Monday, January 31, 2011
When I go into the bathroom on my hall I turn the light off when I am done. To the girls on my hall: I am not sorry. AUC produces its own electricity which apparently in someone's mind means it is okay for us to waste electricity. The lights in bathrooms and shower rooms are always on. 24/7. When no one is in them! What is the point? So the mold can see itself spread? Lights in certain buildings are left on all the time. Buildings that do not get used at night. Whawt purpose does this serve?
I am not perfect. I am not claiming to be. There are plenty of things I need to change, and I'm working on it. One problem I have is that I forget to unplug my cell phone charger when it is not in use. Even though it is not charging my phone there is still power going to it and therefore it is wasting electricity.
Another thign we are great at wasting is heat. Once again, the college creates it's own heat int eh POWER PLANT we have on campus. Really do we need a power plant? We wouldn't need to generate so much if we didn't waste so much. Heat is constantly radating in our dorms without a way for us to adjust it. This is normal of many college campuses, but it is not necessary. Last year my freind's room got so hot that the Dean was worried it would start a fire. It was so hot in a room over the summer (because the heat was ON) that it tripped the fire alarm and the fire department had to come. Heat on in the summer? Does that make sense to anyone? Rooms in some of the academic buildings get so hot that the only way to have class is to open all of the windows, which is exactly what I have to do in my own room. Why are we allowing the school to waste this much energy? Because we produce it int he power plant on campus therefore we aren't losing money. I do not like that reasoning.
I don't think AUC wastes water. At least we have that going for us. The water coming out of the shower is so cold that people take 60 second showers. No time to waste water. :)
In my own room I have set up paper recycling. I have a huge box where all of my handouts, newspapers, junk mail, flyers etc. collect and then I take the box to be recycled. I want to set up ways for students on campus to recycle. If I can make it easier and convenvint maybe more students would be more liekly to actually do it. There is not any form of recycling established on campus. Everything goes in the trash. All of the soda and juice bottles, all of the cans, the styrofoam plates, cups, bowls...everything.
This past summer I spent time at a school that used compostable and biodegradable cups, plates, flatware etc. Shelby's school composts and recycles everything. As amazing as it would be I do not expect AUC to start recycling and composting but if I can get some sort of recycling program on campus to at least reduce the amount of waste we produce by the smallest percent I would be happy. If we could reduce our carbon footprint by any amount I will have succeeded.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Every time I receive an application from a student that is out it breaks my heart. I realized this today when going over an application. In the time that I have worked in the office we have had a few applicants who are GLB and every time I want to tell them to run away. Due to my job I am unable to do this and I feel guilty. To say that my college is not a GLBT friendly environment would be an understatement. One student I know waited until after he left to come out. Another friend who recently graduated was out to a few people but when homosexuality got brought up in a class one day and the majority of the class essentially declared, without knowing it, that he was going to hell, he sort of shut down.
Being an ally in this environment has not been easy...especially as a theology major. we do not have a Gay Straight-Alliance or a BGLASS or anything of the sort. I have tried to defend and had people look at me like I was hand delivering Satan to campus. There really is not any venue of support on campus. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be a gay man in the dorm.
When an openly bisexual student, who has been involved in the leadership of his school's GSA applies to our small extremely conservative college I want to tell him to run away. It breaks my heart looking over his application because I know that if he does decided to enroll here he will have a battle ahead of him. He should not have to fight to be who he is, but in this cruel world and in our little college bubble he will, and that depresses me immensely.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
The credits I am taking through AUC are some interesting classes. I have Intro to Tennis to fulfill my Life Activity credit, Computers to fulfill that requirement, Spanish (which I am doing independent study), Introduction to American Film and then rounding it off with my last two classes for my major: Revelation and New Testament Epistles. I have shared with some of the Presbys I know the required reading for my Revelation course and they have come up with other books I ought to read to dispell some of the things I will learn in class this semester. My New Testament Epistles class is rather interesting. I need to pick a topic off of a list that the professor provided and by the end of the semester I will have written an 8 page research paper on the topic, as well as multiple article reviews and preached a sermon on the topic.
I have decided that I have kept my radical liberal Presbyterian views quiet for too long. I have not shared what I truly believe and what I truly think in my time here at AUC, and that is about to change. It is my last semester in conservative Adventist land, to to cause a stir. I am not intentionally causing trouble, but once I saw topic number 13 on the list I knew it would be inevitable. Topic 13 is about homosexuality and sexual deviance as portrayed in the New Testament Epistles. He was expecting the homophobic anti-gay sentiment...he is not going to receive that. I raised my man and asked if we could alter a topic on the list. When I explained that I am interested in researching the pro-gay, we're all Christians, it's all love standpoint he agreed. However, looking around the classroom, I was waiting for my classmates to start stoning me.
The first place I plan to go for my research material will be the More Light Presbyterians. I have spent lots of time on their site before and everything is worded perfectly. I need a minimum of eight sources so I will need to find other resources of the same caliber. This could possibly be the one assignment I spend the most amount of time on in my college career. The paper, I believe, will be a lot easier than the sermon I will have to deliver in class. Preaching in front of my classmates makes me immensely nervous due to theological disagreements that I have had with them. For our viewpoints to be so diametrically opposed on this mater only elevates my anxiety.
I have kept my beliefs and opinions of homosexuality and a number of other issues to myself for far too long. I realize this semester I will cause a stir and people will look at me differently, but when this topic is presented to me in such a negative light, I cannot help but choose it and correct it.
