Monday, December 6, 2010

A Beautiful Diversity

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Bamenda. It just opened up about a month ago, and I’ve been a regular customer since the grand opening. There is something ironic and yet natural about this coffee shop. Just as I lose myself in a corner of the shop, sipping my cappuccino, listening to Nora Jones on my computer, and reading G.K. Chesterton, I notice the glorious ruckus of Africa right outside the door. Motorbikes whiz by, taxis honk and swerve, dozens of people in colorful clothes stroll by, greetings fly through the air. I scan the shop, remembering that the woven lamp hangings, the carved tables, the masks on the wall, and even the ceramic mugs and coffee within them are not imported or made at a factory. It’s all local and handmade. Even the coffee comes from our northwest region of Cameroon. But the most ironic part of this coffee shop is how unusual its existence is. This is the only true coffee shop in Bamenda. There are other places I can get coffee, but I can’t even really call it coffee. Customers are normally served Nescafe instant coffee, with powdered milk. It’s even hard to find some of the art and handicrafts that decorate this shop—Cameroonians love to have Western clothes, Western jewelry, Western music, and Western furniture. Part of the reason I love this new coffee shop so much is that, while it is more spacious and a little more expensive than “normal” Cameroonian cafes, it intentionally supports local artists and coffee growers. But it still has enough of a familiar coffee shop atmosphere to satisfy my cravings for the comforts of an American coffee shop.

I find that most of my life here is a delightful combination of Cameroon and the West. Thanksgiving was a beautiful picture of the diversity of my life here. We had over thirty people come over: Americans, Canadians, and both Bantu and Fulani Cameroonians. Instead of turkey we had chicken, but we did manage to have quite a few traditional dishes, like cranberry sauce and green bean casserole. Fadi’s family in the village even sent down two live chickens as a Thanksgiving present. (Side Note: We didn’t end up eating those for Thanksgiving --- we wanted to keep them for their eggs. However, a few days later we chased them around the yard with the purpose of turning them into dinner, after discovering at 4am that they were roosters, not chickens.)

Lum’s birthday party was another fun mix of cultures. We invited over about ten of Lum’s friends, decorated the living room like a formal black and white party, dressed to the hilt, ate homemade pizza and carrot cake, then had a big dance party to the girls’ favorite Cameroonian music.

Even our family devotions are a mix of cultures and languages: last week we read the Bible passage first in English, then again in Pidgin, then in Fulfulde, for the benefit of the different first languages represented around the table.

It is so fun experiencing all the different people, languages, and cultures here in Cameroon and especially in the Jacksons’ home. Even though life here is a lot more familiar to me this year, living in the “Jackson Village” is always exciting.

My life here is wonderful and exciting, but I feel compelled to explain that it's not always easy. I often find myself wishing I had more alone time, or that there was an effective pest control here, or that I could be closer to my family and friends. I catch myself looking forward to future events at the expense of enjoying the present, and convincing myself that perfection awaits me in California next year. But, as Chesterton writes in his essay, "The Contented Man", "True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it." So I am primarily using this blog as a tool in my efforts to get out everything I can from my life here and now. I am so blessed, and I want to be sure to notice all the blessings God gives me here. Thank you for joining me in my rejoicing as well as my struggles. Your support means more than words can express.


*Lum and Katelyn are making great progress in school

*I have had wonderful health lately

*God has given me many opportunities to use my gifts and education to meet the needs of people in our “Jackson Village”, from teaching study skills to just having heart-to-heart conversations.

Prayer Requests:

*That I would continue to find time and space to take breaks and balance the excitement and business of life here.

*That as Christmas approaches, we would remember the gift of Jesus, our Emmanuel, in the midst of our busy (but fun!) schedule.

*That God would continue to show me how I can be an encouragement to those around me.


  1. Good reminders about contentment. I think no matter where we live, we can struggle with that! Thanks, friend. :)

  2. Chesterton is the man! I'm so incredibly proud of you Catherine. I know it's hard (and you know how I know), but you already know that this experience is going to affect you for the rest of your life. You got this girl. Merry Christmas Bruiser!! P.S. Can I come visit?

  3. Thanks, Laura! And Squirt, I would LOVE for you to come visit. I'm thinking it might be a little easier than your cross-cultural experience (for one, everyone here speaks English.)
    Merry Christmas to you, too!

  4. Oh Catherine I do love reading your updates! Thanks for sharing so honestly about the journey the Lord has you on. I love that you allow us to see so many parts of your like in Cameroon! I loved hearing about your lovely coffee shop and your journey towards looking at what it means to take in everything you with what is in front of you.
    Will surely continue to be praying for you dear!

    Grace and Peace,