Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Long Rainy Days

Life right now: pretty normal, just everyday life. Ver yo sa', as they say here, or 'for us there is no news.' At least, no bad news. We are doing a few things...

We are teaching “Holiday Classes” to some of the children here on campus. Most are children of other teachers, but some are visiting from the city or the village, staying with Aunty or Uncle until school starts. Our focus is on the three “R's”: Reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic. There are about ten or twelve students that come regularly, M-W-F from 9 AM until noon. It's like our own little one-room schoolhouse! There are plenty of challenges, but we're happy to be doing something during the long holiday. Our first year we had just arrived, and were taking language lessons and getting our sea legs. The second year, Logan was pregnant with Gabe and our housekeeper was on maternity leave, so we had plenty to do. We're also doing school work with our own children. The mixture of ages and abilities keeps us on our toes.
There hasn't been Sunday Mass on campus for several weeks, so we have taken to going to the cathedral, either for the second Mass (9 AM) or the French Mass (11:00 AM).

A knitting craze has swept up our family! Logan and I are both busy on new projects and/or projects that got suspended for a few months. Helena and James are both learning to knit carefully, avoiding and correcting mistakes. When the little kids nap, we'll all sit in the living room and knit and listen to a book on tape. It is relaxing, fun, and productive!

Mangoes are very cheap in the market right now, but I know that one day I will go there and they will all be gone. They come suddenly in May, and leave just as suddenly right about now.

We are right smack in the middle of the rainy season. It is the time of year when it rains... and rains... and rains. Most afternoons, we'll get rain for a few hours. If you're going out, you have to do it in the morning, or else you just get wet. Sometimes it just rains all day and night. The roads and paths are muddy and slippery, the market is a mess. Our kids are enjoying mucking about wearing their second-hand rain boots. Sometimes our clothes on the line just never get dry.

The natural rhythm of the seasons dictates our daily doings. We don't go out as much, because it is raining. When there is work to be done in the garden, we do it. There aren't too many outdoor events this time of year. The long rainy days are good days to sit inside and get work done, or not, and that's what people do.

All this rain means the ground is leached of nutrients, so we have to add more and more to our garden. The zucchini and other cucurbits are finished, we didn't get nearly as much as we had hoped out of them. They were struck by some sort of moldy fungus-y thing. I guess the variety we planted just wasn't suited to the climate. The melons didn't do well at all. We've been harvesting carrots and green beans and peas and green onions as the kitchen needs them. The garbanzo beans are just about ready for harvest. Our regular beans are harvested and half are threshed and ready to be eaten. Our kale and chard have done well, and we're happy for the greens. We're getting ready to plant another round of legumes in August, to take advantage of the rains until things dry up during what we think of as the Fall.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Adventures In Local Foods

I recently learned how to make a local corn porridge they eat here called “pap.” I had heard about it and had resisted trying it because it sounded nasty to me (just the name—pap—yuck), but since it is the main thing they feed to babies here as a first food I figured we'd give it a go in the Horne household, if only for Gabriel. Well, as it turns out we all LOVE it. Ok, Helena says she doesn't like it still. And Eric, well, he eats it out of politeness. But for us that's definitely a go ahead—75% positive rating!

Here are some Henny Penny-like instructions for making pap:

Ma Marcel, our housekeeper, showed me how to make it. First we had to get some corn. We took the last of last year's harvest, and shucked it and then scraped the dried kernels off. Then we took this whole corn and walked a mile to the grinding mill and had the man there crack the corn for us and then we brought it home again and put it all in a bucket of water. Some of the hulls, and a lot of debris, rose to the top and we skimmed all this off and threw it to the chickens, who clucked appreciatively. What remained soaked in the water all night, while in the meantime we made corn husk dolls out of the peels.

The next day we poured off the water and took the soaked corn back again to the mill. The man ground this wet corn very fine and then we walked back to the house and put the ground corn back into the bucket and added some water and stirred it up. We took our fine mesh sieve and slowly poured scoops of this watery corn meal through the sieve until we had sieved all the meal. Everything that passed through was very fine and clouding the water and we threw away all the bran that was too big to pass through the mesh. After that, we let the meal settle to the bottom overnight and the next morning we made the pap.

In the morning the corn was really starting to ferment and I found it fascinating that it doesn't smell sour like sourdough, but rather almost like yogurt. We made a huge bucket-full, because with something so labor intensive you don't want to make it often. Every day you just change the water that rises to the top to keep it from getting too funky. The pap does become progressively more sour; however, on the first day it is very mild.

The best part is after all of the preparations above (including four miles of walking!), the cooking is very fast! You just boil water and add a scoop of pap blended with an equal amount of water and then stir it into the boiling pot. It almost instantly thickens up into a very smooth, almost pudding-like porridge. We eat it with standard oatmeal toppings. I've made it for myself with milk instead of water (the kids don't eat milk) and it really is delicious that way.

I pretty much love the simplicity of life here and the way in which tasks like these occupy so much of our time. I love learning the routines of people's lives in Cameroon; I think it is so important for missionaries to try to understand the work involved in the lives of the poor. Not just for “an experience” to serve themselves, but to truly embrace the work and the struggle of daily life. I think that when you do embrace the struggle you come to love it and respect it too. There is so much dignity in these lives that we think are so poor—I see it in the careful way they work to provide for themselves and their families.