Yes, Cameroon does have infomercials.  However, instead of taking place on TV, they take place on the bus.  And, depending on who you ask, they may be more painful to watch than the American version we all know so well.

Let’s get a definition straight before we begin…by bus, I mean an old Toyota 24 seater mini-van of sorts.  In Cameroon, the same bus seats 30, plus the driver and any children sitting on their parent’s lap, and any other animals or bags that are too fragile to be strapped to the top.  There is no air-conditioning, only windows as you drive under the African sun sharing a row with at least 4 other people.  And, there are no seat-belts, but I am not sure you could really move much being that packed in.

So, that is the setting for the infomercial.  In the midst of your trip, another ‘passenger’ will hop onto the bus and stand in the doorway/step into the bus.  (This is normal, why not cram 31 adults into a 24 seater?)  A few minutes later, he will begin with “Cher Passagers”, or ‘Dear Passengers’, from which the rest of the passengers will either get excited to see what he is selling or immediately tell him to stop.

Yesterday, on my trip back from Yaounde, the infomercial was for the most random range of products.  The seller began with Cameroonian flags with Paul Biya’s (Cameroon’s president for 30+ years) picture on the back side.  Unification Day, the day the anglophone and francophone regions joined, is coming up on May 20.  While I thought the flag was kind of funny, the consensus on the bus was that the price was too high, so he moved on to the next product.

Because flags and teeth have so much in common, he began hawking paste that came in an envelope written in Chinese that was used for protecting from cavities and whitening your teeth.  Along with toothbrushes that had removable heads, so when you needed a new one you could buy a new top part for cheaper (never mind I have never seen these in country, so not sure where you buy only that top part when the time comes!).  These sold like hot-cakes, how people trust the envelope in Chinese that they bought on a bus in Cameroon enough to put the paste in their mouth is beyond me.

The final product was the worst!  He then busted out a bottle, about the size of a small bottle of vanilla extract, that had what looked like jolly-rancher red liquid inside.  This time, no label, no name.  The liquid was for knee joint pain, or, wait for it, sore throats.  Apply to either your knee or sore throat (thankfully, he said it was not for ingesting) and you would be cured of pain within minutes.  Anyone want a free sample? The whole bus wanted to try it…and before I knew it, the bus went from smelling like sweat from 30 people sitting too closely to icy hot gone bad.  I am not sure which scent was worse.

The whole time he was on his rant of remedies, brushing your teeth, and Unification Day, the big mama behind me kept saying under her breath that he needed to shut up because it was too hot on the bus.

Take my advice, always, always, make sure your iPod is fully charged and headphones are packed before traveling in Cameroon…it’s the easiest way to tune out ridiculous Cameroonian informercials.

  1. David Bates said:

    Hillarious post. How much waste the chinese toothpaste? I mightt want some!

  2. Helen Garland said:

    Another great story from Camaroon. We’re getting to feel like we know the place. Thanks.

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