Douala --- the largest city in Cameroon
Douala is a city of about two million people. It is the economic center of Cameroon - a dynamic and energetic city. It spreads out over a vast area, with an international airport in the south end of the city. It is also a place for the very rich and the very poor of Cameroon. As you drive around the city, you will see big mansions with high wall fences. But in the middle of the city, you will encounter beggars, old and young, on a regular basis.
Douala has a lot of good night clubs and restaurants. (Chinese restaurants are usually the expensive ones - exactly the opposite from the situation in the US!) But on the other hand, it is not an attractive city. The only typical impression the city gives to a new visitor is that it is "messy". We are happy that we live in Buea instead of Douala, as it is also a city with great heat and humidity. We can easily feel the change as we get closer in our drive to the city and we are always happy to get back to the mountain on our return!
Most of the country's industry is located in Douala, and the industrial area in Douala is located in the area they call Bonaberi, which is on the northwest side of the city across the Wouri River. It is right on the highway between Buea and Douala, which makes our drive twice as long as it should be because of the congestion in this area. There is no heavy industry in Cameroon, no steel, rubber, or auto plants. They have primarily light manufacturing types of industries - vegetable oils, limited fabrics, and canning. Exxon has the contract to make the pipeline from Chad to the south of Douala and for digging along the coast, while France has an oil refinery plant in Limbe.
Douala is a Francophone City. Officially Cameroon uses two languages, French and English. In practice you will have problems if you only speak English, one language, like us. Close to 70% of Cameroonians speak French. We are pretty useless when we are in Douala as far as communications are concerned. For example, we were once invited by one of our students to eat dinner with her family in Douala. The student was forced to translate for us when the conversation covered any topic beyond the weather! This is an interesting family. The father owns a garage and they have four children. They send all the children to private schools. They certainly have shown us that they pay a lot of attention to their children's education. The way these parents focus their activities on their children and their education reminded us of a traditional Chinese family. Since we have often seen young children doing chores along the streets for their parents, instead of sitting in classrooms, we have questioned the effectiveness of the governmental policy on compulsory education in Cameroon. It is very nice to see that the value of education is placed above all things for at least some Cameroonian families.