so many people in the days before the wedding.

This led me to decide that I wanted to host breakfast on Friday morning (September 30th) to take the pressure off trying to interact with everyone on the wedding day and to assert a little of the non-Cameroonian culture in the festivities. I, of course, corralled my mother into this project and decided on smoked herring with roast bake as an authentic taste of our West Indian heritage. We bought all the ingredients at various markets in Douala, enough for about 15-20 people.

Mom had a great time seeing what she recognized at the market. We found dried sorrel and pomme ci-terre in the market as well. We had to keep reminding people that it wasn’t a “Canadian” breakfast except for the fact that we are Canadian–they definitely couldn’t order it at Golden Griddle. We had a bit of an adventure with Yokoua’s oven in trying to cook five roast bake evenly, but everyone was fed eventually. We also served Ovaltine and tea because that would be typical for breakfast as well. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any Fry’s Cocoa to make hot chocolate for a truly down-home Trinidad breakfast.

Breakfast was ready by about 10:30 a.m. and I served to most of the older people who were there and got to bond over food, even though we couldn’t really understand each other. It was a success in allowing me to feel like I’d connected with more of the family.