Friday, August 8, 2014

Faces in the Neighborhood



Chrisco is one of the techs for Radio Evangelium, the Catholic Radio station in Kumbo. The station is on the grounds of the John Paul II Youth Village. Chrisco records events, conducts interviews, runs the broadcasting booth, and makes sure everything at the radio runs smoothly. He also records praise and worship music, and strategizes with other artists to get their work out into the public eye. Working with the radio station has given him some great opportunities to gain various skills related to editing, broadcasting, journalism.  

Much of the broadcast content is intended mainly for young people, so Chrisco is a young person helping to evangelize other young people. It is wonderful to see the New Evangelization at work, even in the developing world. It is also wonderful that the diocese of Kumbo makes young people a priority, not just by evangelizing them, but by employing them, training them, helping them to gain skills that are marketable and useful. The John Paul II Youth Village is having a positive impact on the community, and Chrisco is a big part of that. He also has the distinction of being my first Cameroonian "Facebook friend," so there's that. (The woman with us in the picture helps at the radio, as well.)
Madame Yubih is a buyam-sellam down at the Junction. We will often buy our tomatoes, onions, and the occasional cabbage from her. If we are not buying that day, we will greet her as we pass. There is not a very large profit margin for small sellers like Madame Yubih, but as long as you can buy wisely and sell it all, there is a little money to be made. Madame Yubih is always friendly and welcoming to our children, and we like to support her. She is one of many people at Junction that we have come to know. 
There are many other people we meet and interact with on a regular basis, including sellers, taxi drivers, priests and religious sisters, neighbors, missionaries, NGO workers, tailors, doctors... the list goes on. We are very grateful that Kumbo has a small-town feel, and are glad to be a part of the community here.

-Eric

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real" Africa Style






Pretty:

During our weekend in Njinikom, some of us went for a hike down to a small stream to go "swimming." The hike was pretty, the children were pretty, and the destination was pretty. 
Unfortunately, the recent rains had turned the quiet swimming hole into class 4 rapids, so the swimming turned into wading. All in all, it was a good morning hike. Everyone had a good time, and there were berries along the trail.
(As a side note, we heard a crazy story about the trail: it is a cow path, and the cattle go down and up each day to graze. One day, a pregnant cow slipped, fell over, rolled down the hill, and broke her legs. They thought they would have to slaughter her in place and hump the meat up the hill, but she crawled all the way up on her elbows (or whatever cows have instead of elbows).  That's ~1000 ft elevation gain on muddy, slippery, steep ground. She "put to birth" a healthy calf a month later. All's well that ends well!

Happy:

Well, the rooster did his job, the hens did their job, and now we have chicks! Eleven of them. They make pretty much everyone happy, and are more fun to watch than television. 
Funny:

Sally came up to us before she went to bed and she said, "I love both of you guys," in the sweetest toddler voice that just made the whole thing funny. I'm glad she loves us, and I have mixed feelings about the use of the word, "guys." (She is also developing a very adorable pout, as you can see in the picture.)

 Real:
 

 So, one of the downsides of living here is the insecurity of our property. That means to protect our chicken investment we are compelled to keep them living in our compound with us. (We have been told by many trustworthy people that an exterior hen house would be raided by thieves.) This means that the fowl have easy access to our kitchen, dining room, and courtyard. You can use your imagination to fill in the "real" part of this situation. Shoes are required wear in our courtyard now. 
-Eric

Thursday, June 19, 2014

We Are (Watching) Together



I arrived at the radio station tonight, intending to broadcast live. I host a weekly show called "What the Pope Says," with a fairly obvious topic. I'm working through Evangelii Gaudium bit by bit. We're right now getting to some interesting and challenging things that Francis writes about economics, society, and the Christian's duties to the marginalized.

However, upon arriving, I discovered that the station was not broadcasting, even though there was current  (meaning the power was on.) The reason? Football. Cameroon was playing Germany in what I was told was the World Cup, but that hasn't started yet. It was just a friendly exhibition match. Well, the Radio Evangelium station house is located right at Junction, and I had noticed that the place was particularly hopping for a Sunday night. Many people enjoying drinks in bars, laughing and joking with friends, and all were gathered to watch the match. Many people don't have televisions, so the bars become sports bars during football matches, with dozens of people crowding around one 17 inch screen with fuzzy reception.

In the radio house, I managed to get a couple of shows recorded while the tech guy for the radio was watching the match with his friends in the next room. I made my way back home in the dark of the night, enjoying the moonlight and the stars. With all the ambient light in the USA, it is not often that I get to enjoy pure starlight in the states.  But here, where there aren't streetlights to speak of, I can enjoy the deep surprising beauty of the stars any and every night I choose to. SAC is located on the top of a hill, and when the corn is not high, you can see most of the town down in the valley below. There are always far fewer lights than one would expect given Kumbo's population, and the whole place is eerily dark when there is no current. But that was not the case tonight! With the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon playing a match, even an exhibition match, the current was there, and didn't go out until after the game ended. We take soccer seriously here.

I was almost home when a most amazing thing happened: I knew, without listening to the radio or watching television, that Cameroon had scored a goal. The entire Kumbo valley let out a celebratory roar. I felt a little like the Grinch listening to the whos down in Whoville. It was almost 9 pm, when most people are at home and asleep because light costs money, and money is scarce. But tonight, the whole town was up and watching. You can believe the whole country was up and watching: watching an exhibition game, with no real consequences for a win or a loss, and cheering so loud at a goal that it could be heard miles up the hill. That sound just filled the whole valley, coming from every house with a light on inside. It kind of gives a different spin to the oft heard "we are together."

If this is what happens for an exhibition match, it will certainly be interesting to see what happens for the World Cup matches, set to begin in a few short weeks.

FYI, the match ended in a draw, 2-2.

-Eric

Friday, June 13, 2014

Fatherhood



Our Father:

A child of Nso' would never say "my father," but always "our father." Even if one is an only child, one speaks of "our father," as the father is a father to all. I think about that often as we pray the Our Father at Mass. This has even led to some trouble with Bible Translation, as Jesus speaks of "My Father." There is no easy way to translate "my father" into Lamnso', there are no words for it. Well, I suppose there are words, but they make no sense to Nso' ears. They use an awkward workaround in translation.

Of course, my idea of fatherhood and this culture's idea of fatherhood are undoubtedly different. Both are probably different from fatherhood in Jesus' day and age. Every day and age is Christ's, but you know what I mean.

But there is a universality to fatherhood as well, rooted in our universal Father. Our Father. The Father.

-Eric
(Pictured: Our Father, Shufai Ndzendzev. He's the second biggest traditional ruler in town, second to the the Fon)