Tuesday, June 14, 2011

About a Shirt

At a recent meeting in Kenya, I recognized someone that had attended an IT workshop on our centre in Ouaga a little while back.  So I greeted him.  “Hey!” he said, “Do you recognize this shirt?”  I looked at his shirt and a light when on in my head.  “Yes!” I said.  “I have one just like it!”

Then he proceeded to tell me his story.  At the beginning of nearly every workshop or seminar on our centre in Ouaga, I drop by at the beginning to introduce myself and welcome people to the centre.  He told me that he and his wife were there that day at the opening of the IT workshop and they never heard a word that I said.  They could not take their eyes off my shirt!  Then and there, they decided that they needed to get a shirt just like that!

In the following days, they spent all their spare time combing the streets and shops of Ouaga for this material.  Only a few days before their scheduled departure, they finally found the material at the Village Artisanal (Artisans’ Village).  After buying it, they then found a tailor and ordered the shirt made.  Which is how he ended up wearing a shirt exactly like mine that day in Kenya.

When we met several weeks later in Cameroon, we decided to both wear the shirt one day and pose as the ebony and ivory twins :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

In the Spotlight in Cameroon

It was Saturday night in Yaoundé and I didn’t just want to go back to my room.  A group of us from Burkina had arrived in Cameroon the night before for a week-long seminar that started on Monday.  So we had the weekend free.  After getting hooked up to the Internet, catching up on sleep, and wandering around the SIL Cameroon centre reliving some memories of a previous stay several years back, I was ready to stretch my legs and see some local scenery.

Walking down the street, I came upon a crowd gathered at the side of the road.  In fact, it was spilling out into the street so that approaching vehicles were constantly honking their horns to warn people to get out of the way.  The centre of attention was a guy with a microphone in front of a little roadside boutique with a banner announcing its grand opening.  For a while, I wasn’t sure if he was trying to sell something or preaching a sermon!  He was as animated as all get-out and used a lot of religious terminology.

I soon realized that I was the only white person in the crowd and figured that sooner or later, I would be singled out for attention.  So I avoided eye contact with the announcer as much as possible.  However, at one point, he invited a young man from the crowd to join him.  After a bunch of talking, he told the young man that God was going to bless him.  Whoever he shook hands with in the crowd would give him 1,000 francs (about $2).

Immediately, the crowd parted like the Red Sea in front of Moses, right towards me!  I quickly moved to one side, trying to blend in, but the crowd kept moving aside until I was left standing all alone.  The young man headed right towards me, followed by the announcer with his microphone, followed by a guy with a video camera.  After shaking my hand, the young man waited expectantly.  No one made a sound.  Finally he said that I was now supposed to give him 1,000 francs.

Well, I didn’t have 1,000 francs on me (I had a 5,000 franc note in my pocket, but wasn’t about to tell him that!), so I told him that I was sorry, but I didn’t have what he wanted.  He shook my hand again several times, no doubt hoping to prime the pump, but I kept apologizing and say that I did not have 1,000 francs to give him.  Finally he gave up.

At this point, the announcer grabbed my arm and tried to pull me front and centre with him!  But I dug in my heels and refused as politely as I could to go.  It was a great relief to me when he finally gave up too and carried on the show without me.  Whew!