3.11.2013

So Moms Just Got Back from Cameroon....

Y'all, they had to drag her from the homeland kicking and screaming; that woman did not want to come back.

But as folks with relatives abroad know, it's always great when they come back because they bring presents.  Moms brought me a boss pair of earrings, and one of the last packs of Cameroonian coffee - the best on the earth, by the way - because the idiot company which first opened its doors in 1958 has now closed them over some political/commericial/whatever BS.

But I digress.

Another great thing people bring from home are stories, and my mom told me a story which had me laughing for days.

For those of you who are just joining the Narrative, I need to give you some background on a few of things.

The Moms

Moms is 57 years young, Cameroonian, with a thick West African accent.  My pygmy stature and sense of humor come from this woman (my dad's my height too, but that's a different story for a different day).  And like many Africans, my mother tells a story while acting it out, switching languages, and creating her own sound effects.

Puff Puff

Anyone familiar with West African cuisine knows "puff puff".  It's a sweet fried dough that's absolutely delicious, utterly addictive (you can never eat just one), and has No Health Benefits Whatsoever.  In fact, the effect of puff puff on your waistline and arteries is anything but healthy.

Njamsu (in-jahm-soo)

Known as the huckleberry leaf in the west, njamsu with pounded fufu is not just a popular Cameroonian dish, it's a staple.  It's the mac 'n' cheese of West Africa, if you will.  When you can't eat anything else, you eat njamsu.

Okrika (oh-kree-kah)

Basically anything that's super cheap, a knock-off, second-hand, or some super combo of all three.

Bamenda

Bamenda is the capital city of the Northwest Region of Cameroon.  As with its French-speaking counterparts of Douala and Yaoundé, Bamenda is experiencing an influx of Chinese immigrants.

Lastly, Kung Fu

Kung fu/Kungfu or Gung fu/Gongfu is a Chinese term referring to any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete, often used in the West to refer to Chinese martial arts, also known as Wushu.

And now that we've gotten all that out the way, the Moms was telling me how when the Chinese came to Douala and Yaoundé, they blended right in, were welcomed by the citizens, and made a lasting, positive impact on both cities.

When they came to Bamenda, things started out the same way.  They started blending right in.  Bamenda marketplace vendors were roasting corn and frying fish, so the Chinese opened up stalls and began roasting corn and frying fish.  And in the beginning, it was good.

For the njamsu vendors, njamsu is delivered daily via truck (at least that's what I gathered from the Moms).  The vendors, usually female, surround the truck to call dibs on whichever basket they want.  In ages past, this was a loud and lively event.  But as more Chinese women entered njamsu business, dibs-calling got a bit more...competitive, if you will.  Competitive to the point of kicking the competition...which native Bamenda vendors considered strike one.

Strike two involved a Chinese man cutting in line at an okrika stall.  The vendor was offering a shirt up for 100 francs (0.198886 USD).  A Bamenda man called dibs, but wasn't fast enough.  When the Chinese man beat him to the punch, the Bamenda man starting arguing.  Chinese dude didn't say boo; he just struck a pose.

When Bamenda dude and his brother attacked, Chinese dude started mowin' 'em down.

As the Moms says, "You know how Bamenda people fight.  They don't know what to do with kung fu."  Indeed...onlookers hesitated to break up the fight, of course; it's one thing to be a fan of kung fu flicks, putting yourself in the shoes of the hero, layin' down the law.  It's a wholly different matter to be on the receiving end of that ass-whoopin' in real life.

And they were gettin' their asses whooped.

Bamenda dude was soon joined by his boys while onlookers started herding in to contain the fight while the police were called.  Bamenda police, mind you, don't break up brawls.  They wait until the fighters start to get tired before they haul everyone involved to jail.

But the hilarious irony of all ironies was that puff puff - of all things -  was strike three.

Understand that when I was child in Cameroon, a single puff puff was big enough to fill my hand, like a baseball.  Time goes by; things change.

The Moms said that some puff puff vendors started bickering with their usual customers, demanding to know why they weren't coming around anymore.  Moms said, "...and they would say, You see your own?  Your own puff puff is this big (makes the size of a golf ball).  You see the Chinese own?  Their own is this big (makes the size of a bowling ball)."

