Each night I try to record the day's events and capture as many of the sights, sounds, smells, and emotions that I can possibly put into words in my journal and can be several typed pages per day. To keep from making you all board stiff, my blog usually gets the simplified and filtered version of my stories with pictures.... This time though, I'm going to give you the "journal version" description of my day, hope it's not too long and I'll try not to lose your attention; and yes, I'll throw in some pictures too! :)
Saturday night Mary and I crawled into bed with great anticipation of the joyous fact that we were going to get to sleep in the next morning! We had made plans with Richard to cancel our 6:00am run because Mary wasn't feeling well, and the other youth would all be up at the church helping dig the foundations for the new pastor's house. Last Sunday we were shot and tried to sleep in, but the kids knocked on our door and peered in every window they could until we joined them. So with no run and no kids to play football (soccer) with the next morning, we were going to get to sleep past 6 on a Sunday! Which may not happen again while we are here.
The next morning at 8 there's a knock on the door, I know it was past 6, but I was hoping... I laid in bed, didn't move, but the knocking didn't quit. I wasn't trying to be extremely rude, I was half in my sleep, the knocking was like an alarm that I snooze the first 5 times without even hearing, I was in bed, and not presentable to go to the door. I'm on the top bunk so I opened my eyes to peak through the railing to see if I could possibly see who it was through the inch crack in our curtain on the door. I don't know how it's possible to make eye contact through an inch crack in the curtain and the railing of the top bunk, but we did. Her big brown eye met mine and now I had no choice. I got up and met her outside, it was one of our little friends from church who had happened by on her way to church when a lady was painstakingly walking to the clinic. Dorothy told me that she is with child and by the way she walks looks to be in labor. The doctor wasn't available and Lea, the nurse, wasn't there yet. So I went to meet the patient. Even when we are open and seeing patients we can't deliver babies here until our container of equipment gets here. I asked her some questions, even though I am the very least qualified person to be helping her, she said she is not due until February, but I personally don't know how she could go that long, I was pretty convinced she must be carrying twins. I suggested and asked if she could go to the general hospital. She said no, she would wait for the nurse, there was nothing more I could do, so we waited and I checked in later when Lea had seen her, all seemed fine.
I got ready for the day which included an exceptionally cold shower, I usually avoid the morning ones because the water has an extra icy bite in the morning but such is life. It took my breath away, more of my breath than normal that is! We got ready to visit my friend Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a teacher at the deaf school who I've been spending most of my time with while there. I started out observing in her class and last week got to help one of her youngest students who is still struggling with the alphabet in sign language. She invited me before but we had trouble communicating and meeting up that day and had to leave after waiting over an hour and a half. But this time we found each other at our meeting place and she took us to her home.
I almost didn't recognize her when we first met her, she wasn't in her school clothes, but rather her Sunday, market dress and head piece, then later when she took her head piece off I still almost didn't recognize her because she got a new "hair plant" over the weekend! When we (Mary and I) got to her home we met her family, husband, 5 children, and "Jr. sister" who lives with them. The youngest two girls showed us pictures while she changed out of her market clothes and cleaned up. We met her husband and had a very interesting conversation with him about the education system here. He works at the place that writes all the exams, basically the standardized tests and ACTs, the assessment tests and entrance exams for the system here. We were brought a huge bowl of the sweetest and most juicy pineapple you can possibly imagine as an appetizer and then continued to visit with Elizabeth and John as the kids came and went. They have 5 children, 4 girls and 1 boy who's name is Paul! When Elizabeth and I realized this fact one day at school, that our families are "the same" she was elated and stated, "see we were meant to be to friends, God doesn't make mistakes!" We got on the topic of "snail meat" and John took us outside to see their snail farm. on the side of the house were two small pails with boards and rocks covering them. One was the big snails, he showed us one that was "almost ready to eat" and then showed us the baby ones, separate from the rest to that the big ones wouldn't eat them. The oldest girl came around the corner of the house gave a shudder and disgusted face... glad I'm not the only one that felt that way!
Mary and I asked if we could possibly be of any help in the "kitchen", knowing the we would really be more in the way but we'd like to see, and assist if all possible. She said there was no need to help but she'd love to show us where they make the food. So we followed her through the house and out the back to a separate little shelter, the kitchen, where the fire and such was. she let us taste a piece of the "crust" in the kettle from making the cassava fufu. It was basically like the stuff that's left over on the edges of the kettle when you make mashed potatoes. I put it in my mouth and my throat and under my tongue tightened... it was very "bitter" I can't really describe the taste, but bitter is close, cassava has that taste, bobolo is also made from cassava and I can't like that either. I tore what I had left in my hand and put the two soft sides together, hoping that if the more crusty stuff was all that hit my taste buds it would have less of an effect. We went back in to enjoy the meal.
