Cameroon Journal: Going to Market; Going to Church

11 June 2006

Two days ago was market day, but Beth got sick. She felt ill all morning and was not up for going to the market. Market days here happen on the fourth and eighth days of the traditional eight day week. I’ve seen calendars here that have a dial with a pointer to indicate the day of the traditional week in addition to the day of the seven day western week.
Since Beth was not up for going, she showed me the denominations of coins and bills, and I set out for the market by myself. I had a list of supplies to get: powdered milk, eggs, pasta, tomatoes, and flour. We had used up the last of the flour in the house making grilled pizzas.


grilling a pizza at Beth's house, and wearing my bamilike garb

Yeast can only be purchased in half kilo vacuum packed bricks. So while we have yeast in the house, we need to do a bit of baking to use up the yeast before it goes bad. We are going to make donuts and english muffins (which I will feature in an upcoming post). There are recipes for both of those foods in the “Chop Finer,” which is a Cameroonian-Peace-Corps cookbook. The book has both American-style comfort foods and African foods in it.

In West African pidgin, “chop” means to eat. So to “chop finer” is to eat better. Some other pidgin phrases:
“Ah be done chop” means “I have already eaten.”
“Ah done chop plenty plenty” means “I have eaten enough.”
“oo sah you day” means “where are you?” and  “Ah day for here” means “I am here.”

*                  *                  *

We’re at the presbyterian church. It is the church closest to Beth’s house. Church here is interesting. They don’t sing as well at the presbyterian church as they do at mass, but the singing is still good. It is popular to dress as a group when going to church. (Actually matching clothes in general are popular here). So, a family might all have clothes made from the same matching print of fabric. The screen printed fabric that everyone wears here is called pagna (sounds like “panya”). Alternatively the church women’s group, or any church committee might all decide to wear their matching clothes on a particular sunday. It’s fun to see all these factions of dress in the congregation, showing pride for whatever group they are representing.

At the time when a collection plate would be passed around in an American protestant church service, things are done a little bit differently here. Everyone claps, and there is some chanting. I don’t know how they decide who is next, but they chant out individual names like so: “Brother Brian. Yah Yah Yo!” Then I jump up and run down the center aisle with some coins or bills or whatever, and I place it in a little basket. In exchange for doing this, I am given a “piece of cake.” In actuality this “piece of cake” has been either a hard boiled egg wrapped in paper, or a bag of popcorn with a fried fish head in it, depending which Sunday it is. However, it is still called cake.


The preacher

Another method of fund raising is to have an auction. Common auctionables appeared to be: whole live chickens, 35 gallon bags of corn on the cob, and quart bags full of incredibly hot pépé (scotch bonnet type peppers, which they add to basically everything they cook here).


door to the Presbyterian church

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