Monday, January 17, 2011
When I first started thinking about the possibility of seminary Princeton was at the top of my list. Other schools were added and taken off of the list throughout my research, but Princeton was the one school that always stayed on the list. I've talked to people over the years about Princeton and knew along that is was an amazing school. When I visited last semester I realized that I could truly see myself there. See myself on campus, in the dorms, in classes.
When Shelby was applying to college she tried picturing herself in college and every time she did she pictured herself at Champlain College (Burlington, VT) and when I picture myself in seminary, I picture myself at Princeton. I picture myself studying at a table, drinking tea, in the student center. I picture myself in classes, I picture myself in Chapel. When I picture Seminary, the only seminary I can picture is Princeton.
I've been working endlessly on my Princeton application and yet I am stuck. I had no problem with the question where I had to discuss a current theological issue/event. I wrote about amendment 10A and I'm confident in what I wrote. The part I am having a problem with is a part that previously would have been so easy for me. The autobiographical essay is killing me. I have never had problems writing about my faith. While it is immensely personal I suppose I have always been confident in my beliefs. That is not to say that I am not confident in my beliefs now, but something is blocking when I attempt to answer this question. I do not where to start and what aspects of my faith to explain. I have 28 days left to turn this application in, but I would like to finish it a lot sooner. I would like to have turned it in already but alas I am stuck.
I can picture myself at Princeton. I dream about Princeton. In my head I am formulating my summer around the summer language program. I want to be at Princeton, I need to find a way to unblock myself and finish this application!
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
When I had finished packing on my last day in Bamenda, I sat on my bed in Ma's house and made a few lists. Lists of things I had to declare at customs, a list of things I tried for the first time on this trip:
- Kola Nut
- Bitter Kola
- Fermented Cassava (myobo)
- paw paw
- bone marrow
- palm wine
- ground nuts
Those were only the things I could think of in that moment, there are other things I tried that I didn't write down and because people were feeding us so often there were things I ate without knowing it. In addition to eating things for the first time I also made of list of things I had done for the first time:
- first trip to Africa
- first time in Cameroon
- First time I have ever been called Pastor (in Cameroon if you are studying to be a pastor, they call you pastor which was difficult for me because I don't feel qualified)
- I've never had my picture taken so many times
- First time dining with the head of a political party
- first time I have felt 100% completely totally and utterly confused
- First time watching and participating in traditional African dances.
- First time wearing and owning a traditional African dress
- First time visiting a palace
- first time stuck in a car which was stuck in a ditch
- first time praying over a dying person
- first time blessing a home
The second to last one (First time praying over a dying person) is the one that sticks out when I have reflected on my time in Cameroon. I have been with people that were going to die. I have visited nursing homes. I have prayed with people that were in hospice. But none of those people were facing their death so quickly. The woman I prayed with in Bafut was going to die soon. Essentially she had hours, maybe days. I'm studying and preparing for a life in ministry. I still don't know what aspect of ministry.
Being with this woman and praying with this woman freaked me out. I was petrified. I had never done anything like this and I doubted I could. I was afraid I would say the wrong thing. I was afraid I would pray wrong. I was afraid I would be the last prayer she heard. I was afraid for so many reasons. Then, a little voice in my head said "Let Go and Let God". It's weird that an AA slogan would pop into my head. Maybe it's because I've spent time sitting in on AA meetings and going to Ala-teen, or maybe it was someone specific telling me that. I'm not sure, but the voice was right. That was exactly what I needed to do.
So I let go. So I let God. I'm not really sure what I said. I honestly have no clue. I may have started with Dear God, but I'm not certain. I know that I ended with Amen. I was freaking out for know reason. It wasn't about me. I twas about God! God wasn't going to let me screw it up because God was in control.
Monday, January 10, 2011
We are somewhere over the ocean, but I'm not exactly sure how far out we are. We've been in the air for around four hours I think. I've taken a short nap, watched a movie and am in the middle of watching a second movie. By the time we make it back to Clinton we will have been traveling for around 40 hours. Fun stuff!I'm watching "the social network", about how mark zukerburg created Facebook. I found a quote interesting "Bosnia, they don't have roads but they have Facebook." it reminds me of Cameroon: they don't have running but they have Facebook.
I've moves onto movie number three. It's eat pray love. Oh how I want to travel the world. Julia Roberts' character talks about needing to be unnerved and I feel that way. This trip stretched me so far outside of my comfort zone and I love it. It has me learn about the world around me and about myself. While in Italy she is having to heat up water and pour it into the bathtub to bathe, her version of the bucket baths we have become so accustomed to as of late.
I sort of feel bad for David. He's traveling across the world with three women. He's a gay guy who hasn't dealt with women in years so he is totally weirded out when female topics come up. We try to be delicate and make things less awkward but it doesn't really work. He was brought along to the airport pharmacy when supplies needed to be purchase, but he went unto another store when Cindy went in. We have a twelve hour layover in Zurich so we've been wandering around the airport. He's accompanied us on shopping trips and been a great sport.
Cindy just went to buy a new pair of pants and then to take a shower so we are hanging out in some chairs. For being such a huge international airport, this airport doesn't seem very busy. We left our terminal and went to another so we could go to stores, so now we have Zurich stamped onto our passports. People walking through the airport are wearing winter jackets and it reminds me how odd it's going to be landing in Boston after spending time in Africa.
I have been awake for 19 hours! Woot! So apparently even flights flying out of Douala operate on Cameroonian time. We didn't board the plane until after it was meant to take off. We are flying over Benin right now. They are about to serve us some food which is great because I am hungered.
