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Flashback: Cameroon Chronicles - Day 4 - Travel to Bamenda & French Institute Concert

Updated: Mar 18, 2022

Originally Posted by Keri Chryst on March 1, 2012 at 11:25 AM

The early bird gets to Bamenda in time for the concert... Our generous hosts have come to realized that they pushed us awfully hard yesterday though, and make arrangements to postpone the interview planned at the radio station "Hot Cocoa" in Bamenda. It's a shame to pass up on the opportunity for publicity, but I must say I'm relieved.

I curl up in the back seat of our 6-seater van (actually, it probably seats 8, but there are "only" 6 of us) hoping to get some much needed sleep. The coffee I had with breakfast isn't helping though, not only is it keeping me awake, but it's set my stomach into a potential for queasiness on these bumpy and curvy roads in the hills of up country :-/ The landscape is beautiful - hills and green galore (the Switzerland of Cameroon, we're told) - wish it weren't so confusing to my inner ear to watch it go by ;-)

I'm still a bit nervous about my voice too - between the concert, the lengthy lunch conversation, and 3 hours of workshop, it got a LOT of use yesterday. I'm still snorting heavy duty cortisone in my nose, and though it's calmed down, my cough is still lingering. Still, after a 6 hour drive, and MANY opportunities to get to know each other better, we arrive in Bamenda relatively unscathed, if a bit worse for wear. Despite a bit of discomfort from motion sickness, we elect to go straight to the venue to check out the scene before checking into the hotel. The folks at the Alliance Française are ready for us, and the sound set-up is already in pretty good shape. We make a few adjustments to light and sound, then head on to the hotel for a couple of hours of rest before the show. (Did I mention "exhaustimigated"?)

We're taken back stage to a little "green room"... I'm still sucking away on lozenges, worried about what shape my voice will be in... it's feeling a bit rusty, and it's just the two of us tonight - no local artists to share the load with - so I've got to be on for a full two hours. We've decided to divide the show up into two sets - the first set of "The French Connection" stuff (this is the Alliance Française, after all) and the 2nd set for an homage to Duke Ellington and our "Roots 66" set (we were hired by the U.S. State Department after all ;-) )

And it's US that's in for a treat - we make our first attempt at a singalong on the 2nd tune, and this is the loudest and most enthusiastic audience so far when it comes to audience participation! Not the teeniest bit of hesitation! So, that sets me at ease right away for the rest of it. I manage to manage my voice a bit, being careful to dose it out on an as needed basis, favoring a bit more head voice than usual.

But by the time the audience is on their feet to shake their booties to "Sweet Home Chicago" I've thrown all caution to the wind and let her rip a little more. I'm pleased to find that as long as I'm conscientious about some of the more salient points of good vocal technique, my full range is perfectly intact, despite my initial reticence. Phew! What a relief!

So, the crowd has gone wild, and I'm proud to say that it is a couple of gray-haired white folks from the U.S. who are the first on the dance floor (full-bright scholars, no less) ;-) Though, to their credit, the folks from Bamenda are only half a second behind - a hootin' and hollerin' and shouting for more! I dare say, we've hit the mark once again, and are quite satisfied with a job well done!

Drenched in sweat, and pretty wiped out, I almost duck out of the invite to go to dinner with the Peace Corps volunteers and Fullbrighters... but the promise of a real meal outweighs the draw to my hotel room bed, and I decide to go along for the ride. Jeff's not feeling so hot though (a trend that persists throughout the trip - poor Jeff!) and bows out, much to his regret. We spend a couple of hours at a local restaurant where Mignon and I and the two young ladies Betsy and Erica gab together over a huge plate of a local specialty called "Poulet D.G." - "The Managing Director's Chicken". I believe it's safe to say that this is the Cameroonian equivalent of General Tso's chicken - though the chicken is delivered in bigger chunks and still on the bone... there's a certain combination of sweetness, spiciness, and friedness that when coupled with it's illustrious name make me think of the myths surrounding the American-Chinese dish. It wouldn't be Cameroonian if it weren't served with plantains however - yum! So, I have no regrets about having chosen to stay out. We have some great conversation, and great food... and since tomorrow's start is scheduled a little later, I even still have time to get a full 9 hours' sleep. Phew!


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