Thursday, September 24, 2009

Barka de Sala!

I joined the circle on the mud floor of the hut, peering at the bowl that was passed to me and straining in the dim light of the lantern to see what the bowl contained. It looked like a white blob resting in a mucus-like substance. I searched around the floor for my silverware, and heard a voice in the dark inform me, "You eat it with your hands." In disbelief, I looked again at my bowl, reached in, and pulled off a piece of the blob. I struggled to hold onto it as I tried to scoop up some of the sauce with it, but the now-slippery blob refused to stay in my hand! Karen explained, "Use your hand as a spoon and just scoop it all up at once." I boldly dunked my hand in the soup to attempt this method, but to no avail. I finally was able to shovel the meal into my mouth, but I was obviously the last one done. The other missionaries around the circle laughed at my awkward situation, exclaiming, "So much for a smooth cultural transition!" and "Her first real African meal, and it had to be corn fufu and okra soup, in the dark, with no silverware!"

Yes, so much for a smooth transition. But I thoroughly enjoyed the experience! I love trying new things, even if it means scooping up a snotty blob into my mouth for sustenance. Fortunately for my sense of adventure (but unfortunately to my tired and jet-lagged body), the whole weekend was full of new experiences! The Jacksons and I were spending the weekend in a village of Fulani people, to join with them in their celebration of Sala, the holiday at the end of Ramadan. (Because of our slow internet, I couldn't upload pictures of the weekend. But I did manage to get pics up in a facebook album, so you can see highlights of the weekend here:

The night after my "first real African meal," I woke up to the sunrise and the crowing of roosters, and entered a day that included many greetings of "Barka de Sala" ("Happy Sala"--one of the 3 phrases I now know in the Fulanis' language), hiking to the top of a hill with a spectacular view, visiting with the most hospitable and beautiful people I've ever met, and blowing bubbles with the most adorable kids I've ever seen!

The next day was preparation for the Sala celebration. The Fulani women slaved over their "one-burner stove" (a small campfire) in the cookhouse all day, preparing food for the dozens of Fulanis who were celebrating at their compound. I got to go visit other compounds and pass out Sala gifts for the kids--toothbrushes, toothpaste, and crayons. As I met all the different Fulani people, I was astounded at the joy they had in inviting strangers into their home, as well as the sparkling cleanliness of their mud huts! I am sure God truly enjoyed creating these people in all their beauty and hospitality. We even have one of their girls, Fadi, living with us in our house so she can go to school in Bamenda!

To my delight, the Sala festivities often last for more than one day! We feasted and celebrated for two whole days! The second day of the celebration, I got to see a freshly-slaughtered cow be butchered by expert hands, and throughout the day, I got to eat beef from that same cow!! We also all wore traditional Sala clothing, which was a lot of fun. The other thrilling parts of the day were watching a dancing horse show and dancing late into the night! The Fulani actually told me I was a good dancer! Ironically, their dancing consists of bouncing up and down in beat to the unvaried rhythm of the drums, so I didn't need many dancing skills to get that kind of compliment.

The following morning, exhausted from all the feasting and dancing from the night before, the Jacksons and I, along with the other three language workers who were there celebrating with us, wearily gulped down Cameroonian tea, leftover rice and beef, and headed home (for pictures of our home, go here:

Although there were several times during the weekend that I felt overwhelmed by all the people and the cultural experiences, I had a fantastic and extremely memorable time. Since Fadi is now living with us, we will get to visit the village numerous times throughout the next year, which I am really looking forward to doing.

This week, Karen helped me start teaching Katelyn and Lum. I've only had two days of teaching, but I'm really enjoying it so far, and I'm looking forward to bonding with the girls more and learning how to best teach the two of them.

My good health, even after entering a new place and being surrounded by dozens of people all weekend
A smooth and enjoyable transition
New relationships with the Fulani

Prayer Requests:
Continued health and smooth transition
Wisdom and continued excitement for teaching the girls
That God would bless Fadi and her family

Thank you so much for all your prayers and support. It has been so wonderful to see God provide in every way.


  1. Praying for you,friend. The first few days sound so exciting and exhausting. May the Lord use this time to deepen your faith and to minister to those who have yet to hear the good news.

  2. This is so awesome, Cat! I love that you are not shying away from the exotic and foreign aspects of the culture, but you are diving in and really connecting with the people. Your pictures are great! I am so proud of you! May the Lord work powerfully through you and the Jackson family in this upcoming year!

  3. Catherine, You are an excellent writer!! I feel like I am in the midst of my favorite book and cannot wait for the next chapter! As I have read I, for some reason, have been seeing your face: your face is beeming with a huge smile where you cannot help but show your teeth, your cheeks are pink with warmth and you are glowing with the presence of the Holy Spirit (and a little perspiration)! I can also hear your wonderful laugh. It is such a delight to 'see' you in your new God-ordained environment. I await the next chapter and the testimony of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and His great work among those you love in His name!
    "Take heart..." Heather Biggs

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