So after our grand send off we hopped into the van and hit the road for Douala. The chairlady of the congregation came with us to see us off at the airport. Along the way she had us stop a few times to buy produce. She bought sone awesome looking carrots that Shelby and I both thought looked very yummy. According to the travel clinic they're a no-no but I had a ton of salad and other no-no things this week and um doing alright. The ride was a bit crazy, the driver did 120 kilometers in areas that were marked 30 kilometers/hour. I'm nit sure what the kilometer to miles conversion is but I know we were going damn fast. We made it from Bamenda to Douala in five hours and thirteen minutes. Pretty good timing. We stood outside of the airport waiting for Gilbert, Caroline's brother, to come. He came into the airport with us and waited until we could check our baggage and proceed past the first security point. The lady as the swissair desk made Cindy check her carry-on, Cindy wasn't too happy.
Once past that level of security we went upstairs to the airport bar. It was very empty and very sketch. Shelby and I each ordered top grenadine and Dave and Cindy each got castel (the beer of Cameroon). Cindy ordered the seasonal fruit and the brought us a quarter of a watermelon with one fork....so Shelby hacked it up. On this trip every time someone offered Shelby and I wine and beer we said no, but tonight we both had some beer to end the trip.
We finished up in the bar and went to our gate. After waiting in the lounge for several hours, they made us all go out into the hallway and go through another security inspection. This time they took everything out of our carry-ons and examined them and gave us a very thorough pat down. They took away Shelby's knitting needles. A man searched Shelby's bag and apparently he had never seen a tampon before because he examines it thoroughly. We were sent into the lounge to do some more waiting. Finally they allowed us to board the plane! After everyone was on they sprayed the overhead compartments with bug spray. Even though we have left Cameroon I feel that our trip isn't over, there is still time for interesting excitements. I still can't believe our time in Cameroon is over. No more top, no more amazing food, no more feeling like a tourist attraction, it will be good to be home but I'm going to miss it.
My bag is packed. My carry on is packed. Once we all get to the church we will have to rearrange things to fit other things in our bags. Ma has a whole bag of stuff she wants me to send to her son in Texas. I have to talk to Cindy about that. I'm not too sure what we can take into the country. I've made a list of stuff I've bought/received to make declaring things at customs easier: a palm broom, a necklace, a bracelet, two dresses, a bag, a chalice, and a wooden bowl. Half of those gifts were given to me last night at our send off party. We gathered with the pastor, all of the elders, and our hosts for dinner and celebrations. The wine (both grape and palm) were flowing as was the beer and soda. There was a great feast prepared. The church presented Shelby, Cindy and I with amazing dresses and Dave received a matching shirt. The are so beautiful! Ma designed them and they all fit perfectly. We will wear them to church on Sunday. Erica came to say goodbye and gave both Shelby and I matching necklaces and gave each of us a bracelet. My bracelet is beaded and has my name beaded into it. With our dresses we were also given bags (from Prescraft) that say greetings from Cameroon. The church embroidered them with "PC Musang" on the bottom. They also gave us wooden bowls with loaves and fish burned into them. Everything was so beautiful and so generous.
Two million pictures were taken of us an with us last night. I an certain more will be taken today. When we gather at the church some people will be there to say goodbye. The chairlady (their equivalent to the clerk of session) will go with us to Douala to make sure we get to the airport and see us off. Our time here has been so amazing and I do not want it to end.
In twenty four hours I will be sitting on an airplane, waiting for it to take off. I do not want to leave! Field Ed option maybe?
Today was a fabulous way to end this trip. Ma took me to the church and Cindy and Shelby were there waiting. Cindy hadn't eaten breakfast so we all went back to Ma's house and she fed Cindy. We went back to the church and waited some more for David. When David arrived, the four white people got into the hotel van with the driver and Divine. Divine is a member of the church and has been videotaping us the entire time. It's like being famous.
The driver dropped us off at Presbook. This is the Presbyterian run book store. I think we were hoping for like worship resources or something similar but mainly they had the textbooks for the Presbyterian schools. David picked up a new bible, Shelby and I got daily lectionaries and Cindy got the Presbyterian church in Cameroon version of the book of common services. From there we went to prescraft. This is a handicraft store that has amazing things in it. Pottery, jewelry, masks, baskets, knives, all sorts of amazing handmade items. I got a chalice with a cross, Α and Ω on the front. The group said I need it for when I become a pastor. Next was Prescafe. Cindy, Dave and shelby all got cappuccino but I ordered a glass of folery juice. It looks like wine but tastes like an odd mix of fruits. Sort of has a vanilla hint in it as well. Once we were done resting we walked down the street to the central market.
It was the same market I went to with Ma but we stuck to the fabric and dress section. There's so many amazing colors and prints and fabrics. The dresses are pieces of art. Cindy got a dress for each of her step daughters, Shelby bought a shirt for Scott, a shirt for herself and two different fabrics that can be made into things. There was a fabric with a rooster and hens and when we saw it dave had to buy it. Pastor Julius has been referring to David as the cock among the hens because he's the only guy. The fabric was a message from god:)
After the market we took a taxi back to the church. For us it was so much but we realize that for anyone who lives in Bamenda it's no big deal. We had six people in the taxi and we had to flag it down so it was fun for us. From the church we went to Ma's house where she fed us all lunch. Then it was back to the manse for a little while. I went back to Shelby's host house to see where they lived. It's a beautiful two story compound. Very ritzy for Bamenda.
