Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Douala language



I step into a shop in Deido and a lady at the counter orders something. The cashier woman responds in the Douala language. The lady shrugs and says in French, "I don't understand Douala! Je ne suis pas Douala." Cashier insists in French, "But you're in our land, you need to learn our native language!" The lady's silent minute of disbelief triggers me to become an impromptu lawyer, "Em, Douala is the economic capital of Cameroon/Central Africa and that makes it a metropolis, so there are all sorts of ethnic groups and foreigners, French, Lebanese, Chinese, Nigerians here." "But it's our land!" She insists. I begin teasing, a mild feat of irritation, "Technically, it's not your land anymore because all the rich Bamileke people have bought every piece of it." "It is our village!" "That one I doubt too, because history tells me you were all fishermen/women living in the mangrove creeks and islands. You just migrated here when this whole place was marshland and stole it from the sea, through repeated land reclamation, so it was nobody's village, or maybe, the Atlantic ocean's village." Cashier scowls at me, so I think maybe an insult in Douala is coming, "Vous voulez acheter quoi, madame!" She turns and asks the lady. I place my right hand over my mouth and suppress a laugh.