On Stranger Danger

Finding a cab in Yaoundé is not always easy. Between negotiating a price and finding a cab going in the same direction as you, sometimes it can take up to an hour before you find one (or just give up); however, today was not one of those days.

At the roundabout, I had finished being turned down by two cabs, when a man in a silver vehicle beckoned.

“Train station?” the man asked. “Yes.” “Get in.”

A second before opening the door, I hesitated. Don’t accept rides from strangers. My gut echoed the warning from childhood. But. This is Cameroon. I hitchhike all the time from post. Also, worst case scenario, the traffic goes so slow here that I could easy jump out. Having rationalized the action to myself, I entered.

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Lessons from preschool.


“I could tell you were from the North by your foleré,” he tells me. (Note: Foleré is the word for hibiscus here, which is used to describe the flower, the frozen drink and the sauce. In this particular scenario, he was referring to my drink.) “Are you going to Ngaoundéré?” he asks.  “Yep,” I reply, “I live in the Adamawa.” I was srangely both flattered and impressed he could tell I was a northern, especially since I am still very white.

We continued chatting. The usual question of how many children I have came up, so I referred to my usual story of how my husband and I were just married and it was difficult to have children with an ocean between us. When he told me I needed a Cameroonian husband and I responded with my usual agreement and my story of how I came to look for five husbands, he laughed and gave me a high five.

Finally we exchanged names.

“Jessica. Et toi?”


Ah typical Cameroon. You think.

At the train station, DieuDonné knows everyone. He calls over a porter who brings you to the ticket office where he has you wait, while he cuts everyone in line to get your ticket. Five minutes later you are out of the office, an unheard of occurence. Friendships must be the key to efficiency here. Then, you and DieuDonné are back in his car where you make plans to get foleré and couscous (this time we are referring to the sauce) and exchange numbers before he drops you off at another roundabout where you can find a cheap taxi back to the transit case.

DieuDonné, the most aptly named Cameroonian yet.




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