Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Signs and wonders

I sat with a group of Cameroonians yesterday to watch the inauguration of President Obama. There is tremendous enthusiasm for the man here and hope for the future. I hope that they are not disappointed.

It seems to me that Africa gets a lot of Europe’s rubbish. Most of the taxis I have ridden in so far have been imported from Europe, mostly from Germany and Holland, when they are no longer good enough for use on the roads of those countries. Cars which can no longer be used on the roads of Europe because they do not meet environmental demands are clearly good enough for Africa.

I looked at a stall of electrical products today. These too are all old fridges and other electrical goods which have been shipped over by the container load. One has to wonder how environmentally friendly these fridges are, and whether the electric kettles are safe to use.
Another aspect of this concerns men’s clothing. You see lots of younger men here wearing t-shirts bearing logos and wording which do not relate to this part of the world. Many have texts on them in German or Dutch advertising schools or garages in small towns. I even saw the name of the electrical company Philips printed with the first “i” missing!

I have also been looking a lot lately at the signs by the roadside. They reveal a different sort of English from that spoken in the U.K. The two signs here are on the road which I walk down every day from my workplace into the town centre. The third shows a mechanic's shop near Douala. Note the spelling.
A quick word of thanks to those who have sent emails and made comments. Thank you! Dioch! Dankon!


Unknown said...

"But that's the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don't want to know what people are talking about. I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can't read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can't even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses."
— Bill Bryson (Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe)

Bill Chapman said...

I like that, Lucy, thanks!