Beaches, Waterfalls, and Fish Mamas

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Hangin’ on the beach in Kribi

Just last night I got back after being away from post for 3 weeks, most of which was spent at an in-service training in a town outside of the capital. It was good to see everyone in my training group again, and less exciting to sit in sessions all day. But after two weeks of boredom punctuated by two intense games of sock assassins, about half of us rewarded ourselves by taking off to Kribi.

Kribi is a beach/port town in the South region of Cameroon, known for having a freshwater waterfall that falls directly into the ocean and also the best seafood in Cameroon. I am going to go ahead and say that from what I have experienced, it also has the best pizza (though unfortunately the night I went they were out of seafood pizza).

Now my favorite Cameroonian dish by far is definitely poisson braisé (which, from what I can find on the Internet, is called “burning fish” in Anglophone Cameroon). It is basically just a whole fish cleaned, scaled, and brushed with a spice mixture before being grilled over hot coals and served with more spice mixture, piment sauce, and sometimes mayonnaise and/or baton de manioc on the side. Yes, the head is still attached, and plenty of Cameroonians will tell you that the head is the best part. Poisson braisé is not available at my post, where fish that isn’t smoked or dried is rarely ever seen. In cities with bar neighborhoods, however, it is typical to see fish mamas set up along the street waiting for you to pick out one of their fish for them to grill up and bring to your table in whatever bar you’ve decided to sit in and order a beer or soft drink.

My first poisson braisé experience in Kribi was like this, making it similar to several nights in Garoua, except that the fish mama had a much wider selection of fish (barracuda, anyone?), all of which had probably still been swimming that morning. And then we found the fish market. This is where you can find fishermen emptying nets full of fresh fish onto cement slabs ready to sell to the crowds, as well as a whole bunch of fish mamas set up with their own tables looking out on the marina, ready to gill some fresh fish. You can choose from the fish the mama already has on hand or go haggle with a fisherman yourself and then just pay a fish mama to cook it for you. A glass of fresh pineapple juice makes the meal complete. I went back the next day, too.

Unfortunately, my last night in Kribi I got sick, and I don’t mean that I had a bit of a cold. I mean standing in the bathroom and trying to decide if the next round would be vomiting or diarrhea sick. 3 month in an out of the way village, and of course the first time I come down with anything more than the sniffles would be in one of the most touristy towns in Cameroon. But hey, I was recovered enough to travel the next morning, and a course of cipro and a lot of white bread and clean water later, I am back at post and eating street food again.

There are some pictures up on Flickr, both of Kribi and my post, including the Youth Day festivities that went on the week before I went to in-service.

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This looks like it could be California, but it is Cameroon, really.

Also, if any of you have been following news of Africa, you should know that I am safe, the kidnappings happened in the Far North and not anywhere near my post, and the Peace Corps is keeping on top of things and being fairly conservative about the safety of volunteers. So in short, there is no need to worry about me, because there are plenty of people in Yaoundé doing it for you!

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