We all have thought from time to time “that will never happen to me.” I must say, that I thought the same thing after I heard countless stories from teachers on how they were stopped by the police. I thought I would skate through my two years and not have to deal with them. I know while I was in Mexico I heard so many bad stories about the police and their corruption, that I was totally terrified of them (although I personally never had any run in with a Mexican police officer).
Well of course it did happen to me. Last night, for the first time, the police stopped me. I was on the way back from the neighborhood espresso bar with two other new teachers (Amy and Izumi). There are no street lights on any roads and people drive around with their brights on, so it is extremely hard to see all of the people walking on the side of the road. But, it sure wasn’t hard seeing three uniformed police officers standing in the middle of road waving us to the side with their flashlights. Sometimes you can drive around the officers because they have no vehicles and they don’t have weapons. I heard from another teacher, that he tried doing that and he almost hit the guy. He still had to stop and the officer was totally angry. Sometimes swerving around them works. Well, it didn’t work last night. So, as I’m pulling over, I try to stay calm and not fee intimidated. I stop and they shine the flashlight into the car as they are using police terms in French. We all stare with a confused look on our face because we can’t make out anything they are saying. And once again, I use my favorite French saying, Je ne parle pas Francais (I don’t speak French). Well, the woman to the right of the car (two officers on my left side, one on the right) began to raise her voice. Maybe she thought that if she spoke louder in French we might understand. Or maybe raising one’s voice is a cultural difference that I am still trying to learn more about. Anyways, we finally make out the words turn on the light. So I flicked on the interior light. All three of us had to present identification, which consisted of our temporary resident card receipt. I can’t remember if I told you about getting this resident card. It was quite a shady experience. I mean how many immigration offices do you know are situated in a side street behind a gas station, and are unlabeled. We all decided this place must be a branch office of the main immigration office (probably located behind the beer factory).
Anyways, I also had to show my driver’s license (I do have a Cameroonian one) and the registration for the car. The officers then decided all of our paperwork was in order and they let us go with no fine. Some officers will make up fines. If you like, you can pay a small bribe. The thought crossed my mind. I thought it would make a good story for the blog, but decided against that! Sorry, maybe next time.
Remember I told you about the awesome rotisserie chicken. Well we decided to take out food experiences to the next level. Tonight we ate fish from a street vendor. There are many people cooking dishes on the sides of the roads. I can’t make out exactly everything, but the smells are wonderful. One of our fellow teachers took us to one of his favorite fish stands. I think I was more nervous about the fish than I was about the police officers. I wasn’t sure how my stomach would react. The woman pulls out three whole fresh fish from a bucket and cuts them in half. She then throws them on top of her small homemade grill. After the fish have cooked on the grill for twenty minutes she brings us our plates. She had prepared the fish with some seasoning and chopped onions. On the side we had manioc (I’m not sure exactly what this is, but it is in the starch category and has a chewy texture). I couldn’t deal with eating a fish with its head still attached, so I switched with someone for a tail. And let me tell you this, the meal was exceptionally delicious. We ate the fish with our fingers and washed our hands afterwards.
Oh by the way, the meal for five people cost 1700 CFA. That is around $3.50!!! I think that is the cheapest meal I have had here so far.
As I was eating this food, I thought about how I would describe it on the website. I realized that some things, no matter how I describe it will not be totally clear. Then I got mad at myself for not bringing my camera to take a picture. I will make a promise to myself to bring my camera with me at all times to take pictures. The fish was good and I will return to eat it again. When I do, I will have a picture for everyone to see. Take care of yourselves!! Talk with you later.