We had heard from previous students that Happy Hour at The Hilton was a fun and relaxing way to spend an evening, so we decided to try it out a few days ago (when our original plan was to go earlier, but there was a huge storm that flooded half the city so we had to reschedule).
We took a taxi from our host homes to the Poste Centrale in the center of the city. This area is probably the most populated area that we’ve been in and because of that, there are people everywhere selling things on the sidewalk and wandering through the crowds trying to steal from unsuspecting passers-by. My experience so far in Yaoundé has been one of complete security. I have never even felt the need to hold my backpack in front of me, or to avoid certain streets. However, shortly after arriving in the Centre Ville, we felt three men surround us as we were walking. People tend to not really move out of the way for each other here, so we assumed they were just unfamiliar with the concept of personal bubbles. After a few minutes, I turned around because I felt something and was shocked to see that a man had unzipped my bag and grabbed my phone and the photocopy of my passport that we have to carry at all times. I was so surprised that instinct kicked in and I literally gave him a bear-hug to reach around and get my things back and to prevent him from moving. I think I yelled something useless in French along the lines of “Stop!”, because that would clearly bring any pickpocket to a grinding halt, before shoving him as hard as I could and hurrying away. This all took a total of fifteen seconds and Arjun didn’t even know what was going on – all he saw was me hugging a strange man. But I am thrilled to announce that I am still in possession of both my phone and my passport photocopy! We walked away to shouts of “Ouai, la Blanche!” or “Yes, White Girl!” and I got plenty of impressed waves and nods, however none of said onlookers thought to intervene or to let me know that someone was stealing my phone… I think usually foreigners are easy targets here, but honestly, letting him have my phone didn’t even cross my mind for a second. It would have been a huge deal if I lost it.
Views from the panoramic rooftop bar at The Hilton:
I was a little shaken up after the incident, and unfortunately ever since I have been much more paranoid about my bag and mostly carry it in front of me. But it is for the best. We kept walking to The Hilton, Yaoundé which can clearly be seen because it is enormous and is completely clear of beggars, vendors and general loiterers, unlike every other street in the city. We walked in and it was like being transported back to the Western world. We saw other foreigners, mostly businessmen and flight crews, on our way up to the panoramic rooftop bar. Since it was four in the afternoon, we were about the only ones ordering virgin cocktails and Pina Coladas.
But we were able to relax and take in the amazing view of almost the entire city and its hills. Plus, two for the price of one drinks! Still the most expensive things we’ve bought here, but worth it every once in a while. It was our one month anniversary of our arrival in Cameroon.