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.