We thought we would share about everyday living here in Cameroon. While some of these may sound like complaints, we really do love it here. It just takes some getting used to.
Here they are:
- One of Teresa’s favorite quotes from this past year is “WHAT?!? I have goosebumps in Cameroon?” Yes, it is sunny most of the time and sometimes gets hot, but when it rains and the wind is blowing there are times when you want to put on long pants, socks, and a sweatshirt!
- Grocery shopping is an all-morning affair. We have some nice grocery stores here in Yaoundé, but first you have to battle the traffic to get across town. Then, you have to go to more than one store to get everything that is on your list. Thankfully Nicoline is able to buy vegetables and fruits for us weekly at the market and if we need something quickly we can get it from one of many local vegetable stands.
- Cooking is NOT quick! You have to clean and soak your fresh vegetables (and cleaned dishes) in bleach water. You have to cook with filtered water. You have to sift your flour, sugar, rice to make sure there are no bugs in them. You have to fight with the ants that have taken over your counter because you left just a tiny crumb of food on the counter.
- Teresa may have gotten used to the ants, but she has not gotten used to the cockroaches or mice that like to occupy the kitchen. Matthew has become her hero with killing and disposing of these critters.
- Our clothes hang out to dry, but it is important to remember to bring them in before it gets dark because of the mango bugs that will lay their eggs in the clothes. There have also been times when we hear thunder in the distance and we take off running to get the clothes in before it rains or realized after it has been raining for 10 minutes that the clothes were still on the line.
- Most days, our main mode of transportation is walking. We walk on dirt (or mud during rainy season) roads, paths that cut through cornfields (see photo below), and along busy taxi-filled roads. We walk around trash in the roads, through soccer games being played in the alley, dodge animals (chickens, goats and dogs) that may be crossing our paths, and we wait for a split second opening in traffic to run across the road. It is always an adventure.
- If we do need to go into town, it is easy to catch a taxi along the road. You stand along the road, the taxi drives up and beeps. You tell the driver where you would like to go and for how much, and then if he accepts he beeps again and you climb in, if he drives off … well you try the next taxi that beeps at you. When you do get a taxi, you usually get to share it with 5 other people (not including kids)! Then you pray that traffic is good and that you will not be stuck in a hot car with lots of other people for very long!
- When driving you have to be aware at all times as to what is going on around you because there is not much that is constant about the traffic. The number of lanes of traffic is always changing. Motorcycles drive down the middle of the road, and oncoming vehicles are just as likely to be in your lane as their own. Many times the other cars are just inches away from you.
- We have been thankful to have electricity most days. So far, the power cuts have not lasted more than 8 hours. When the power goes out we turn on the lanterns and continue with whatever we were doing and laugh, 2 minutes later, when the power comes back on.
- It is hard to find a quiet place in Yaoundé. There is lots of noise at all hours. We are awakened by the birds squawking outside our window. Throughout the day we can hear the traffic from the nearby road as well as the taxis honking. We hear the children playing and people yelling. As it gets closer to evening, you hear the loud music from the local bars. And even in the middle of the night you can hear the log and beer trucks rumbling down the road.
- We usually have good water pressure and have only had a few days when we have had little to no water. So we can still easily wash dishes, clothes, and take warm showers!
- Eating out is a treat! There are some good restaurants, but traveling into town is always an outing and then you never know how long it will take to get your food. (There is a good chance that they truly may have to go and kill the chicken!)
Last weekend we took a short vacation to Kribi with a few friends. It was a relaxing time enjoying each others’ company over meals, swimming in the waves, wandering the shore line searching for shells, climbing the rocks, having a bonfire, looking for glowing algae at night in the water, and playing games.
The last week of school was a combination of busyness with fun thrown in! What a blessing my four students were to me. I could not have asked for a better class my first year teaching kindergarten in Cameroon! If you asked any of the four what their favorite part of kindergarten was it was a resounding “Playtime”! When asked what their favorite subject was it was a variety: reading, math, and history. They are creative, caring and encouraging friends, good listeners (most of the time), great storytellers, and they love to learn and share information! I pray that God will continue to work in each of their hearts and that they will grow closer to him!
These students are ready for 1st grade!
The Greenhouse is still looking for a 1st/2nd grade teacher for next school year. Please continue to pray for this position to be filled.
I just hung up the phone from speaking with my parents and my dad said, “Happy Anniversary.” This is something we have said to each other for the past 18 years because 19 years ago on Memorial Day an event happened that would change our lives. I was 12 years old when this took place. You can read about this event through a paper I wrote when I was in High School…
“Good night, I’ll see you in the morning,” I announced to my parents as I headed down the dark hallway to my room in the back of the house. I set my alarm clock for 7:15 for the next morning and climbed into my double bed, burying myself into my soft green sheets, and favorite blue blanket. I lay there in the darkness, with only the glow from the nightlight in the hall shinning into the room, listing to my parents’ voices still murmuring from the kitchen. After a while I finally fell into a deep sleep.