Whoa! Today is my last day in Bamenda. We've been here for five days and it has gone by so fast. I'm not ready for it to end. Tomorrow around 9:00 AM we will meet to head to Douala. Our plane will take off from Douala at 11:40 PM and we will have to sat goodbye to Cameroon.
Spending time here and seeing how people live has made me want to reexamine some things in my life when we get home. We have seen different levels of society in our tine in Cameroon. In Nkikoh homes did not have electricity or running water. Here in Bamenda homes have electricity. The house I am currently staying in has Internet but no running water. We've been to Fru Ndi's compound which is amazing and to the royal palace in Bafut.
When I next come to Cameroon (and I hope there will be a next time) I will pack very differently. I will absolutely not pack anything white...the dust turns it red. I don't need long sleeve shirts, a sweatshirt does just fine. It us not as hot as they made it out to br so I can reduce the number of things I brought to wear. I will have business cards with all if my info on them because everyone wants our addresses, emails, and even Facebook. I will bring things like chewing gum for all the kids fascinated by my skin. Though it's a pain I will use a suitcase instead of my bag because it is hard to take clothes out of the bag. I will also bring an extra bag for the things I bring back.
So apparently there isn't enough time left to get my hair braided (or as Ma calls it plaited). This makes me sad but it's true. Tomorrow is our last day in Bamenda. Thursday morning we drive down to Douala and wait at the airport for our flight to Zurich. Not that we actually know how we are getting to Douala. I'm wearing shorts on Thursday and changing in Zurich. There is no way I am wearing pants in Douala again!
Everyone wants us to stay longer. I absolutely want to come back. The people here are fantastic and would kill me dead if I don't return. I love my host mom. I want to stay in contact with her, she's just so amazing. When I get married, she is so invited. Which reminds me I want to ask about traditional Cameroonian bridal dresses. All of the other clothes are art, I can only image a dress of that magnitude. I want Cameroonian dresses for my wedding, it is decided!
Tomorrow I have to be at the manse at eight in the morning, which Ma thinks is Crazy. We are going to the Presbyterian bookstore and handicraft store. We also have dinner with all the hosts and elders tomorrow night. I'm not sure what else is scheduled but Ma really wants to take me to her village too. It's going to be exciting regardless.
American schools don't know how good they have it. Today Ma took me to the government bilingual high school, which is one of her many jobs. When I told her there were thirty students in classes in America's public schools she laughed. The class I visited had 135 students in it. 135 in one class room! That grade has six classes of over one hundred students each! The vice principal of the school had me introduce myself. Essentially I told them my name, where I am from, that it is my first time in Africa and that I love Cameroon. They laughed after that. We stopped at the library to greet someone. It is disgusting how few books they have. When I get home I want to look into some way to ship books over here. I'm too poor to do it myself but I wonder if there is some resource. I'm also going to contact the Presbyterian Church Young Adult Volunteers. There are many things here that would be great for the program. When we left the school there were children on the side of the road cutting grass. Apparently that is a punishment here, instead of detention you do manual labor if you act up. They also hit students here. A flick to the neck or a cuff to the back of the head.
After school we went to the central market. There are people selling everything there! It's aisle upon aisle of stall upon stall. We stopped at ones that sold medicine and hygiene supplies to get stuff for the store. She bought a thing of ten packs of sanitary napkins and had me carry them around (because I am part of the business now). It's odd, in America I would be so embarrassed being seen carrying around this passive thing of feminine hygiene supplies, but not in Cameroon. We brought the purchases back to the shop and stayed there for a little while. Shelby's host is also a teacher but she had a staff meeting so she dropped Shelbs off at the shop. Because it was the first time I'd seen Shelbs since we got new hosts I told her all about Ma and she told be all about Evelyn. Ma supplied us with coffee flavored candies and groundnuts (peanuts).
We both love our second hosts. Evelyn goes to sleep early, does force food or alcohol, and Shelby has her own bathroom with a shower there. We are a lot more comfortable bow than when we went with our first hosts. Both of our hosts are teachers and speak very clear English which makes things easier.
At noon we walked over to the church manse. Ma's shop is just across the street so it was not a scary walk. There David was waiting and we found out about his second host. Emmanuel is more hands-on than his first host, Thomas, which took some getting used to. David is staying in a hotel that hist host owns and his breakfast was delivered by room service. We got in the van, provided by the hotel Emmanuel owns and went to Fru Ndi's compound to pick up Cindy. Once we were all together we headed to Bafut.
In Bafut we went to the palace. You have to pay to take pictures in the palace so Cindy took all the pictures. There is a museum in the palace so we went through that. As we were leaving, people living in the palace set up handicrafts to sell. I got a necklace, David got a cup (which will be our new communion chalice) and Cindy and Shelby both bought masks.
When we got back to Bamenda the girls stayed at the manse for a little while. We had drinks and watched pastor Julius register people. People here have to register as members of the church at the beginning of every year. Then the elder who is head of the Christian youth fellowship (their youth group) came in to talk to Shelby and I about youth work and youth activities. He was surprised by what we said about our lack if youth involvement in our church and in our area. When he left Cindy, Shelby an I went and checked out the Sunday school room where the children's choir was practicing. When Evelyn came to pick up Shelby I walked over to the shop.
I love that the little kids are so excited by the color of my skin (or lack of color). One child started shouting "white man" and Ma apologized profusely. It doesn't bother me. I'm sure if a little white kid saw a black person for the first time they'd do the same thing. The fact that people love my hair is interesting. I told Ma that I don't get it. I wish my hair could do things their hair does so she said she will try to get some one to braid my hair before I leave. I hope there is enough time.
