Friday, March 6, 2009

I used to buy African trade beads in the market and make jewelry to sell at an annual art sale, so the oldtimers at the artisan’s market know me well. I visited them a few weeks ago and received a warm welcome and many questions about Alexis and Karen. However, there are also many younger sellers in the market who don’t know me. Yesterday I was negotiating with a young man while helping a friend buy souvenirs. One of the older sellers approached and told the young man, “You can’t give her that price. That’s the price for tourists. She has been here for so long: she is Cameroonian! Give her a good price.” The younger man looked at me skeptically and sneered, “Cameroonian?” Then he got a sly smile and greeted me in the local language, which is spoken by very few foreigners. “Mbembe kiri,” he said. I responded, “Kiri mbeng. O ne mvoi?” (Good morning, how are you?) While the young man and his friends stared open-mouthed and the older men hooted and slapped each other on the back, my friend and I left. I didn’t want them to know that I had just spoken nearly all of the Ewondo that I can remember.

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