Ever since I got back from Africa I’ve been compiling a list of things that would shock Pierre, Honorine, Emilie, my (ex) neighbourAthanase and the rest if they ever came (WHEN they ever come, in the case of Honorine and Pierre) to the West. So many times i saw a shop or a sign that would be totally banal to a Westerner, but thought “Pierre would love this!” or “Athanase would hate this.” or “Emilie would find this totally bizarre.” Cold weather is the obvious one but there are many more. Today I compared notes on the subject with Anne, the history teacher at my school who has leved in Brazzaville, and this is what we came up with:
-Banks and ATMs on every corner
-Washers and dryers
-Cinemas (there is only one cinema in Bujumbura, which shows mostly bootleg martial arts films)
-Bookstores. There is only one real bookstore in Bujumbura, the Librarie St-Paul, and it is filled with religious books, textbooks and books on nature. There are over 700,000 people in Bujumbura. In Nimes, a city about 1/5 the size, there are at least half a dozen bookstores. The FNAC, Book’in, Librairie Biblica, Librarie Goyard and I know I haven’t named them all. The Librairie Sauramps in Montpellier is massive. It would be a revelation to Pierre.
-Frozen food and instant food.
-The quiet orderliness of Les Halles. And this is supposed to be a market?
-Hot water from the tap.
-How much things cost. In Sète I saw a “brochette frites” for 12.95!
-Chinese food, kebabs and the like.
-The way people talk frankly about their sexuality in casual conversation. Mbonisi and Eugène, as adapted as they otherwise are to everything about Canada, are still shocked by this.
-The way that DESPITE the lack of taboos about sexuality, religion almost never comes up in conversation. Fabia noticed this when she went to Geneva with Madame Aissatou. You can’t have a ten-minute conversation with an East African without a mention of God.
-The way that my Communist friends can sit in a bar and call Sarkozy and Nimes’ mayor, Mayor Fournier, every name in the book without fear or restraint.
-The way that despite being for the most part well-fed, well-clothed and employed, people still beg, steal and complain about petty crap.
I am really curious to see what Eugène and Mbonisi think about this.