Transitioning to the second host was a lot less scary. Maybe the scary part the first time was the fact that I was unaware of the fact that we were being separated. But unlike last time I am not freaking out at all this time.
Today we had lunch with Fru Ndi. When planning this trip I dot think anyone thought we'd meet the head opposition of the president of Cameroon. Never mind meeting him, we have been his personal guests for meals twice and pastor Cindy is staying at his home. I ate lunch today on Fru Ndi's left hand. There's something cool about dining and laughing with a powerful political figure in their country, in their home. He is such a kind and hospitable guy too.
The last thing I did with Emelia was visit the treasury. I was introduced to everyone there! I feel like a tourist attraction more than a tourist. The head of finance (our version would be secretary of the treasury) was very interested in me. He's one of those guys that believes Prayer can heal everything. He gave me his personal cell phone number and if I ever need prayer I am to call him and he will pray with me over the phone because god's healing power is wireless. He also offered to e my daddy and said I am welcome to cone back to Cameroon any time I want and stay with him...awkward.
My new host is Rosa. Everyone calls her Ma. That's because she is everyone's mother. She says she has taken care of 60 children all together. SHe had seven of her own and then has taken in other children who has needed family. She provides for them all and good educations too. She is the treasurer for the church. Of course she's also in the Christian Women's fellowship. She works as a teacher in the local government school. Her classes have 100 kids in them. She said she will take me to see the school. She also own a business in town and sells all kinds of things, but mainly medications. She also farms like all the vegetables they use. She believes in only buying what you can't produce yourself.
Today we went to her store and I sat there and watched as she gave advice to customers. Then we went back to the compound and picked up her daughter and her daughters friend. They go to the Presbyterian secondary school. It's a boarding school and today was the day to go back. All of the children here uniform and the color of the uniform dictates their year. All if the children are also required to shave their head. Their hair can't be longer than a pencil tip.
Later we went back to the store and talked for a long time. Back at the house there was more talking. I really like Ma and she offered to be my momma. Tomorrow is Bafut with the whole group and I'm hoping Ma takes me to the school.
Breakfast this morning was pepper soup, yam, and meat. I ate goat meat and they gave me pork. It wasn't just pork...it was a pig leg, skin and everything. That was hard to do. I also had a fruit called pawpaw. Emelia decided not to wake me up this morning for the prayer meeting. I was glad because I was sound asleep at 5:30.
Erica washed the car and we talked about the differences in education in our countries. Derek had breakfast with us and asked all about my time here. He is studying in Amsterdam so he has a different perspective. He wants to skype when I get back home.Emelia went to a funeral and Erica and I stayed at the house and have been watching American music videos. She has so many of them on a DVD. She is obsessed with American music. I plan to send her some stuff once I get back to the states. Soon we will walk up to the church to meet the rest of the group. I think she's planning to show me around on our way there. People are fascinated by the color of my skin, when we go places people point and say things like "white" or "white man". It's so interesting.
When we meet at the manse we will go to Fru Ndi's house for lunch. Fru Ndi is Cindy's next house. That shall be interesting: spending three days living with the leader of the oppositional party. I enjoy when they start talking politics and theology. We shall see what today's conversation will entail.
I'm sort of nervous about going to the next house. I'm just now getting use to this house. It's hard to get used to so many changes all at once. Shelby was near tears last night and I was yesterday afternoon. A change in time, place, people, culture, language, food, climate, experiences, even our bodies are changing. It's all at the same time and its scary, confusing and a whole slew of other sentiments.
This trip is a series of many firsts. My first trip to Africa, my first time leaving north America, my first transcontinental flight, first time eating many different foods (like kola nut, palm wine, bush meat, etc.) first time at a traditional dance and other cultural firsts. Today I had another first the was more of a career first. When we were leaving Bafut (which I will explain later) we stopped at the home of someone who was sick. It turns out that she is dying. They believe she has cancer but she has nor been taken to hospital. She is very near death. In Cameroon they view me as a pastor. They found out I plan to be a pastor and am studying religion so I am a sort of a junior pastor in ways. They've had me say grace (which I have done many times before so I am used to it), bless a home (I don't really know what to do so I prayed for the family, and now pray over a dying woman. I have never done that before and internally I was FREAKING OUT!!!!!!!! What if she dies soon after? What if this is the last prayer she hears? What if I mess it up? Can I do this? Am I qualified for this? So many questions were going through my head, but I was put on the spot and the woman, her friends and her grandson were waiting for me to pray over her so I prayed. I told Cindy about it when I got back to Bamenda and she was proud of me. I'm still not sure what to think.
This morning we attended church and it was very interesting. There was the baptism of three children, the presentation of new babies, and the blessing of marriages. These aren't done in our tradition so it was great to watch. Shelby, David and I were brought into the Sunday school class. It is huge! Hundreds of kids! They sang to us and applauded when we entered the room. Faith saw me and ran up to us. She sat on my lap/leaned against my legs while we were there. Shelby was jealous of my special friend. Once the service ended everyone wanted to have their picture taken with us. I felt like a tourist attraction. I have never had my picture taken so many times in my life.
Once we left the church, we went to the home of the family that had the baptized children. They feed us (of course) and Clara, Shelby's host, had me try something new. It was fermented casaba wrapped in banana leaves. It was an interesting gelatinous texture.
