Celebrating Sala in the Fulani village this year was much different than last year (for the whole story of last year’s Sala, see the “Barka de Sala!” post of Sept. 2009). Last year I was jetlagged and in culture shock, while this year I was well rested from my 4 days in Germany and was familiar with Cameroon. Last year all my senses were on alert as I ate my first okra soup with fresh beef, watched the horse tricks, and heard and danced to the Fulani’s music. This year I was in a daze from having some kind of short-lived stomach illness which prevented me from eating at all or from dancing for very long. Lame stomach! So, while it was wonderful to see all my Fulani friends again and play with the kids a little, this year’s Sala was a lot more low-key for me.
But the most exciting difference between last year and this year was the ride back down the mountain to Bamenda.
Since I wasn’t feeling well the day we arrived in the village, and since there were some Sala guests who wanted to get back to Bamenda early, Chris and Karen agreed to take us back down that first evening. However, we anticipated some complications. Complication #1: a dozen people (including 4 small children) wanted a ride down in the Land Rover. Complication #2: It’s rainy season, meaning there is a torrential downpour every afternoon and evening, making the dirt road very slippery. Complication #3: We waited to leave until it was almost dark.
Despite the impending difficulties, we all packed into the truck, with kids on our laps, and started our decent. The drive started out as any other drive on a dirt road in the rain would be: there were quite a few bumps and there was quite a lot of sliding. But thanks to Chris’s mad driving skills, we didn’t blink an eye. However, as we kept driving, the rain kept pouring and the sky grew darker. Finally, the dreaded event of any off-road driver happened: we got stuck. Not just stuck on a flat part of the road either—stuck on a steep, muddy slope, with a deep ditch on the closest side of the road. After some tire squealing, all of us passengers, kids, babies and all, slid out of the car and onto the embankment on the other side of the narrow road. We women did our best to be encouraging and stay dry, while the two men worked on pushing the truck up the hill while Chris gunned the engine. Just as we were praying for more help, some Cameroonians came down the road, and gladly helped us! And just as someone said, “If only we had some dry mud blocks,” who should appear but women carrying dry mud blocks down that treacherous road! Wow, God, you provide so specifically! The blocks did the trick, and the truck bounced and skidded up the hill.
The rest of the ride was free of interruptions, but we were holding on for dear life. Holding onto dashboards, safety handles, and the children. The truck was still sliding down most of the road, but in the competition between the mud and Chris’ driving skills, Chris was winning. At one moment, the truck spun around and came dangerously close to rolling backwards off the side of the road, and it looked like the mud might conquer Chris, but Chris came out the champion! The dark and stormy night, including the frequent lightning flashes, made the ride even more thrilling. At one point I exclaimed, “The Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland is wimpy! I’ll never be able to enjoy it again after this!” But we finally got safely home, passed the advil bottle around, and settled down to a movie to unwind.
After a turbulent end to a brief and mellow Sala celebration, the Jacksons and I are back on a relatively “normal” schedule. While life here isn’t as exciting as it seemed at the beginning of last year, it is very exciting for me to see how much Katelyn and Lum have learned and grown since the beginning of last year! It’s also nice to be familiar with how life works here—in Cameroon and in the Jackson’s home. I’m looking forward to building on the relationships I established last year and seeing what God has planned for me in the coming year.
*I had a wonderful four-day transition in Germany with my friend Anna
*I arrived in Cameroon safely, with all of my luggage
*I recovered quickly from whatever illness I had my first weekend here
*I’m getting resettled in the Jackson household
*That I would continue to transition smoothly into the lifestyle and pace of the Jackson’s home
*That I would stay healthy
*That I would have wisdom as I decide what weekly ministries to begin again this year