And thus puff puff was the last straw which got Chinese vendors exiled from Bamenda.  *sighs and shakes head*  I miss marketplace drama, y'all.

20 comments:

  1. This is such a funny story but omg I can't believe Chinese vendors are competing with small time Cameroonian vendors like this. Selling roasted corn and puff puff? Oh my days. That is so ridiculous, I'm glad they were exiled from Bamenda tbh.

    And this post got me craving some puff puff, I should make some over the weekend. I never got a chance to witness marketplace drama (which I'll be honest and say is due to my privileged upbringing), this sounds just absolutely fantastic. Though it is amusing that Africans imbibe stereotypes of Chinese people from watching martial arts movies, those were really popular when I was growing up.

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    1. I can't believe Chinese vendors are competing with small time Cameroonian vendors like this.

      Since not all Chinese immigrants are white-collar workers, this is quite normal in Cameroon. What's so hilarious to me is that Douala and Yaounde were fine...but it was a whole different story when they came to Bamenda.

      Bamenda used to be a town surrounded by villages. It's just now getting used to its "city" status, and since still surrounded by villages, it still has some...ahem, "villageois" tendencies.

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    2. I never got a chance to witness marketplace drama

      ...you missed out.

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    3. So I've just pictured Bamenda more clearly in my head. Why are poor Chinese people immigrating to African countries? Lol, this is news to me because hardly anyone is talking about this. I think they were Chinese vendors selling fabric in Kano before they were detained and deported but like puff puff and roasted corn etc?

      I did miss out! But maybe I can see them in the future when I go to the market except when I'm in Nigeria I usually favour the "megastores" but we'll see.

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    4. Why are poor Chinese people immigrating to African countries? Lol, this is news to me because hardly anyone is talking about this.

      You're supposed to be our resident Sino-African relations specialist!!!!

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  2. LOL. Had me picturing the fight in my mind like a Jet Li flick.

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  3. The one and only time I ever had puff-puff was when a Nigerian (I think) teacher at my former college made some for students. Those were very small, so reading that they're supposed to be golf ball-sized (and the Chinese were making bowling ball-sized ones O_O) makes my jaw drop.

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  4. everything always starts out good in the beginning. Team puff puff, when I saw that all I could do was smile. Your mom should write a post on here.

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    1. Mm-mm. *shakes head* The writing thing? I get that from my dad.

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  5. The way things are in the states, I understand why your mom wanted to stay in Cameroon.

    Idk.....I like it when stories like this are told.Though I'm not Cameroonian or have Cameroonian parents , its still fascinating to learn about things like the ones discussed on here It's great to listen to life on the other side of the world.I like learning about the culture, latest news. Its just refreshing to learn new things.

    I was thinking about the puff puff cuisine you're talking about. Is that only native to Cameroon ? I ask because because it look as I have tried something similar to that that a girl in my class gave as samples. It was very good ( wanted more but I didnt want to look I'll mannered). I admit, I didn't ask what it was.Th only thing I knew was that she was from the Congo.

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    1. Puff puff is popular across West Africa, actually.

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    2. Oh..I wasn't sure where puff puff came from. Now that I know its all over the continent, the news next time I see that girl ,I'm going to ask her to make me some.

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    3. I don't think puff puff is all over the continent, it's a West African thing. We all love it though it goes by different names depending on which country you're in. It's puff puff in Nigeria and Cameroon, but I think it is bofrot in Ghana.

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  6. Okrika sounds like awesome. And I have to track down puff puff in the city.

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    1. Okrika sounds like awesome.

      Think flea market or consignment shop.

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  7. I LOLed at your comment about the police. Just wait until everyone is banged up and out of breath, then haul them all to the clink. They are not about to enter the fray and get lumped up over someone else's argument.

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    1. The Moms told me about "jungle justice". She said the police have to be careful so as to avoid their houses getting burned down in retaliation.

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  8. HAHAHAHHAHA, this is funny. Your mom sounds adorable. Also my flat mate totally promised to make puff puff this weekend for me. I miss home cooking, so glad i live with other nigerians this yr, i'm so lazy. Do you speak french at all ?

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