When our group left the party, smells said we would head to her village in Bafut. First we drove to the market and bought a bag of salt. The market was interesting and very busy. Crossing the street was dangerous. The people here are so intrigued by the color of my skin. A boy was starring at me and tripped. We went to the home of emelia's junior brother. There I was fed again and had palm wine. I tried a sip of it in Nkikoh. This kind is different. This was the knock you on your ass variety. When we first arrived, the women danced around me and embraced me. It was confusing but cool. While there I saw communism at it's most pure form. The bag of salt we brought was placed with palm oil. After the meal the salt was dumped into a bucket and the palm oil poured into a bowl. Then they are both evenly distributed throughout all of the family. They ring what they have and take what they need. It was awesome to watch. They presented me with a broom made of palms. Hopefully customs won't take it away.
Tonight we had dinner at grace's house. Shelby and I basically stalked Ryan, trying to take millions of pictures. Ryan's mom and dad are members of our church but Ryan is living here in Bamenda with his grandmother, Grace. Caroline and George asked us to take pictures of him because they miss him. After spending time there Emelia and I came back to her house. Erica and I talked more about the difference between Cameroon and USA. Specifically we talked about products like shampoo, nair, and razors. I took my shower and attempted to bathe the dust off and then finished off the night with conversation with Erica and watching music videos with her.
Tomorrow morning, at 5:30 AM, Emelia is taking me to a prayer service. Hopefully I will stay awake. Shelby is going to the local school where he host teaches, in a bit jealous. At 12:30 we switch to our second hosts. We are also once again the personal guests of Fru Ndi. We were trying to figure out who he would be equal to in USA and we think someone like Martin Luther king Jr or maybe Malcolm X.Tomorrow should be yet another series of adventures.
I am not sure where to start when describing today. So naturally I will start at the beginning. Showering this morning was something special. I could not for the life of me figure out how to shower properly. Ultimately I ended up sticking my head in the bucket of water and then shampooing and then sticking my head back in. When I showered tonight I figured it out and showered more easily.
This morning I was not feeling well. My stomach was nauseous and when I went to eat breakfast I couldn't eat because I thought I would get sick. I felt bad because Erica made eggs. Emelia and I went off to church. We were a few minutes late and had to wait outside until we could go in. Dave, Shelby and I were seated on the chancel and Cindy was sitting between the pastors. Everyone was very friendly. I have never had my hand shaken so many times. After church we went to the manse. We were fed lunch. I only had some rice because I still felt nauseous. Next I went back to Emelia's house. Erica wanted to make me lunch but I wasn't feeling up to eating. After a while she came out with a snack and so I had that. I feel bad saying no every time they offer it but either I feel sick or I'm full. I need to take really small portions tomorrow and see how that goes. I have had more soda to drink while in Cameroon thus far than I have in like a year.
At 12:30 we went to the chairman's house. He is Fru Ndi John. By chairman I mean the head and founder of the oppositional party that is trying to remove the president and by house I mean compound. Shelby compared sitting in his house to visiting the senator. While there, a group of Catholics from Detroit came by. We compared notes about our journeys to Bamenda. The chairman fed us and once again I only took small amounts. I sat next to one of the pastors. Cindy, the chairman, and the two pastors got into a Theological discussion which I loved. We were invited by the chairman to attend a traditional dance in a town called Santa. People were in their traditional dress and doing tribal dances. We danced for the king! It was amazing. The music, the dancing, the colors, it was all so good. It was like a native American powwow but African. After that is was back to the chairmans house for drinks and more food. The Ginger ale here is amazing and super gingery. Amazing! Pastor Julius drive Cindy and I back to the church manse. Emelia picked me up there and brought me back to her house. One of her friends wanted her to come down so we walked down. She offered me food and drink. I turned down the food but accepted a soda. After a while she insisted I eat something so I agreed. I ended up having goat stew. When we came back I stood outside with Erica talking. She couldn't believe that before coming to Cameroon I had never seen a palm tree and half only seen pineapples in the supermarket.
Faith saw me brushing my hair tonight and she was amazed. Her eyes were like saucers. After my shower I was sitting on my bed with Erica and she touched my hair. They are fascinated by it. Erica and I talked about Obama and the president of Cameroon. She told me all about how corrupt their president is. She also thought that the USA is a continent. So we did a rough geography lesson. She also told me about yaounde and how beautiful it is. Tomorrow is church and dinner with Grace. If they don't have plans for us for after church, Amelia and Erica are going to take ne to Bafunda.
Comfort zone is totally gone. Today has been a roller coaster of emotions.
After breakfast we went to the home patience grew up in. We met her letter brothers and was shown how they harvest coffee. Cindy, Shelby and I decided to walk back to Joseph's compound. It did not take very long but we really liked it. When we got back we wanted to find mishpah to give her a gift. We were brought into the kitchen. The kitchen is a house by itself. There is a fire to cook on and a place to prepare foods. The whole Inside is black. Mishpah loved the necklace.
From there we got into the truck and Jerry drove us to Melong. Another crazy ride on the bumpy roads. Shelby and I fell asleep and got tossed around a bit. Cindy recorded it. How is it that I cannot fall asleep on the airplane but the bumpy horrible near-impassible roads are nothing?? In melong we got into a new car and jerry drove patience and the kids back to Nkikoh. The new driver drove us to Bamenda. The ride was painful. For some reason my ribs on my right side were in serious pain as was my left shoulder. But we made it to Bamenda alive. Bamenda is sort of frightening. So many people, scary driving, noise,chaos Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! We pulled off to the side and Grace came to save us. The pastor of the church arrived and took us to the manse. They fed us (surprise) and introduced us. We were expecting there to be a service tonight but that is not the case. The pastor then told us where we would be staying. They put us in four different houses which scared me initially. I thought Shelby and I were staying together but nope so I was kinda worried.
