Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wildlife in the city

Margouillat in a tree
Beyond the irksome insects and other home invaders, there are also interesting animals that live in the city, but outside homes (most of the time--sometimes a creature might get lost and enter a home by error.) The most fascinating were the big lizards, called "margouillats." The Douala margouillats were blue-greenish, about 6 inches long, and I could stay for hours just watching them (of course when I arrived in Cameroon, there wasn't much to do. No TV, and the Internet didn't even exist yet). There was something about them. Every now and then you'd see an egg, and try to find out when it would hatch.
Other lizards were the little semi-transparent ones that you also find in the Caribbean islands. They often were found crawling on the inside of the house walls, toward the ceiling.
Before living in Douala, I didn't know there existed land-based frogs: they lived in the yard. It was hard to catch a glimpse of them, but you could hear them chirping at night. Crickets were heard, but not seen, also, as in the summer in other parts of the world.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cameroon Street Fashion: Ladies First

Women on the streets of the towns I visited - and I visited quite a few - wear a mix of styles, and the same woman may wear the latest Parisian fashion to the office one day, and a traditional outfit the next day.
A woman may not have the means to have a fancy house, but often you couldn't guess that by looking at her. If there is any money to spend, after basics such as shelter and food, she'll try to look her best.
Seamstresses are usually the means to look good. It is much cheaper to have an outfit custom-made, than to purchase at a boutique, even a non-luxury shop. However, more and more used clothing is arriving from the United States and elsewhere, some of it in excellent condition, and many people rely on that option; it is often very cheap. That is how you'll find someone in a remote village wearing a "University of Maryland" tee-shirt (possibly donated to a charity somewhere in Oklahoma).
Traditional dress differs depending on the lady's ethnic background. Or everyday purposes, however, almost all favor the North-Cameroon style, of which variations are also seen in other African countries: a wrap-around long skirt, matching blouse (usually short-sleeved) and headscarf. Tying that headscarf in an aesthetic way is much harder than it looks!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tarzan movies

The NY Times recently had an article about a Parisian Tarzan-themed exhibit at the Musée du Quai Branly. The article reminded me of the 1984 movie starring Christophe Lambert. The Africa scenes were filmed in Cameroon. However, that fact was the not the reason my husband's cousin (an incurable romantic) and I were so infatuated with the film: we just adored the love story. The location shown in the movie, if I am not mistaken, is near Kribi, close to the seashore.* There is an area with a series of waterfalls, flowing into ponds of brackish water. It is absolutely gorgeous, as are many other places in Cameroon.
Cameroon is called "Africa in Miniature" because there's a bit of everything, geographically, from the south to the north, that you'd find in other African countries: Rain forest, green hills, savanna, waterfalls, as well as many animals such as monkeys, gorillas, lions, hippopotami, and the list goes on.

Photo of a waterfall in Western Cameroon

* As per IMDB.com: Bimbia, Southwest Province, Cameroon