Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blisters from Cooking? Seriously?

The Land Cruiser bounces through a pothole and swerves to the left to avoid hitting a chicken crossing the road with her babies. After a narrow miss, the car turns into a road that looks more like a dried-up riverbed, throwing us passengers from side to side. After a few painful minutes on this “road”, we screech back onto the main road and pass a man conspicuously peeing into the ditch. At last, the car turns into a small market area, eases down a narrow alleyway between two houses, passes through the front yards of a few more houses, rolls over the edge of a garden, and slows to a halt. After this very typical journey, we have finally reached Bafut, the village where Lum grew up, and where Lum, Fadi, and I would spend the weekend.

We are greeted by several children screaming with excitement, dressed in very well-worn clothes—one of which has on pants that are completely ripped down the back seam. Then, Lum’s mother welcomes us into her home and proceeds to fill our bellies to the brim with amazing Cameroonian food. I go through all the standard greetings: “Na, dey fine, how fo you?” “Bamenda is fine, how is Bafut?” etc. , and get to hold Lum’s new baby brother.

The next day and a half is full of playing tag with kids and helping Lum’s mom around the compound (Sorry about the lack of pictures--I forgot to bring my camera). Lum, Fadi and I cut up loads of tomatoes and vegetables, and I get to help with the whole process of making water fufu, a starchy, kind of sour-tasting food that we eat with a main dish of green vegetables. I have a whole new respect for Cameroonian women and all they have to do to just prepare one meal!

Recipe for Water Fufu:

Wash and drain 20 lbs of cassava root into the biggest pot you have.

Pour the now mashed potato-looking substance in huge bags to sit overnight.

The next morning, squish the fufu around in water to smooth it out (It should feel like you are a little kid playing in the mud again).

Stir the fufu with a large wooden pounding stick in a large cauldron over an open fire.

Continue stirring, even when the fufu gets so thick it feels like you are rowing a boat through a river of firm butter.

Embarrass yourself by passing the pounding stick off to the 60-something-year-old Cameroonian sitting next to you in the cookhouse, who can pound at that fufu with more force than you can possibly muster-up.

Take the stick and your pride back and stir until you get blisters.

Keep asking the pro Cameroonian, “Now is it done?” “How about now?” “Is it done now?”

Continue the process of stirring till your blisters pop and the Cameroonian woman takes pity on you (or is disgusted with you) and takes the stick back.

When the fufu is cooked to a consistency that only a Cameroonian can detect, watch as this amazingly strong old woman heaves the pot off the fire (since there is no way you’d be able to lift that monster!).

Roll the fufu into cylindrical shapes with your hand and a small plate.

Pass the plate off to the Cameroonian woman after she keeps shaking her head at your attempts to roll the fufu correctly.

Enjoy your completed water fufu!

It was indeed satisfying to eat something that was made with my sweat and blood, and to find that it actually tasted the way it should, even though I helped make it!

Even though I’ve been living in Africa for almost nine months, it still amazes me how people here live lives of such simplicity, and how much hard work it takes just to feed a family. It is so humbling to see Cameroonians serve visitors with such hospitality, work so hard without complaining, and even are willing to care for other children who are not looked after by their own parents. I pray that God will help me work and serve with a similar selfless attitude in all that I do.

It’s also fun to have these types of unique experiences. It’s been really difficult to make this final push till the end of the school year, but God has been really blessing me over the last few weeks by giving me joyful reminders about why I’m here and choosing to come back next year. I got to take a dirt bike taxi up to our Fulani village a few weekends ago, which was refreshing. Then two weeks ago our whole “Jackson Village” had a great time hiking in the beautiful mountains of Mbingo for Mother’s Day.

Also, my reading class has doubled in size and it really seems like the kids are learning. Lum and Katelyn’s skills continue to improve. Chris, Karen, Jarrod and I have been having a blast playing card games in the evenings and weekends. Katelyn and I took the horses out jumping. And mango season is still going strong!

Praise God for these much needed times of refreshment and joy, and please pray that God continues to give me strength and perseverance for my last five weeks in Cameroon.