Some of you know I love to quilt. Well, I like to design and piece together the quilt tops, especially ‘scrap’ quilts. (I am not nearly patient enough to enjoy hand quilting as much as some people do) I love the way beautiful colors and prints that you wouldn’t normally put together can create a masterpiece of far greater beauty than any of the individual fabrics. Quite honestly, I generally find these ‘scrap’ quilts even more beautiful than those created out of a couple carefully selected and coordinated fabrics. I love the surprise and the variety.
This ‘summer’ I haven’t really had much down time, but much of what I have had has been spent at my sewing machine. I wanted to share a few pictures of my current works-in-progress with you, but as I sat down to post these, I started thinking about how quilts could be used as an illustration of so many aspects of our lives. God has carefully planned the final design of the masterpiece that will be our lives, but so often we only see the individual pieces. We try to rearrange them and maybe throw out the colors and prints that we don’t think match the others, but the reality is each piece – with its crazy print or seemingly clashing colors has a place. Likewise, in our lives each seemingly insurmountable problem, each heart-crushing loss, and each seeming failure or success is a part of the masterpiece God is creating day by day, piece by piece. Just like when you look at a couple of random pieces of a quilt, it is often impossible to imagine the final product our limited perspectives keep us from seeing the combined beauty of his plan too.
Our graduates have graduated, closing week activities have ‘closed’ and it is officially summer break (though we try not to call it that, because there really is no such thing as ‘summer’ here). With that comes what many of us have come to call the ‘great white flight’ as a huge part of the missionary community heads to their various corners of the world for a few weeks. I finally sat down and looked at a calendar a couple of weeks ago and realized how little time we really have! Though I technically have about 4 and a half weeks, much of that will be filled with picking up administrative duties, taking over the management of our property here in Yaounde, trying to figure out what I am going to cover in my classes next year, and planning for (and hosting) incoming guests.
In case you haven’t heard, in addition to my teaching duties next year, I will be taking on the duties of Assistant Director at RFIS. Also, due to lack of hostel parents, our hostel will be closed next year. That means I will be the only member of my mission in Yaounde for the year, so the management of our property here falls to me as well. It is going to be a busy year!
This week has been my introduction to all of those duties, and it has been interesting. In theory there really isn’t much I need to do AT the school, though I am the only administrative team member available for nearly 2 weeks, so pray that all goes well and I don’t have to figure out what to do in the face of any major issues! Most of the work I am trying to get done is simply course planning for next year. Sadly much of that needs to be done though internet research, and we have been without internet for most of a week now. GRRRRR! The bright side is a little forced vacation from school work – and I have done a bunch of piecing on the quilt I have been planning for a while now! I have a long ways to go on it, but am SO excited by what I have done so far. I will try to post pictures when I post this blog (I am writing this on the 25th – day 5 without internet. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for me to be able to post it . . . )
The only other major situation in my world at the moment is the need for some dental work. I lost a filling a couple of months ago. Last month a whole piece of that tooth broke off, and now the damage has expanded to the point where it actually hurts. I can’t put it off any longer. My first root canal, and it is in Africa – YIKES! Dental work is difficult for me anywhere, so I am definitely not looking forward to it here, but I don’t have much of a choice. Pray for me!!!!! I go in for the first work on it tomorrow (26th), and it sounds like it will take until at least sometime in August before I get through all the steps. *sigh*
Update 29 June –
Survived the dentist appointment, but 3 days later I am still taking ibuprofen every 4 hours . . . not a great sign. I still don’t have internet up and running, but borrowed a portable hotspot from a friend so I could at least catch up on email and set up my computer to download all my email on the rare occasion I can get email so that I can hopefully get some work done the next time it is down (or next week if it still isn’t fixed). 4 hours later I have email caught up and cleaned out . . . remind me why I allow myself to be so dependent on technology….
About a three hour drive from here is a place called Kribi, where there are a wide variety of hotels, beaches, etc. It is one of the main vacation destinations for missionaries here. In general the hotels aren’t great, but they are pretty cheap by American or European standards (actually within the budget of many missionaries), and some of them would totally qualify as ‘roughing it,’ but the beaches are beautiful! Ok, so, a couple of weeks ago, we had a 4-day weekend from school, and a friend and I decided to take a quick trip to the beach.
Looks pretty nice, doesn’t it? Yes, it was, but there were a few . . . hitches . . . as well.
For example: if you look more closely at the “gardens” between our hotel and the beach, you will notice they are in pretty bad shape (and you had to be careful walking on both the tile and cement because it was broken up in places). The view from our hotel rooms was gorgeous . . . until you look over to the right and notice the swamp beside the hotel and dumping into the ocean at our beach. Oh, and did I mention that the water in our hotel was not working nearly the whole time we were there? Now, I can survive a couple of days without a shower, but not being able to flush the toilet is quite another story. My digestive system was in an uncooperative mood the first night, and they didn’t bring us buckets of water (so we could wash ourselves and flush our toilets) until the next morning . . . fun. Oh yeah, take a look at our bathrooms too. There were no toilet seats and you literally needed to come at the toilet from the side or stand in the shower – neither great options when you are trying to squat since there is no seat. My bathroom light also did not work.
