Saturday, March 5, 2011
I am a proud, card-carrying member of a Cameroonian bank in Bafoussam (Baf) called Afriland. Every month, the Peace Corps drops my stipend into my bank account in Baf, which I have to travel 6-8 hours to retrieve since it is in an entirely different region from where I live. This is as fun as it sounds. The last trip was especially memorable: after climbing out of the bus while trying not to piss off any big mamas or get pickpocketed, I make my way to the bank. I do kind of look forward to the visit because Afriland’s branch in Baf is as close to America as it can get here: it’s three stories, has a pretty glass façade, and is air-conditioned. Normally, I am able to get my money from an ATM at the front of the building, but this last time I went, I had to go inside for more personal business. So, after waving to the two soldiers sitting in front of the door with AK-47’s resting on their lap (otherwise known as the Cameroonian FDIC), I enter the bank and am hit with a wave a cool, refrigerated air. Now, to get things done in Afriland is a bit complicated. They have a number-ticket waiting system, but I have found this to be just a ruse. In reality, if you want help, you just push your way to wherever you need to go. I, personally, had to get a new ATM card. Therefore, of course, I walked around the building until I found a bank employee who was not being harassed and started harassing them. I would not say that I am fluent in French but I would say that I am becoming fluent in aggressive French. So after about one or two minutes of what would be considered yelling in America but is termed a business conversation here, I am lead to the man who can help me. He is very helpful but forces me to draw yet another map of where I live. Because my house does not have an address, due to the fact that I live in a village in the middle of nowhere, I have to draw a map of where my house is in my village. Therefore, Afriland knows me as the white from Nyamboya who lives behind the catholic church next to the grouping of weird looking trees. After the transaction is complete, the meeting ends with the usual laughs, awkward hand shake (where, after its supposed to end, the man just holds my hand for about 15 or 20 seconds), and the normal question of can I take him back to America when I leave. It’s actually a somewhat fun experience if you don’t think about the fact that an institution such as this controls your financial situation while living in a developing country.