I was startled awake by the beeping of my alarm so I rolled over it see the bight red numbers staring back at me, 7:15. It was Memorial Day and I was getting up early to help Dad on the farm. Dad had baled hay yesterday and needed to get it picked up today so my uncle William, brother Stephen and I were going to help. All I was going to do was drive the tractor while they picked the square bales of hay up and stacked them onto the wagon. Usually my grandfather drove the tractor but he was ill and was not strong enough to drive. I was excited because this was going to be the first time that I got to drive the tractor by myself. I lay in bed until I heard my dad stomping down the hall.
“ T, are you up yet?” he demanded as he reached my doorway. “We really need to get started because there is a chance of rain for this afternoon and the hay needs to be gotten up.”
“Okay, I’ll hurry up,” I replied as I yawned and jumped out of bed.
I quickly dressed in a pair of cut-off jean shorts and a red Coca-Cola t-shirt. I slipped on an old pair of Nike shoes and was putting my hair up.
“Are you ready?” hollered Stephen a few minutes later.
“Almost,” I yelled as I finished putting my hair into pigtails. I headed rapidly down the hall to the kitchen where everyone was finishing up their breakfast of doughnuts and coffee. I grabbed a gooey chocolate-glazed doughnut as I headed for the back door with my dad to get the tractor out of the barn at my grandfather’s.
Dad and I headed across the freshly baled field. The sweet smell of honeysuckle was in the air as we trotted up the hill towards the barn. I finished eating my doughnut as we reached the brown wooden barn. Dad unlatched the double doors and swung them open. I leaned boards against the doors so that they would stay open. Dad jumped into the seat of our 1994 blue Ford tractor and started it. He drove it out of the barn and went around it to hook up the wagon.
“Teresa, come here,” I heard my dad yell as the roaring of the tractor died.
I walked slowly around the corner of the building to where he was standing.
“Yes,” I questioned as I approached him.
“Here is a quick rundown of what you have to do,” he explained as he finished hooking the wagon up, “just keep the tractor and wagon in a straight line between the rows of hay so that we can get the hay on the wagon easily. Have any questions?”
“Yea, how do you stop the tractor?” I asked.
“You push both the break and the clutch down at the same time, okay?” Dad answered.
“Gotcha!” I exclaimed as I jumped excitedly onto the seat and started the tractor.
I started slowly driving the tractor toward the lane that runs between our house and the barn. I was terrified that I was going to do something wrong and mess up.
“Looks good,” he reinsured me as we continued across the field to pick up William and
Stephen, “Just remember not to go too fast, because we will have to be able to get the bales onto the wagon.”
Dad and I picked up Stephen and William who were standing at the edge of our weedy garden. We headed to the front field to start as I drove along at the pace of a snail. To keep myself from getting too bored I sang country songs by Alabama, Garth Brooks, and Alan Jackson out loud as I drove along. Nobody could hear me singing because the hum of the tractor’s engine was so loud. Even my thoughts were being drowned out. An hour and a half had gone by and the first load was done. I was glad for a break because everything was beginning to look the same. Every time I looked ahead, I saw hundreds of hay bales sitting in straight rows that looked like they went on for miles. The hay was piled high on the wagon so I drove slowly back to the hay barn located behind my grandfather’s house. Dad, Stephen, and William piled it high into the hayloft.
While Stephen, William, and Dad did that I talked to my grandfather who had come from the house to see what we had gotten done so far. He wanted to make sure that everything was okay.
“You are going to get it all done, right?” Grandfather asked impatiently. “The hay can’t get rained on. Are you sure that you don’t want me to drive for the next load? I think that I am feeling better,” he said as Dad and William heaved the last couple of bales up to Stephen to stack.
“Teresa is doing a good job,” William said, “You do not need to make yourself weaker; we’ve got it covered.”
As they stood there talking, I went up to the house and got a cup of water for everybody before we started back to work. We finished drinking our water and started back to work.
“We better get a move on,” Dad said as he glanced towards the west and noticed the dark gray clouds moving towards us. “I want to get it all picked up before that storm hits us.”
Since the clouds were moving fast, Dad decided to skip to the backfield behind the woods because it was the farthest away and it would be better to get that one done first. The clouds keep getting closer. We were almost finished with the backfield when I felt a cold drop of rain hit my arm.
“Oh great, this isn’t good,” I said out loud although nobody could hear me.