The village I am in is called Malong. I am staying with Emelia and her family. She used to work for the treasury but now she is retired. Almost immediately upon arriving at Amelia's house I made a friend. Faith is 4 years old. Her mother is no longer alive so Emelia takes care of her and her five year old brother Desmond. She is a lot of fun and so adorable. She sang me a rhyme.
Emelia has three children. The oldest is a girl I have not met. The middle child is a boy. I don't remember his name at the moment but he is studying in amsterdam to be a physical therapist. The youngest is Erica. We spent s lot of time talking tonight. She is twenty. She really wants to leave Cameroon. She wanted to go to Boston University to study but her mother wouldn't allow it. She study medical technology at the local college. I told her she should come visit. We talked a lot about the differences between America and Cameroon. She showed me pictures of her family and I showed her the few pictures I had on my iPod. When she was younger she thought White people didn't die. She also thought she would marry a White guy. When I first got to the house it was super awkward and I want sure this was going to work out. It is really out of my comfort zone but hey it needed to be expanded. In twenty minutes it will be 2011. But I am going to sleep because I an tired. I didn't realise traveling was so exhausting.
Day 4? They sort of all blur
Shelby and I just woke up and got ready for the day. I'm in Africa and I'm cold. What is this? I'm on the freaking equator. I slept in a sweatshirt last night and now I have jeans and a sweatshirt on. The rooster is something else. It makes sure you know when to get up. And I swear it's just walking around the house checking on us.
There's an interesting religious dynamic in village life. They are Christians. That is a fact. The Nkikko village is all Presbyterian, a Presbyterian village. But at the same time they acknowledge the ancestors in the winds. Yesterday the kola nuts we smashed to see if the ancestors approved. Three nuts were smashed, one for each member of the trinity. The pieces were rolled out and it turns out that the ancestors approve and will provide us safe travel home. We all ate a piece of the kola nut. It did not taste good...but as Shelby put it this morning "we couldn't not eat it, it was Jesus!"
"he who brings kola nut brings life."
They keep trying to feed us. At breakfast this morning Joseph informed me that I had the smallest amount to eat at dinner last night. We told to go up and get seconds at almost every meal. The food is amazing but there is so much. And I found out what the weird bread we bought on the road yesterday was...it's a soft sweet bread they serve as like a sandwich with chocolate. We walked up to the church at twelve and had lunch with the pastor. We shared a kola nut , which Is what coke is made out of...does not taste the same!! It seems that the majority of the food people serve is the same. There's always the spinach dish, fried chicken, rice, stew, potato, fufu. At lunch they added the cabbage dish. They are surprised that we know what the dishes are and that we've had them. I have had the salad multiple times now and haven't died so I'm not worried about it. Silly travel clinic. Soda is a huge thing, but I'm not sure if it is a regular occurrence or if it is because we are guests. The soda Is tasty but we'd be perfectly happy with bottles of water. After lunch we processed into the church. The church is one room with a corrugated tin roof that isn't fully attached. We sat near the front. The Women's Christian group sang as we marched in. During the service there was a lot of singing and dancing...it was great. Cindy preached the sermon, which was good but I wanted to hear a true Cameroonian sermon. At the end of the service gifts were exchanged. The congregation gave Shelbs, Cindy and I dresses!!!!!! Our gifts to them suck in comparison.
Next we got in our truck and headed down the bumpy road to Bangem. It's a primarily catholic town with the little Presbyterian church off to the side. This is the church we have had a relationship with for years. We plan on strengthening the relationship when we get back. During the service we lost electricity so we sang in the dark. Instead of a traditional service it was singing, dancing, and introductions. While we were at the service I started thinking about how the Presbyterian church's young adult volunteer program should be working in cameroon. The ride back to Nkikoh was kinda scary in the dark but we made it back in one piece. They are working hard to raise money to fix the roads, Joseph informed us. Back at the compound we were offered more food again. Shelby and I settled for just some fresh pineapple and papaya.
Shelby and I are in an awkward situation. We aren't males so socialising with them is awkward, but at the same time we are in official positions which makes it weird for socialising with the women. We aren't really sure what to do about it. It will be interesting to see if this changes when we get to Bamenda tomorrow. We love Joseph's brother David. It is really great. He jumps to get us anything. We invited him to come visit us in America.
Tomorrow we will have breakfast, visit some more and then drive to mundong. From there we get in a different car to trek up to Bamenda and face a new village.
I love the sounds of Cameroon. We wake up to the rooster in the early morning...and it continues crowing for a long time. We hear the goats bleating, the kids laughing and playing, the women talking, the breeze blowing and the motorbikes driving past.Showering was an adventure this morning. To use the toilet you have to fill a bucket with water and pour it into the tank before you can flush.
Day two (Limbe to Nkikoh)
Our day started bright and early at 8:30. It doesn't seem that early but with all of the traveling it felt it. At 9:30 we were meant to go to breakfast, but seeing as we are on Cameroon time, it was a little after 10:00. We drove from the hotel to another house in Limbe. This time it was Daniel and Irene. Daniel is Patience's cousin. They have a beautiful baby, Daniela and they with their other family served us an amazing brunch. After eating I realized I ate the salad which was a no-no on the travel clinics list. Oh well, I'm not too worried. We stayed with them for a little while...visiting, playing with Daniela, listening to music, and hanging out with our beloved Precious. We left their house and hit the road to the village that Joseph grew up in. Along the way we passed some crazy things. The wild animals along the road were cool (hogs, cows, horses, chickens, goats). The ride took around five hours. Every time we stopped people swarmed the car trying to sell us things. At one point Joseph did buy some sort of bread. I'm not really sure what it is, it's square and clearly a very important thing. There are amazing fruit trees everywhere. Pineapple, palm, rubber, plantain, coconuts, papayas and banana trees are all over.
