The destination was “Douala Bar” – a frequently visited local area bar - one decorated with African paintings, African figurines and statues, artwork that captivates me with every step I take. A room filled with men and ladies seeking the sweetness of the nightlife; turntable switching from western pop & R&B rhythms to sweet, rich, and soulful local melodies. Servers swaying from one customer to another with unending trays of cocktails and finger foods. A night to let lose, relax with a couple of cocktails and some local appetizers – ablo, sweet fried plantains, peanut covered grilled fish, and spicy grilled meat. My cousins and I speaking yet barely hearing one another over the tunes that filled the room.
If I was ever in expectation, it was last night! My eyes almost popped out of their sockets, my mouth exclaiming some “uhmmm” “are you sure?” “uhmmm” “wait” “O my God” “It looks so alive” “Uhmmm” “Ok, we have to stick together guys” and so we did.
It was 5 of us; we blended in by getting a table on the roadside like everyone else did, ordered our local beer; walked across the street to pick out our own fresh fish. They got cleaned, seasoned and incisions were made on the fishes so the seasoning would make its way into the flesh. Our Cook was a woman of a certain age in a tshirt and an African Print wrapper tied across her waist with an Ankara headwrap. The fishes were quickly placed on the open fire grill and we returned to our seats and awaited the scrumptious dish. We went back to enjoy our "Trent Trois" (33) , a local beer in 3 places.
Two streets with scores of bars is “Douala Bar” – It’s not One bar – The area was filled with activity, as we sat waiting, we and every other table got approached or need I say harassed by local hawkers – they sold any and it seemed like everything from hard sole shoes, tissue, grooming set, kids toys, polo shirts, fragrances, and sunglasses.
To the left of us, about 7 tables with at least 4 to 6 patrons at each table were being entertained by a set of twin men, in funny face make up and performing what appeared to sound like stand-up comedy. The audience rolled in laughter at intervals and whipped out Francs for the men. To the other side of us was a Rasta Man, with his colorful crotchet hat under which his thick dreads hid. He carried with him a stereo system and blasted some reggae music, danced, and sold his CDs. I was momentarily, distracted by the lights – Lights from a pimped out motorcycle, all the wheels and spokes were lit up, getting all the attention as he intended I suppose, he rolled by rather slowly!
There were other people who stood around, who walked around, scoping out all the tables or they worked there as servers, parking attendants, greeters to draw customers to specific fish sellers. Voila! Our fish is done! Thoroughly grilled, seasoned with local spices; served with mounds, sweet fried plantains and a local garlic pepper sauce. Ya! A delicacy indeed and an experience as I clutched my purse throughout whilst clicking my camera away sheepishly and honestly slightly afraid.
And then He appeared, he lurked behind me saying something, I couldn’t understand exactly what. I glanced back, he looked like he wasn’t more than 15 years old in ¾ length dirty and tattered pants with an old and worn tshirt. In the midst of the organized chaos and him speaking in this dialect which I couldn’t decipher, I all of a sudden understood what he was asking us – he wanted some of our food. We handed him the generous platter of sides and pepper sauce which he immediately grabbed and then dove in for the remaining fish we had.
After seeing a lot of homelessness in NY/NJ, and being specifically asked for money and not food, I regretfully “judged” – I was almost convinced he would throw away the food and request for money then I saw him grab a tiny space by the curbside and dug in! He dug in like he hadn’t had a meal for at least a day (who knows how many). Alas, my heart sunk then, eyes welled up, I yearned and silently prayed for a better place, for humanity – we ordered him a big bottle of soft drink and Oh with both hands and a subtle bow in gratitude, he received the soft drink and returned to his platter.
Gratitude – Opens doors!! I want to go back and feed him and anyone else I can see. I am Thankful today for where I am. I am thankful for this platform. I am thankful for 3 square meals and more and in the spot of my choosing. I am thankful that I met this boy/young man and that this young man has further taught me about Gratitude. I am thankful also for You.