The bright side? We got to hang out at the beach, the air conditioning worked MOST of the time, and the view really IS beautiful if you are willing to focus upwards on those gorgeous views and beautiful sunsets and not be distracted by the problems.
But isn’t that the way it is with life too? As long as we keep our focus upward on He who CREATED the beautiful view, we are less likely to focus and dwell on the problems of the daily grind, the gory details of not being able to flush the toilet or take a real shower, the dead fish on the beach. We can choose to PRAISE God for the beauty instead of POUTING over the problems. We had a GREAT weekend! But I will admit that by the time we got home that Sunday night, I was allowing myself to do a lot more pouting and a lot less praising than I should have.
I tend to post and include lots of pictures in my newsletter, but I thought some of you might want to see how those pictures fit into the general lay of the land on the property where I live and the school property. So . . . here it is!
Let’s start with the school Property –
The red lines mark the RFIS property. It is a wonderful and HUGE space that was originally completely covered with dense rainforest and bush. From what I understand they had quite a job just clearing it enough to begin leveling things before they began construction. Now it is probably one of the most beautiful school campuses in the country. That huge blank area on the top, right-hand side of the picture includes a full, regulation-size field on the right, and a smaller one on the left. They are nothing fancy but even just that much space so nicely leveled and covered with grass that actually gets mowed regularly makes it pretty impressive. (I have been told our soccer field is considered one of the top fields in the country!)
The buildings (D, E, F, G) make up the academic campus itself. F is an auditorium used for chapel, daily assemblies, drama, and choir (and sometimes PE classes when it rains). In theory that will eventually become more classrooms if/when we ever get an actual auditorium built. E is the administration and office area (upstairs) and science classrooms (downstairs). This includes a large ‘teacher work room’ where each teacher has a desk. Instead of each teacher being assigned to a classroom (which is relatively typical in the US), we all move around between various rooms and have our desks in this one big room. As you can imagine, there are advantages and disadvantages to this arrangement! D houses our two middle school classrooms as well as a large domestic arts room. G is by far the largest building, with the library and a large study hall room on the first floor (as well as a handful of offices or small meeting rooms), and the computer lab, 4 classrooms, and textbook storage on the second floor.
C is a big cement pad that serves as volleyball, basketball, and other sports courts. As you can imagine, PE can be a bit of a challenge, as it is typically sunny (and too hot to really be out in the full sun) or raining (in which case you ALSO can’t be outside for PE), so one of the next building projects on our list is a covered area for PE. If I understand correctly, they hope to build that in the area just above it on the photo.
The Yellow lines surround the property where the Hostel is located. As you can tell from my lines, there are actual three different areas of that compound. The far left is belongs to the Full Gospel mission (Assemblies of God). The far two buildings on that section are houses (and there is third now being built in the forested area). The other two buildings are used to construct the pieces for Tabernacle buildings that they haul out to install all over the country.
The center section belongs to CMF (Cameroon Missionary Fellowship, an organization in Cameroon made up of the NAB, Baptist General Conference, and World Team). That large green-roofed building is the hostel! The lighter space just below the hostel is now a small basketball court and a large covered bookarou (no, the work doesn’t actually exist in any dictionary I can find – it is an open covered area – Think pole building without walls). My apartment is underneath the left-hand corner of this building, where the blue line starts.
The far right section belongs to Covenant missions. The smaller of those two buildings is s duplex where two missionary families live, and the larger is the other hostel, known to us as UBAC hostel (named after Ubangi Academy in Zaire, where they evacuated from to join the Cameroon missionary community back in the 90s. Our community has some interesting connections back to that school. A handful of our kids are actually second or third generation missionary kids, and quite a few of those have parents who attended Ubangi Academy. In fact, one of our current teachers was one of the students who was evacuated with that original group and attended RFIS early in its history!)
The blue line shows you my route to school. It is a beautiful walk (as long as you aren’t too paranoid about what might fall out of the trees …). I will take some pictures of that route and get those posted one of these days too.
I hope this gives you an idea of the lay of the land here
Food can be one of the struggles for missionaries as they move into different cultures – both what you eat and how you prepare it. It takes longer to find and purchase ingredients, the ingredients you CAN find may not be quite what you were looking for, or you may not be able to find anything remotely like what you want. Plus anything processed or imported is WAY EXPENSIVE! Also, here in Cameroon, we make pretty much everything from scratch. Is the food healthier? Maybe, but not always. We may not have all the preservatives here that processed American food tends to have, but chemicals used in farming are not regulated and many traditional Cameroonian foods are composed of mostly carbohydrates and are often swimming in palm oil. But sometimes the food IS better!
