Wanderlust Wendy

“Grocery Shopping”

This morning, I visited the meat market for the first time in Cameroon. David and I went to the market to buy beef for our party tomorrow. Each weekend, we find an excuse to party and get our curfew extended from 7pm to 9pm. This week, it’s Joe’s birthday! In his honor, we will make burgers and sangria. Making burgers in the US of A may not seem such a big deal. You go to the gigantic grocery store and swing by the refrigerated meat section, browse through 20 types of ground beef and finally pick up a pack or two of perfectly wrapped ground beef with grade level, precise weight and price. Then you go home, fire up the gas grill, slap on the meat and some seasoning – voila, you have a burger.

Now, this is how you do it in Cameroon. First, you decide you will make burgers, and then go to the market early in the morning. The meat market has stalls of vendors selling more or less the same thing – slaps of meat. Now, I came from Taiwan. We have meat markets there where parts of animals are hung and people cutting up pieces of raw, bloody meat in a non-refrigerated environment. However, Cameroon takes the meat market to a whole new level. Not only there are slaps of raw meat hanging randomly; these chunks of meat were more or less the size of a cow. Picture a cow, dead, sans skin. I am quite positive that 95% of my friends from the US would become a vegetarian should they see what I saw today. For me though, it was kind of familiar in a twisted sort of way.

Anyway, so once you identify the vendor from whom you’d like to buy the meat, you then have to get someone to cut the big chunks of meat into little chunks. Then, you take the little chunks to the guy who grinds them. I have never seen a more primitive meat grinding technique than what I witnessed today. Remember when you were kids and there were those Play-doh thingy where you can squeeze through and make noodle shapes? Imagine that but maybe 5 times bigger? That’s how they grind the meat. There are guys who take turns standing and turning the grinder, and out come the ground beef. To add flavor to the meat, David and I bought a bag of garlic and a few onions, sat outside of the market to peal them so the grinder can grind them with the meat. Finally, the meat is finely ground, then we (or rather David) hauls that 9 kg of meat all the way back to the SED house (along with a big jug of wine for the sangria). Meanwhile, I carried 500CFA worth of bananas (a big bunch filling up my backpack) and two pineapples, one in each hand.

I will never again complain about grocery shopping. Right now, the thought of getting into a car, drive to Dierberg’s or Trader Joe’s, pushing around a shopping cart and taking items off those nicely organized shelves is a pure luxury. Even when I was living in London, I thought it was chore to have to walk 5 minutes to Waitrose for groceries and carry them by hand. Even that’s a luxury to me now.

In other news, I was doing some research on China’s relationship with Africa and I asked myself why I am in the Peace Corps when there are serious money to be made while improving the African infrastructure. Although I suppose I wouldn’t have known about these opportunities had I not been sent to Africa in the first place. I haven’t even really begun my service, yet already, I see the long term benefit that will come with my two years here.

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