Riding a moto taxi is pretty awesome. The awesomeness is only amplified when you’re carrying a chicken by the feet and the sun’s setting behind some mountains that are too surreal to be real.
Let me back up a bit.
It’s a sunny afternoon and Matt, Sal, Max, Jon-Jack and myself are about to embark on a slightly odd adventure. We’re setting out to buy a live chicken. None of us have ever bought a chicken that is clucking, but we want to get Matt’s host Dad a present. A few nights earlier, all of the volunteers had a party and after the party, you guessed it, there was the after-party. It happened at Matt’s dad’s house, and we thought what better way to thank him then to buy him a live chicken.
So, with no clue as to how to go about doing this, we embark on a journey to Centre Ville (the center of town) to visit the market. After a quick ride on the moto, we reach Centre Ville and our first stop is a clothes boutique where Jon-Jack has had his eye on a Randy Moss jersey for a while.
The shit is beautiful. Perfect condition, tags still on it, legit NFL merchandise with the embroidered lettering. Don’t ask me how it got to Cameroon. He gets it for 5,000 CFA, which is roughly 10 US dollars. A $150 jersey for 10 bucks, not a bad start to the adventure. So after he buys it, we decide to ask the vendor where we can get a live chicken, however, because of some French mishaps, the dude thinks we’re saying “pull” as in pullover, and not “poule” as in live chicken. Not a bad assumption, considering we’re at a clothing store. He tells us we have to go to Bafoussam (a city like 2 hours away) because it’s cold there, but there aren’t any “pulls” here.
Now we’re really fucking confused. I’ve seen hundreds of chickens here, most of them are just walking around, not even in pens, and now this guy is telling us we have to go two hours away to buy a chicken? It can’t be true. Finally, we bridge the language barrier, and he gladly tells us that we can buy them at the Grand Marche (Big Market).
The next 15 minutes involve walking to new parts of Bafia that we’d never really seen before, but eventually we make it to the Grand Marche. Out of our element, we’re sticking out like, well, like 5 white guys asking where to buy a chicken. Mamans (older women) are cracking up, and eventually we find a kind soul who helps us (all in French, mind you, most people in Bafia don’t know a lick of English).
So he goes, “yeah, you can buy chickens over there,” pointing toward the back of the market. “But beware of the thieves.”
Anywho, we truck on anyway, figuring that the five of us would be able to fend off any thieves dumb enough to try and jump us. Besides, we were carrying moto helments.
So, literally the moment we get to the chicken area, a guy walks by with a wicker cage full of about 10 or 15 chickens ready to be sold. The quickness of the endeavor was almost comical.
We tell the guy we want one, and he tries charging us 3,500CFA (about 7 bucks US) but we tell him that we won’t pay more than 3,000.
We got our way.
So, not knowing the procedure, he pulls out two chickens, and we tell him “No, nous ne voulons pas le deux” (we don’t want both). And, almost condescendingly, he says that he’s taking two out so that we could choose between them.
Whoops. Sorry bud, we’ve never really done this before. Our chicken usually comes wrapped in plastic.
We probably should have expected it, but he just abruptly hands us the chicken, feet in the air, and looks at us like “what’s taking these guys so long, grab the fucking chicken.” So, my buddy Matt dives in and takes it by the proverbial horns, in this case the feet, and we walk out of the market on a cloud of accomplishment.
I hop on a moto with Matt, the other three catch another one. I’m pretty sure that seeing two blancs (white people) carrying a live chicken on a moto was the highlight of the day for every single Bafian we passed.
We stop in Centre Ville because Matt’s dad is supposed to be downtown at this bar. No luck. He’s back at home. So, now it’s my turn to carry the chicken.
Matt transfers the goods to me, but as soon as I grab him, he goes for the jugular, trying to peck the shit out of my arm. I keep raising his feet up, as if that is going to stop him from bucking up and trying to peck. Eventually, he gives up, knowing his fate is sealed.
I hop on the moto with Sal for a quick 5 minute ride to Matt’s house. At that moment, the world may have stopped turning so I could take in the beauty of it. I’m on the back of a moto, arm outstretched holding a chicken whose wings are being opened up by the wind. The sun’s setting over the mountains as we descend the final hill towards Matt’s house and at that finite but infinite moment, I realize that I am here.
The rest of the story was textbook. Matt’s dad was incredibly grateful and ecstatic for the present, thanking us for what seemed like hours.