Friday, May 1, 2009


I liked Yaoundé overall. It is not as hectic as other major African cities I have known like Dakar and I hear that Douala (country’s economic capital) is much more painful to navigate than Yaoundé is. There are plenty of hills and mountains around, a lot of green and brown / red because of the climate. The city feels safe and folks are nice. Those are broad generalizations of course but it is interesting how after 3 days one can develop that feeling of safety or not when one move or walk around. I have taken collective taxis, which did not even cross my mind when I got here (not something someone from a Western nation traveling to a poor country would think of doing) and today I can tell that I would move around that way if I lived here. It is very convenient, there are lots of small yellow taxis. Before getting into the cab, people suggest a price and tell their destination (e.g. “300 Carrefour Bastos”) and the driver says yeah or nay…

Also, it is interesting to see how the economy is geared towards consumption in small quantities. For those not having a cell phone (which was my case and I could not call local numbers from my hotel – go figure…), they just find someone on the street who sell SIM cards and phone cards for cell phones but also lend cell phones for anyone to call – rate is 20 cents a minute… By the same token, my hotel did not have wireless, so guests could either use desktops and pay 500 Francs CFA an hour (less than a buck) or use their own computers, get connected to the hotel’s local network and pay 1000 Francs CFA… You have your own laptop – it costs you more. Supposedly, the connection is faster. That is how they justified the price difference when I asked…

The folks I ran into were all very polite (same with each other) and willing to help. Almost no hustling even though there are few non-African travelers or business folks around – so, one gets spotted quickly. It is just nice to be able to go around one’s business freely and concern-free. There is a certain nonchalance also – did not see a lot of people who seemed to run around and rush from one place to the next and be stressed out. That contributes to the ambiance of fine and calm pace, which I liked.

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