There were only two bales left in the backfield, so I drove towards them so Dad and Stephen could put them on the wagon. As I approached the bales, I was thinking about how we were almost finished with the load and I could get something to eat.
“STOP!” I heard somebody yell, breaking my thoughts.
“Teresa, STOP now,” yelled Stephen from behind.
I reached quickly, jumping off the seat and slammed my feet on both the clutch and break so that the tractor would stop. It came to a halt and I just stood there with both feet on the pedals and my hands gripped tightly around the steering wheel causing my knuckles to turn white. I was confused on why I had stopped.
“T, get off the tractor NOW,” William demanded over the roar of the tractor, as he ran up beside the tractor.
“What? What is going on?” I asked still spaced out and confused. I could see fear in his face that scared me. “What happened?” I wanted to know, “Tell me.”
“Just get off the tractor NOW,” he said once again. “Hurry”
I continued to stand on the tractor in shock and could not move. It was like I was glued it and could not move an inch. William peeled my sweaty hands off the steering wheel, picked me up and threw me off the tractor. He speed off on the tractor across the hilly field as fast as he could make the old ford go. The stacked bales looked like they were going to tumble off the wagon since William was driving so fast causing the wagon to bounce around.
“Teresa! Teresa! Run to the house and get Dad’s insurance card and some water,” yelled Stephen as I stood there still watching my uncle driving across the field. “Did you hear me?” Stephen asked. “Run to the house and get a cup of water.”
“Okay, but what happened,” I asked as I turned around to see Dad lying on the ground holding his right foot. He had a weird look on his face. It was not a painful look, but one of relief. I went to open my mouth again but Stephen interrupted.
“Just run to the house and do what I said. Also, get Jenn to call Mom at work and tell her to meet Dad at St. Mary’s.”
I took off running as fast as I could across the uneven field beside the woods. I turned the corner of the woods by the house and saw that my sister was in the backyard washing her 1985 black Shadow.
“CALL MOM!” I yelled as I reached her out of breath.
“What?” she questioned, “Why?”
“Tell her to meet Dad at St. Mary’s,” I finished as I ran past her up the deck steps and into the house.
“What happened?” Jenn asked as she bolted into the house, slamming the door shut behind her.
“Dad got run over, and has to go to the Hospital,” I replied as I rushed upstairs to find my dad’s wallet to get the insurance card. I found the card, ran back downstairs, grabbed a blue squeeze water bottle and filled it with ice and water. Jenn turned on the scanner that was sitting on the counter. We heard the 911 call go out, “45 year old male, farm accident. 300 Gardners Road.” Hearing that, I turned and ran back out of the house, down the steps and all the way back to where Dad was.
“Dad, here is some water,” I said as I came to a stop beside him and gave him the bottle.
“What happened?” I asked, as dad sat there drinking the water.
“He jumped off the wagon to get the last bale of hay and instead of jumping out he jumped straight down and the wheel of the wagon rolled over his foot,” Stephen said.
“I tried to roll out of the way but I did not roll fast enough,” added Dad.
“Don’t move your foot, and do not try to get up,” Stephen snarled at dad as he tried to move, “You do not know what damage you have done.”
“Did you hear that?” I asked, as I turned around and looked back towards the direction of the house.
All we could see was a cloud of dust coming across the field. Soon we realized that it was the maroon minivan that belonged to our neighbor Becky who was an EMT.
“Becky must have heard the call,” Dad said as she got out of her van and came running over to us.
“What is wrong?” she asked as she knelt down beside my dad.
Dad replied, “It is my foot; the wagon ran over it. There was at least 7, 500 pounds of hay on the wagon and I believe that I crushed my foot.”
“Stephen, take my van and you and Teresa drive back to your house and get some ice,” said Becky. “Just do not lock my keys in the van,” she added as we headed for her van.
We hopped in the van and took off towards the house. We stopped at the top of the hill by the garden, careful not to shut the doors so that we would not lock the keys in, and ran the rest of the way to the house.
“Did you call Mom?” Stephen asked Jenn, as soon as we walked into the kitchen and noticed that she was still standing there with the phone in her hand.
“Yes, it took me awhile to get through to her at work, but she said that she would meet the rescue squad at the hospital,” Jenn replied.
Stephen and I finished filling the ziplock bags with ice and headed back to the van. We got back and gave Becky the ice and she put it on dad’s foot. Dad was in the process of explaining to Becky what happened.
“It could have been worse,” Dad was saying, “If anybody else had been driving the tractor they would have stopped the wagon on top of my foot, but since it took T longer to reach the pedals, the wheel went completely over my foot.”
“That’s good, because if it had stopped on top it would have caused more damage,” replied Becky.
We all sat there and continued to talk, but it wasn’t long until we heard the sirens from the rescue squad coming across the field. It pulled across the field and stopped right beside my dad.
