Monday, July 1, 2013

Arrival in Cameroon

We have arrived in Kumbo safely, and there is so much to share about our journey here. Where to start? Everything has gone well, at least as well as could be expected.

The Douala airport was exactly as advertised by veteran Lay Mission-Helpers: rundown and hectic. The bishop's driver, Alfred, met us outside of "customs," greeted us and helped us with our bags.  Then came our introduction to Cameroonian car travel. There is a road, or at least something resembling a road, and you ride in a vehicle, at least something resembling a vehicle, but that's about as far as the similarities go with my previous experience. We trusted in Alfred, who saw us safe to a Guest House next to the Cathedral in Douala. There we spent our first night in Cameroon, and after the kids fell asleep Logan and I stayed up talking about the fact that we were finally here, finally starting our mission, that we were now beginning what we had spent months training for, and years preparing and discerning. It had not really sunk it that it was all really happening, and in some way it still hasn't.

The next morning after running a few errands, we were on our way to Bamenda. It is supposedly a five hour drive, but I have no idea how long it took us.   We stopped to buy fruit and other supplies that Alfred told us were either not available in Kumbo, or were cheaper there than in Kumbo. We climbed up and up into the mountains, and the scenery got more and more breathtaking. The land here is both foreign and familiar: everything is new, but in a way it feels like coming home.

In Bamenda we were greeted by the Newburn family  LMH-ers who have been here a year. It was wonderful to meet them and compare notes about our experiences of training and traveling, to hear their advice and tips and stories. We even shared some Cameroon stories of our own. It doesn't take long in Cameroon before you start collecting stories to tell!

The highlight of the visit was maybe the hot shower, our last (so far... our house has a hot water heater, but we have yet to finagle it to operational status).

While Logan and the children slept in, I went to Mass with Joy Newburn. We were early and waited outside until the door was unlocked. While we were waiting, a sister arrived and I was introduced. The sister then asked me, "Are you tanyi?" (pronounced roughly Tah-nee). I said yes, as I had been prepared by some Cameroonians I met in the states that I would be called this. It means father of twins (manyi is mother of twins).

After Mass, I was invited by Pete Newburn to record a radio show with him and a Cameroonian youth minister about World Youth Day. That was unexpected but fun. Meanwhile Logan went out to buy Cameroonian phones for us. She got back, and we saddled up and made for Kumbo. The land was even more beautiful than the day before, with jutting rock outcroppings (why didn't I bring my rock climbing shoes?) and beautiful valleys. In every town there were people selling mangoes, pears (which we call avocados), ground nuts (peanuts), and more.

By early afternoon we were in Kumbo, and were treated to lunch in the Bishop's house with two priests, the Chancellor, Fr. Gordian, and Fr. Athanasius. Then we (at last) were brought to our home on the grounds of Saint Augustine College. So we began the long, slow process of moving in, cleaning up, and getting used to life in Cameroon.  School does not start until September, so we have much time until then where we will learn more about the culture and this way of life. I am sure we will share more here as we learn it.

It felt very good to finally be home.

In the morning our fellow LMH-er Debbie Bauer arrived with Fr. Paul to pick me up for the Diaconal Ordination Mass. (She had met us the night before and stayed for dinner). The ordination Mass was an experience in itself, and hopefully I can write more about it later. Speaking with the Bishop after the fact, he characterized the Ordination Mass as "low key." It was over three hours long, included prayers and hymns and announcements in nine different languages, and the offertory procession was 45 minutes long (which I'm told is short, as Fr. Paul made sure things moved along quickly).

In the afternoon I took Max and James to the Market to get a few essential supplies, including an Iron (14,500 Central African Francs, or $29) and a big plastic washtub for bathing (2,500 F, or $5) and a few small things. I was hesitant to buy the rest that we needed, because of my lack of experience and not knowing the value of a Franc. Incidentally, the value of a Franc (as far as I know it) is: not much. But the value of 100 Francs (20 US cents) is... half a minute of a call to the US or Europe, OR a cab ride with 9 of your closest friends between destinations in town, OR a bulb of garlic...though I don't know if I'm getting ripped off with the garlic. I probably am.

Our first Sunday in Cameroon has to have been one of the most exhausting Sabbaths I have ever had. We walked to Church, but since we didn't want to go to the only and early Mass in the neighborhood, we walked to the Cathedral.  I had made the same trip with the boys the day before, and thought it would take us twenty minutes or so... well, we left twenty minutes later than we intended, and it took 15 minutes longer than I thought it would, and we were late to Mass. Oh, well. On the way back home, we found out why many Cameroonians have such well-defined legs and derrieres: their daily commute is a stairmaster workout. Going down the hill was long but easy, going up it was difficult. The kids made it, and so did the parents. Then came making lunch... then dinner... and cleaning up... We tried to only do necessary work, as it was Sunday and the Sabbath. So, no laundry or ironing, no house organizing, just survival things like getting our water filter set up (finally!) and cooking and dishes and kid maintenance, etc. etc. etc.

One of the highlights of the weekend was meeting the neighbors. There are many small children in the neighborhood, and our kids loved to play with them and climb trees together. Tonight as I put her to bed I asked Helena one thing she likes about Cameroon so far, and she told me "playing with my new friends."

We are learning to live here, we are meeting new people, we are making mistakes, we are making new friends, we are enjoying success. God has been so good to us, and we are grateful for the gift and challenge it has been these few days to live in Cameroon. Please pray for us, and know that we are praying for you!



  1. I'm glad to see you arrived!

    Hugs for everyone! I love you!

  2. This is so awesome and exciting! Keep writing and I demand to see more pictures!

  3. It is so good to read you calling Kumbo, HOME! I know you will do well. Count on our prayers. Hugs to everybody <3

  4. "I don't know if I'm getting ripped off with the garlic. I probably am." :)
    I am with Bess, this is so awesome and exciting! I am blessed to share in these recounts and I feel like I am there with you. More prayers from VA

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  6. How wonderful everything sounds. I am so happy for you all - my grandmotherly fears are abating with every word you write.
    Mom (Katie)

  7. Love you guys! Can't wait to hear all the tales of adventure you are about to embark on. Be assured of my prayers. :)

    Liz (Koch) Robens

  8. Wahoo, what an adventure!! So exciting that it is finally happening! We miss you all, but we're excited for your work over there. Many prayers coming your way! -Kim C