Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Faces In The Neighborhood

I remember being friendly with the workers in the grocery store in Los Alamos. There was even one man who worked in the produce section that was a member of our church, and with whom I would talk theology and philosophy and poetry while looking for ripe avocados. Well, we're friendly with the various store clerks here, and while I haven't really talked about poetry with anybody, the subject of God comes up often!

Here are some of the people we buy from in Junction:

These are the men from the "Muslim store." They are devout Muslims, and close down on Friday afternoons. We buy certain things from them if we don't have to go all the way into town, where there is a better supermarket. Tanimu loves to greet our children, and always calls me Pa James.
Now, if we want to buy wine in Junction, you have to go across the street to Aristide's. He's Catholic, and we see him in Church if we go to the local parish on Sunday.  He also raises chickens for their eggs, and his eggs are usually better than the others you can buy in town. Not as good as the eggs from our own chickens, though.

Once we have worked up an appetite shopping, we buy a few sticks of soya from Idrisu. He is another Muslim, and he only speaks Pidgin or Lamnso' to us. I don't always understand what he says, but it's a good way to learn! He wants us to name the new baby a Lamnso' name, "Nyuydze." He says, "Nyuydze: e mean, God dey." (Nyuydze, it means: God is.)
While community looks different in different cultures, we are blessed to know all these people and live in community with them. We are together, as they say here.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hard Work

If you've ever wondered what the Cameroonian way of doing something, just imagine the most difficult, back-breaking, time-consuming, and most importantly CHEAP way, and you're probably on the right track. I am not trying to be disparaging, the simple truth is that where people here lack in monetary capital, they make up for it with their own labor. The easy way is avoided for the cheap or free way.

How do you make gravel? You sit down on a pile of big rocks and hit them with a hammer until you are sitting on a pile of much smaller rocks. How do you till your field? With a bent, backwards shovel. What's for dinner? Njamma njamma, a green that you spend two and a half hours harvesting and picking through before you even get to the point of cooking. And how do you save your corn once you have harvested it? By scraping off every kernel with your hands.

Because we harvested corn this year, and because we can't possibly eat it all, we also have to scrape off all the corn. It's a family affair. We don't even have that much, because we don't have to grow all we eat. We're "rich" enough to be able to buy the food we need.

Our garden has been helping our diet. It's wonderful knowing where your food comes from. The carrots don't have an "organic" label when we pull them out of the ground, but they are delicious. We've recently been transitioning our garden for the dry season: planting where there is sun (because most of our rainy season garden is mostly in the shade now), planting close to the tap so we can water the plants, planting crops that can deal with the drought, etc.

We've planted cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, some melons and pumpkins and cucumber, more cilantro and radishes beets and carrots and leeks and even a few eggplants. And garlic! And onions, and green beans, and tomatoes... and don't forget the wheat! I hope the goats don't eat it all before we can get a fence up. We have a fence around our main garden now, but the goats are already into the wheat field.

We're trying to grow some fruit trees and vines, for us and for the future occupants of this house. We're also working on the flowers around our house and in our courtyard, taking cuttings and sticking them in the ground... they just grow! There's so much rain, plants can really take off without much help. The soil isn't always great, and is often depleted and needs a lot of manure to help it take off, but you can't argue with the climate.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Back To School Update

We are back to work! The long holiday is over. The students are in school, we are teaching classes. I am teaching Form I and II mathematics again, and Logan is teaching Form I English and is the Librarian. It's handy to have a year of experience, because we have been able to approach our work with less confusion. I have been able to start the year off on a good note, discipline-wise, and we're diving right into the curriculum... this year I actually have a copy of the curriculum! That helps.  The final timetable still has yet to be published, but we have a working copy and there will hopefully only be minor changes.

What is amazing to me is how much of what bothered me last year, I take in stride this year. No school calendar published? No problem. No staff meeting until the work day before students arrive? No problem. No timetable worked out until the second or third week of classes? No problem. Feeling like nobody addresses any problems proactively, but only reacts to the problem at hand? Well, that's just the way we do things here. In some ways, that's totally frustrating, but in others it is remarkably freeing.

Our children are schooling at the local Catholic primary school, and this time it's all four of the older kids. Sally stays home with Mom, Dad, and/or Ma Marcel. Ma Marcel has been a godsend during the start of the school year by keeping our household running smoothly, which has enabled us to focus on teaching, preparing lessons, that kind of thing.

We had a little birthday party for Helena and James, and it was a success. We had a local woman make us lots of little appetizer-like foods, Logan made a cake, and I organized some games and activities. We managed to find some nice presents for H and J, too, thanks to one of the local missionary families who are packing up and heading back to the States.
1 tennis bal + 2 sticks = African teeball
Let's eat cake!
The power has been off and on, the internet has been in and out, and consequently we've gotten more sleep. I'm feeling great! My radio show has been going well, at least on the Sundays where the station has power. Overall, we are happy to be transitioning into this next period of our missionary life. There is much work to be done, and a lot to look forward to in the coming months.

One last thing: We met Cardinal Tume's Mother! She lives in Kikaikelaki, the next village up the road. We went with the Newburn family, who are LMH missionaries in Bamenda. The Cardinal's Mother is by every account a very old woman (the Cardinal himself is in his 80's), and by some accounts she is the oldest person in the world. She is 117 years old, using the conservative calculations. It's tough to get an exact DOB, as they didn't really have things like birth certificates a hundred years ago. Her name is Catherine, and Logan's first name is Katherine, which only added to the very special moment as the oldest person on Earth asked for God's blessing on one of the youngest people.
Sadly, I missed capturing the moment when the Cardinal's Mother's hands were on Logan's belly during the blessing. But look how great that woman looks! She doesn't look a day older than 87
Hearing the eldest of the world praying in Lamnso' for my own family was a very touching and emotional moment, one of my favorite experiences in Cameroon.