“Bob, why did you park that squad right there with the exhaust pipe in my face,” Dad asked jokingly to the squad driver, who he knew from the community.
“I didn’t mean to,” Bob laughed realizing what he had done.
Dad told the story once again to the squad people. They took Dad’s brown work boot off his foot and put an air cast around it. They sat dad onto a stretcher and put him into the back of the squad. As dad was being put into the back, William arrived driving the pickup. He had my grandfather with him, who was going crazy.
“Wayne, are you going to be okay?” Granddaddy asked as he slowly got out of the truck.
“Yes, they think that I just crushed my foot,” Dad said.
Granddaddy, William, Stephen, and I stood in the field and watched as the squad went across the field to take dad to Richmond. After they were out of sight, Stephen and I hopped into the back end of the pickup and William took us home.
When we got back, Stephen and I told Jenn the whole story of what happened.
“So you think that he will be okay?” she asked after we had finished.
“Yea, just think it could have been worse,” Stephen, said, “It could have rolled over his whole body.”
Since Stephen and I had not eaten anything and it was past lunchtime, we fixed ham and cheese sandwiches and sat down and watched some television. We waited to hear news from Mom in Richmond about what condition that Dad was in.
It was nerve-wracking not knowing what was going on. I sat down on the couch in the quite living room to think about what was happening. “Ring!” “Ring!”
Our third Operation Christmas Child distribution was in Makenene, about four hours by bus away from where we live. The distribution would happen at the end of the Church service. The children who would be getting a gift were from a variety of different smaller villages, not just Makenene, but had traveled to receive their gift.
We are grateful for the opportunities that we had. Maybe we will get to go to some more dedications next year! Thank you to all who put together shoeboxes to send to places all around the world! It was truly a blessing to see all of the smiles and excitement!
The second Operation Christmas Child distribution we were able to attend was located in our quartier (neighborhood). Every day I pass M.E.E.C (Mission de L’eglise Evangelique Camerounaise) Church on my way to the Greenhouse to teach. We were super excited to be able to attend a distribution so close to our home.
This distribution was much smaller than the last one we attended. (If you missed that post you can check it out here.) It is amazing to see God at work in the Churches here in Cameroon.
Below are some of my favorite photos from this distribution.
At the end of March and the beginning of April, Matthew and I had the opportunity to attend 3 different Operation Christmas Child distributions. We were very thankful to our friend Raymond for the opportunity to attend these dedications. It really was a blessing to see how Operation Christmas Child works here in Cameroon!
The distribution programs included singing, praying, a time of discussing who Jesus was and why he died for us, an invitation to the older children to attend a discipleship class, the revealing of the special gifts, a time of talking about why these gifts were packed and who packs them, and then the distribution of the boxes by gender and age. Each of the distributions was a little bit different.
The first distribution we attended was located at a bilingual (French and English) school in Nkola, just outside the Yaoundé city limits.
Thursday, May 5th was Ascension Day, which is a national holiday in Cameroon. Both Teresa and I had the day off, so we went together to one of my favorite places on the outskirts of Yaoundé: Nkolbisson. Now, French speakers would call Nkolbisson a “colline” which means hill, but from growing up near the Smokies and Blue-Ridge mountains, I’m willing to call it a mountain.
The trek I know (and prefer) starts outside of an agricultural research center (foreground), climbing through fields and brush up to a crevice on the left side of the hill (mountain). Once inside the crevice, a little light rock-climbing and some clambering bring you up to a cocoa plantation, and out onto a large flat rock for a wonderful view. The descent is a steep-yet-quick slide down to a neighborhood on the other side.
All in all, it was a great day, the weather was great, the company even better, and the little scrapes from briers were well worth the view!
Not long after we arrived in Cameroon (maybe September?) Matthew came home from work one day and said that he had a surprise. He held out his hand and was holding a Operation Christmas Child lapel pin.
Samaritan’s Purse, the organization that runs Operation Christmas Child, was having a conference on the center where Matthew’s office is. He had seen a Cameroonian friend, Raymond, with an Operation Christmas Child lapel pin. Matthew explained to Raymond that I had been involved in this program back in the United States and had packed many shoe boxes and had even been to the distribution center in North Carolina to volunteer back in October of 2008.
(Friends that went with me to North Carolina – We had to check the boxes, seal the boxes, and then add them to bigger boxes that would be ready for shipping)
Raymond then gave Matthew the lapel pin and told him that he helped with the distribution of the boxes here in Cameroon and that when the time came we were more than welcome to come to one (or more) of the distributions of the shoe boxes to the Cameroonian children.
Stay tuned for more about where boxes like these end up in one part of the world… Cameroon!