Every week Celestine, a wonderful Cameroonian lady who cooks and does ‘market shopping’ (buys all the fresh stuff) for the hostel upstairs, has agreed to pick up fruits and vegetables for me when she is out shopping for the hostel. Tuesday is that day! Today, like most Tuesdays, I walked back from school after our weekly staff meeting and was greeted with a huge pile of fruits and vegetables – already washed, bleached, and ready to take down to my apartment. Let me give you an idea of what I got this week for the equivalent of about $9 . . .
*Lettuce (barely fits in a gallon Ziploc)
*Tomatoes (8 or 9 Romas)
*Pineapple (average size)
*Oranges (6 – and they are green here, not orange)
*Watermelon (about the size of a volleyball)
*Carrots (fills a gallon Ziploc when trimmed and washed)
*Green Beans (nearly fills a gallon Ziploc)
*Mangoes (6 a bit smaller than the variety you usually see in the US)
REALLY!?! Yep! And I had a totally awesome salad for supper with so many great flavors that I didn’t even put dressing on it! I should have taken a picture, but imagine this . . . a full sized plate covered in lettuce, sprinkled with cabbage and grated carrots. On top of that I added avocado, bacon bits (I actually found bacon a few weeks ago!), tomatoes, some chopped up swiss cheese, and a chopped up mandarin orange.
Yep – that is my ‘suffering’ for the Lord story for the day. Gotta love it!
Oh, and did I mention I ate a guava from right off the tree on the way home from school and that I have fresh bananas grown on our property sitting on my counter too?
I am officially in my apartment, and have been for several weeks now. It is slowly becoming more and more a home. Pretty much all of my things are unpacked (or at least in the apartment), though that does mean it is a bit of a disaster area and will remain so until we get some storage built. All of the essentials are up and running, and though the big stuff that is left (storage divider wall/wardrobes, washing machine and dryer, etc) will probably take a quite a while, many of the small fixes and finishing touches (gutters upstairs so I can leave my windows open in the rain, screens on the last set of windows, exhaust fan for the bathroom, door on the pantry cupboard, etc) will probably be done in the next week or two. It may be a studio apartment, but it has a LOT of space!
I am loving being out here near the school. It is so convenient! It is also much quieter out here and the air seems much cleaner than in the city. I have never really been a city person, so that is a HUGE plus
Here are some pictures . . . (I couldn’t resist including a couple of my new kitten, Smudgie)
Looking at RFIS from across the Soccer field, morning of 24 Feb
Yikes, I have been back for nearly 2 weeks . . . time is flying! These first few weeks have been a whirlwind. I have taken over the US History course, been helping with whatever I can to help complete the apartment, lending a hand with a lot of miscellaneous stuff at the school, and trying to adjust back to this very different world.
For the moment, I am staying in the UBAC hostel which is on the same compound where I will be living once the apartment is finished. I am so blessed that both hostels have been so welcoming and hospitable! I just show up for supper at one or the other and they set an extra place for me. I definitely can’t complain about the quality of the food (Though I must admit that eating this well has had some minor consequences for my lower digestive system ) Cojack, the parrot, lives a couple of yards from my window and greets me each morning with about 30 minutes of whistling, honking (he imitates horn from the hostel van well enough that it can sometimes be a bit confusing), and talking (in many different voices – some recognizable as people I know . . . it’s a bit creepy.). Luckily he doesn’t start his daily stand-up routine until they ring the bell to wake up the kids – at which point I am generally awake. He is really quite entertaining. The first morning when I walked out of the hostel he greeted me with a “hi mom” in a little kid’s voice.
The CMF hostel, under which my apartment will be located, hasn’t changed since I left, but they have done a LOT of work on the grounds including the addition of this Bookaroo out back. Generally when I mention ‘they hostel’ in my newsletters, it is this one I have been referring to.
I can tell already how wonderful it is going to be living this close to the school. So much of my time was spent riding back and forth before (and on someone else’s schedule). Now, I have a short walk to the corner of our compound and up through the back corner of the school’s compound – it is maybe 300 meters. It is also wonderful to be a little outside the city where it is more peaceful. This beautiful picture at the bottom of the page was taken earlier this week. . . it is a really pretty walk. BUT – the day before yesterday a snake fell out of a banana palm as one our boys was walking, and I have barely been able to make myself walk under a tree since then! Especially in the context of one of the hostel moms almost stepping on a huge green snake last week, and them finding a huge empty snake skin the week before….. Have I mentioned recently how much I HATE snakes?!? Sadly we have had what appears to be a snake related casualty too. One of our guard dogs (Puma) went missing last night for several hours. When we discovered her, she was crying and barking as if she were in terrible pain and/or extremely frightened. By the time someone figured out where she was and got to her, she was mostly unresponsive and having convulsions. She made it through the night and has been both eating and drinking today when someone brings it down to her. She still doesn’t appear able to move her lower half, but at this point we are allowing ourselves to be optimistic. Guard dogs serve a real purpose here in securing the compound, but they are also family pets to many on the compound – she would be both a practical and emotional loss for all! Please pray for Puma and our other dog, Tozer, who seems lost without her. Also pray that if she deteriorates and difficult decisions need to be made that all the kids (and adults!) will handle it well.
