Tuesday, November 20, 2018
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Happy Camp! 

By Azore Opio

In case you don’t live in Buea, Happy Camp is in this sort of a not too swanky building. I used to go there a lot, but I don’t anymore. I gradually cut it off. It is one of those places that are supposed to be very sophisticated and all.

I haven’t lived in Buea all my life, but I know the town better than the back of my hand. A quarter of a century ago, Buea was just a foggy jungle. The few cars it had drove with their headlamps on in the day. It was difficult even to see a neighbour’s house under the sun. Some people actually took their laundry over to Muyuka for drying. If one had the patience, one could wait two weeks for a blanket to dry. Buea then was an assortment of wood frame stores, bars and homes that sprang up during the German occupation.

Downtown Molyko was dead as a cemetery. Life seethed only in plank house bars like Malingo Bar and women of easy virtue were procured in secluded sporting houses located in Babuti somewhere on the slopes of the Mountain. But not when the university came here. Before 1993, it was only a collection of a few ‘huts’ housing probably the best translation and interpretation school in the Central African sub-region. Then the good Lord nodded.

The University of Buea, shortened very conveniently to UB, and endeared as The Place to Be, now boasts of an enrolment above ten thousand with an academic staff strength of two hundred or thereabouts, aided by hundreds of non-teaching staff. UB is a pretty big thing now. Really a big thing.

Buea is now a bustling boomtown. People immigrate here from the grass fields in the northwest, the rolling hills of the West Region, the dry savannah of the north and the thick rain forests of the centre. They all want to be in this foothill town to make a fortune.  Buea town has grown, or at least spread out. New construction stand cheek-by-jowl with old rotting plank houses. The clapboard shacks have given way to sturdy, more permanent structures made of cement blocks. Trees have been hacked down for storey buildings.

The streets have changed. They are wider, tarmacked, some lit and some crowded especially in Molyko with a crush of people of all stripes. There is a smattering of khaki-clad policemen who mingle with the civilians in bars, but not nearly as many as when UB becomes the staging platform for a strike and the troops are intent on putting down an uprising. The day temperature in Molyko can melt lead, higher on the slopes, night temperatures are close to inside a fridge. From six onwards, Molyko is a beehive of activity.

Anyway, this day I got to Happy Camp. It is no big deal visiting an erstwhile favourite watering hole once in a good while. It was very early so I just sat down in one of those plastic chairs right under the TV set and took in the girls. There were about a million girls sitting or standing around waiting for their dates or a quick fix. There were girls sitting with legs crossed, girls with terrific legs and terrific bums swelling inside skin-tight flimsy pantaloons, girls with lousy legs, girls that looked like bitches, if you know what I mean. In a way, it was really marvellous sightseeing. Then this bloke comes along. He is very intelligent and all, but he is one of the biggest bores I ever met.

He has this very raspy, sonorous voices and he never stops talking, practically. He never stops talking. And what is awful is, he never says anything you want to hear in the first place. But he can do one thing. The sonuvabitch can talk. It was so depressing when he started talking. He just killed me. He depressed holy hell out of me, for God’s sake.Anyway, all of a sudden, this woman comes over and sits right next to me and starts shooting the breeze with me.

"Excuse me, but isn’t that a Barça jersey?" She was looking at my torso.
"Yes, it is."  She was right. I did have a goddamn jersey on me with a Barça logo.
"Would you care for a smoke?" She took a cigarette from her handbag and lit up. She looked really nice smoking. She had a lot of charm and quite a lot of sex appeal too, if you really want to know. She was looking at me sort of funny. She was old as hell, around forty or forty-five, I guess, but she was very good-looking.

She was just killing me with boredom. I turned to look at this girl who had on a butt-twitcher of a skirt. She really did look damn good in it. I have to admit it. And I think she knew I was watching her. She kept on turning on her heels so I could see how cute her little butts looked. They did look pretty cute, too. I beckoned her. "Do you want to sit down and have a drink with me or something?"

"That is the most marvellous idea anyone has had all day," she said. We sat there till around midnight with me getting drunk as a Dodo I could hardly see straight. Then the girl did a most startling thing that just about knocked the tar out of me because all of a sudden, I felt her hand on my neck. It was funny. I mean she was quite young and most girls if you see them putting a hand on somebody’s back, they are around twenty-five or thirty thereabouts and usually it is their husband or their little kid. But if a girl is quite young and she does, it is so funny it kills you.

"How old are you?"
"Me? Old enough to know better."
"Like fun, your are."
"What school do you go to?"

The trouble is I felt sorry for her. Suddenly, I felt like getting the hell out of the place. It was so depressing. I mean, most girls are so dumb and all. After you horse around with them and neck them a little, you can really see them losing their brains. A girl when she really gets passionate, she just hasn’t brains at all. I don’t know. Anyway, the cab I got was a real old one that smelt like rotten rubber. I always get those stinking cabs whenever I go out late at night. I don’t even remember anything, anymore. The thing is, I couldn’t see straight.

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