The roads were crazy. There are many dirt roads that arent taken care of. When driving you aim for the smaller ditches. Cars have to decide who gets to go first when two cars are headed in opposite directions. I was expecting bad roads but this was a bit extreme. We were told that the roads used to be taken care of, but that was with the last president. The government is now so corrupt that the money for caring for the roads is hidden elsewhere.
When we got to Nkikoh, we were greeted by a swarm of people. It was so amazing...they were applauding as we pulled up. There were so many hugs. Cameroon and America do not share the same personal space no-contact rules which I love! I don't think I've ever been hugged this much in my life! We had dinner: some fufu, spinach, fish, rice, chicken, the usual and Shelbs and I tried a soda they called pomplomoose. It was citrusy and yummy. There was a group of girls that danced for us and sang a song to "uncle Joe and his guests". It was great. The toilet situation is a bit confusing. The pipes stopped working so we have to pour water into the tank to flush. Showering tomorrow should be fun.
I tried palm wine tonight. It's an interesting taste. Apparently the Cameroonian version is not as intense as the kind in Sierra Leone (which Eric has talked about). Joseph isn't letting Shelby or I drink which is interesting. We are offered it by other people but he offers soda. We were sort of expecting beer and wine so it's a different change.
A lot of people don't understand this trip. We aren't building houses or something intense like that so they don't really get it. It's hard to explain it to people though. I really needed this time away from the drama of life and it's giving me a chance to figure out my own life on top of everything else.
Oh my Douala!
It is 1:15 and Shelby and I just got settled in our hotel room. Shelbs is currently using our very interesting shower. We arrived in Douala and immediately the heat and humidity hit us. We were expecting heat but we were under the impression it's a dry heat here. As we walked out an airport official greeted us and lead us though customs. He is Joseph's younger brother. Getting our bags was Crazy!!!! Hundreds of people pushing and shoving. It was scary. Once outside we stuck in Patience and Joseph. We were loaded into cars after wading through the masses. David managed to get scammed out of $200. Still not entirely sure how that happened. In our car was myself, Shelbs, Cindy, Patience and a cousin (?) named Jerry, he was our driver. The roads in Douala are psycho. I could never live in Douala. There aren't really lines on the streets and when there are, people ignore them. So people sort of drive at each other...thought we were gonna die! On top of that a lot of roads are dirt and have huge bumps and ruts so it makes it very fun. There are motorbikes everywhere!!!!! People ride in between cars and people and don't pay attention. They also don't wear helmets and ride with like 3 people on the bike.
We went to one or Joseph's siblings home and had dinner. It was fabulous but it feels weird always going first and getting "the cream of the crop" we want to be sharing. We want to experience things that they experience. Well day oneish is over. 9:30 is the start of day two and I need sleep. I got a grand total of like 2 hours of sleep since Monday at 9:00 am. Zzzzz
Well yay the "blizzard" hit Boston but was pretty much cleared by the time we got to the airport. After fretting about whether or not our flight would be cancelled it ended up being 4 minutes delayed. Ultimately it was over an hour after we were meant to take off but oh well. The plane in front of us was a British airways flight. The pilot decided to go 90 degrees against the wind. Apparently that wasn't a good idea because he had to turn around and land and try again. Our take off was a little rough. I thought the wing might fall off but it didn't. I didn't sleep much from Boston to Zurich. I love my new headphones but they are too big to try to sleep with. Cindy got attacked by a tray of food. It just fell off the cart and all over her. Eight hours later we landed in Zurich. We were worried about making our connection because we landed late but the flight from Zurich to Douala was delayed as well. Zurich is beautiful. It looked like a Christmas card. I even saw a horse pulling a sleigh as we got closer to the ground. Looking out the windows as the airport it seemed so serene and peaceful. We are currently aboard the flight to douala. Its 5:53 Douala time. We just flew over Tamanrasset...I have no clue what country that is even in. On this leg of the trip the four of us are sitting together which I like. I'm pretty sure we are the only people on this plane that do not speak French. All of the questions are asked in french. We say "English?" to the flight attendant and they try again. Shelby and Cindy both got pat downs at security in zurich. The questions by the security officers were in German and I actually understand what she said. I was proud of myself. :)there is still 1916 kilometres until we reach Douala. I'm not sure how many miles that is. Oh the screen says 2 hours and 29 minutes. I seriously need to learn the metric system. I'm sick of sitting down now. The 8 hours to Zurich and the 6 hours to Cameroon...my butt hurts. Airplane bathrooms scare me (I'm claustrophobic). So I can't even go walk there. Whoa just looked out the window and the sun is setting. It's a pretty epic shade of peach. I love it. I am flying over Africa and in a few hours I will be on the ground in Africa. One of my dreams is coming true. They just handed out the Carte D'embarquement/ debarquement. Uhhhh??? Oh I like when it has English translations. Apparently we hand it over at customs, with our passport, visa and yellow fever card. It's negative 77 degrees outs of the plane (-77°F) it's funny because we are above Africa which is known for being HOT! When we land it will be around 90°, so that's a change of approximately 160° crazy!