It’s five o’clock in Yaoundé, and it’s my favorite time of day.
About a good hour and a half before true dusk, the sun is low in the sky with bright beams slanting through the city and picking up bursts of color. I see the bright fuchsia flowers which I cannot name, the red dirt from the road, the green grass, the yellow and blue of nearby houses which have become stunning.
There is a strong, refreshing breeze that plays with my skirt and rustles the leaves overhead. The heat of the day is past and Cameroonians are making their way home.
As I walk down the path from the office, I take note of the small birds that swoop in front of me and an orange and black lizard and scurries away from my footsteps. I walk out the gate and down the path, marveling at the colors. I pass a vegetable stand on my left: I see bright yellows, reds, and greens, the colors of the Cameroonian flag, and incidentally the colors of bananas, tomatoes, and unripe papaya. Chickens scuttle across the road, unperturbed by motives for their crossing.
I think about the work I am doing. I spent most of the afternoon compiling a report for a linguistics book I read in hopes that it will be useful to the people at the Literacy Department. We are working on developing a curriculum for children to be taught in their mother tongues rather than exclusively English or French, languages they may or may not speak. My job involves researching how to best implement grammar instruction for African languages into a mother tongue curriculum. Although researching does not always seem glamorous, I like to remind myself that I am reading in pursuit of knowledge. There is wisdom in words, direction and guidance from ages past to address our concerns today. What could be a more worthy task than this?
I come down to the main road and turn right. There are still streams of taxis, but they seem less harried than this morning. People in brightly colored garb walk slowly on both sides of the street. On the right, there are yellow, orange, pink, and turquoise foulard headscarves for sale. One the left, several men kick back after a long Monday with a beer, drunk straight from the bottle on a shaded terrace.
I turn left on another side street and pass the small stores with a hodge-podge of items to sell, children wandering in small groups, two women sewing pillows shut, an abandoned building, and a man selling beaded jewelry.
There is no power when I arrive home and the light and colors begin to fade. Everything in seasons. The sun will rise and sink slowly down again tomorrow, highlighting the hills, plunging corners of the city into shadow. Whether or not I can see them, the colors remain.