We were each dished up a perfectly formed wad of cassava fufu and a bowl of okra soup. We prayed and she told us to "go ahead" Mary and I hesitated, there was no silverware, we both reached toward our fufu, then hesitated again, I'm fine with eating with my fingers, but are we suppose to? I was hoping someone would make the first move before it got awkward so that I could copy whatever they did, but nobody did... so we just dug in. Once we started, we were given more directions, you pull off a little piece of fufu, form it in your fingers, and then get some okra soup on it and enjoy! :) I started eating, yep, it tasted like cassava, but, if you formed it thin enough, you could get enough Okra soup on it to hide the taste. The Okra soup was seasoned wonderfully and I was really enjoying it! For anyone who doesn't know the consistency of Okra when it is cooked, well, let me just use a word Mary used to describe it, "snot"... it's very slimy and not very easy to eat with your fingers... so I realized that I need to make sure I get the soup used up before I'm out of cassava to "scoop" it up with, but as I kept going, I realized, oh no! If I run out of soup before fufu I can't eat the cassava plain! I need the soup to cover the taste! A viscous circle! without even thinking I had started in with my first two fingers and thumb, then Elizabeth's sister bumped me and said, "if you really want to enjoy it, you will use all 5 fingers" so I did, all five fingers in my soup! MMmmm! :) Elizabeth offered us more so I was relieved that I didn't have to calculate my fufu to soup ratio, I began smothering the bitter fufu with the flavorful soup once again and really enjoyed it. I was VERY full by the time we finished.
Elizabeth took us the equivalent of a few blocks away to their tribal meeting her husband John was already at. She told us that we were more than welcome there and would like to introduce us to her tribal people. Most of them had clothing made from a matching fabric. The "house" was full and people were sitting outside, but there was room for us inside so the had us go in, there was a seat for me on the front row and I sat down in awe. there was a head table where three men sat and one was standing and saying something... in dialect, I had no idea what he was saying, but it had something to do with their tribe. The entire house was plain cement with bared windows, there was a little room off to the side of where the three men were sitting at the head table, in the little side room a bunch of older men sat in a circle, I couldn't really tell what was going on in there, but it seemed interesting. They greet or say welcome by starting by almost rubbing your hands together, then turning it into a very soft clap until the entire room is together and gives a couple gentle claps all together. They did this when we came in, and then a couple of other times when other people entered.
The meeting continued, the head table kept shifting members and random people stood to speak, still, I'm understanding nothing, but interested nonetheless. There was a very plentiful supply of drink, so far all of it was coming from two dirty, plastic containers that remind me too much of roundup jugs, as one would be emptied, they'd bring in another. Palm wine, when they set one down and opened the cover it just foamed out the top until a picture was obtained. John, Elizabeth's husband came to the front and eventually was in the center of the head table, he gave a couple of different speeches and apparently said some funny things because everyone laughed a couple of times. They said things, read from a book that looked like a record book of some kind and people would randomly bring money to the front. I turned around to ask Mary when we should go and asked Elizabeth how late people would be selling at the market, we decided to stay about 15 minutes longer. I waited for a good time to make an exit, but one didn't come.Suddenly someone entered the room and everyone stood, Mary and I followed the crowd, as the group passed me I couldn't figure out why or which one of the men was extra special, but one was holding a huge gourd or some sort and they all entered the little side room. We all sat down and the meeting continued, I found out later that the man with the gourd was the chief of the Pinyin tribe. More drinks were brought in, this time in glass bottles and I spotted a Fanta in the case. Just a few minutes later I was offered a drink, I tried to convince him that I was fine, and say "no thank you" but I quickly realized that he was not going to take no for an answer. The Fanta was already taken but I asked for a "sweet drink." I learned early on in my time here in Cameroon that "pop" or "soda" whatever you call it at home, is called "sweet drink" here. Had I asked for pop he would have looked at me very funny and not had a clue what I wanted, but since I asked for a sweet drink he didn't even hesitate and gave me anana top (pineapple pop) (my local favorite!). I was very pleased that I had some former Cameroonian knowledge to prevent some awkward confusion at that moment! Another guy whipped out a bottle opener and another offered me his cup which had already been used by more than just him... I thanked him but "no thank you" and then shared the anana top with Mary, who had been given a shared cup she couldn't turn down. A man came with the gourd and began to fill it with the palm wine, a special
After more meeting and waiting for an appropriate time to leave Elizabeth stood up and got everyone's attention, began to introduce us, she had me stand, introduced me, and then Mary. They gave us a warm welcome and then one of the men from the front promptly asked something in dialect to which Elizabeth responded with a large smile, "no, both of them are not yet married!" and the whole house laughed and cheered. The meeting continued and when we finally got a chance to make an exit it was an hour after I had said 15 minutes. Elizabeth saw us out and the lady of the house met us outside, beside herself that we were not going to stay to eat! I know it's in the culture and Elizabeth had told me last week at school that if we didn't share food in her home by culture they would feel unaccepted or unloved. So I hated to turn her down but we tried to explain that Elizabeth had already fed us and we were quite full, but appreciated her offer. It took some talking but we were finally able to leave.
Mary and I made a quick trip to the market, by the time we got there most shops were closing down but it actually was a good time to be there. Late in the day when the sellers are ready to head home they'r anxious to get rid of things rather than haul them home, so we got a couple of bargains including 30 bananas for 200francs roughly 50cents.
When we left our room just before noon we expected to be gone a couple of hours tops, but when we got back to our gate it was almost 7!! what a day! Yet another day jammed full of those once in a lifetime experiences and things I could never have imagined before coming here! I'm so thankful for EVERYTHING God has done for me and allows me to experience and learn every single day!
This is where the cooking is done for Elizabeth's family.
Mary, Elizabeth, and I beginning our meal.
Most of the family.
Me enjoying my meal with all 5 fingers!
Sorry, no pictures from the tribal meeting, didn't seem like a good idea to get my camera out.