As I mentioned in my blog just a couple of days ago, I am absolutely shocked by HOW humid it is considering we are at the height of Dry season! It is always pretty humid here, and I have said before that dry season really just means there is no rain, but when I walked across campus one morning last week, you couldn’t even see all the way across campus because the fog was so thick! Though I wish it were a bit less humid, it was a beautiful sight to see and wanted to share the picture
Progress is being made on my apartment. I have been spending every moment of daylight I can sneak away from the school trying to be useful in that process. Most of what I have been doing is just varnishing and painting, but I am glad to be a part of the process (and that I have the time and freedom to do so!). Sadly both the varnish and paint are oil based which means TERRIBLE to clean up – I have scrubbed my hands down with more acetone and kerosene in the last few days that I care to think about and am still covered with random white speckles and smears. I spent the afternoon today painting the bars that will cover some of my windows. For security, we all have some sort of bars over our windows (which can sometimes make you feel like you are in jail). I am happy with what they designed for mine, but still a bit anxious to see how much they change the atmosphere of the apartment (which feels very open at the moment).
1 March 2014
The next day Puma (the dog I mentioned above) was up and walking around – we could hardly believe it! By all appearance she was doing great, but sadly she took a turn for the worse again Thursday (seizures) and had passed away by Friday afternoon. Her loss will be felt deeply, but everyone who saw here!
It is dry season. By all guesses and tradition, we should be dusty and hot for at least another two weeks, but this week the rains have started! YEA!!!!! We got a massive thunderstorm the other night, and it is pouring again right now. The air is so fresh, and the sound of the rain pounding on the metal roofs is one of the sounds that I think I will always connect to Africa. (and yes, the kids are almost all outside playing in the rain )
. . . I had trouble getting the pictures to upload, so here is a pdf file you can click on to see this blog post WITH the pictures Week 2 update
Ok, so I have been back in Cameroon for just over a week, and here are a couple of my observations . . .
1. “Dry” season is NOT dry. There may be no rain, but there is so much moisture in the air that you can hardly see across campus in the morning, the dew dripping off the roofs leaves marks where it hits the ground, and my paper is so soggy I can’t stand it! I know I pointed this out when I visited some of my churches because it was an odd observation for me the first time I lived through dry season, but coming from the sub-zero (Fahrenheit!) temperatures in the US where there was practically NO moisture in the air, the contrast has been absolutely mind-blowing!
2. I love teaching! I have only taken over one subject, and I didn’t get nearly as much covered today as I wanted to, but it is SO GREAT to be back in the classroom!
3. The people who live on this compound are amazing! In some ways being way out here by the school is going to be inconvenient, (because you have to go so far to get to anything else, to buy groceries, etc) but even after only a week here I am excited to be a part of the community as it has expanded out here. There are two hostels, a duplex, my apartment, two other houses, and another being built. The property within our walls is owned by three different mission organizations, and the people living here represent 10 different mission organizations (at least . . . I just counted the ones I can think of) and a huge variety of backgrounds and missional focuses.
4. When traveling to visit missionaries in Africa, if you bring random processed American food (chocolate chips, M&Ms, velveeta, koolaid, mac and cheese, American peanut butter, pepperoni, etc), you will be LOVED forever. Not every item will be a hit with every missionary, but a combination like this is sure to hit just about everyone. It is amazing how excited we get over such simple things. It isn’t like we are going hungry over here – I have been extremely well fed so far (which is saying something because I don’t have a kitchen yet and have basically been hopping back and forth unannounced between the hostels), but those little doses of ‘home’ go a long ways. After being back in the US and/or Europe for the past year and a half, it still seems a bit strange to me, but I have no doubt that 6 months from now I will be jumping for joy when I find that elusive (and probably 2 year old) bag of Doritos at one of the American stores here.
God is good. I am hot and sweaty, everything is dusty, I am in the spare room of a hostel occupied by 14 other people (12 of them teenagers!) but I LOVE IT! My first time here I can’t say I followed any recognizable progression of ‘culture stress’ or ‘transition’ but this has got to be what they consider the honeymoon phase