Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dear Journal

“Oh, Susan, there is no such thing as a common day. Every day has something about it no other day has. Haven’t you noticed?” ~Anne of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery

Inspired by Anne Shirley, I decided to pay close attention to the unique aspects of each for a week and post my journal entries about them. So here is a week in the life of Catherine of Bamenda:

Thursday, Feb. 3

Today was an especially uncommon day. Karissa and I went to the auditorium where we meet for Tuesday dance class, because we were supposed to meet and practice for a dance performance next Thursday. We expected to practice with about six other people in an empty auditorium. However, when we get there, we saw hoards of young people spilling out of the auditorium, with loud music and cheers emanating from inside. We find our fellow dance students in the crowd, and ask where we’re going to practice. They tell us we’ll practice in the auditorium. Confused, we ask, “Oh, is this event almost over?”

“No, we’re going on stage in ½ an hour,” one of them tells us.

“What? We’re going to perform? I though the performance was next week!”

“It is. This is a different one. We told you on Tuesday it would be a performance.”

Oh, language barriers. Whether they actually told us or not, we’ll never know. But Karissa and I did go on stage ½ an hour later with our dance partners and one other couple from our dance class. We performed the salsa in front of about 1,000 people and, needless to say, we were pretty nervous. I kept messing up, but fortunately my dance partner was experienced enough to cover for me. Even with all my mistakes, it was thrilling! I’m so excited for next week!

Friday, Feb. 4

“We’re having practically all the white people who live in Bamenda over to our house tomorrow for pizza and a movie night,” I told a friend over the phone last night.

“So how do you meet these people?” she asked.

“Oh, it’s easy,” I responded. “Whenever we see a young white person downtown, we walk up to them, ask them who they are and invite them over for a Friday pizza and movie night!”

Therein lies the complex method of one of our more informal ministries here in Bamenda. Around 5:00 this evening, our house was transformed into a pizzeria, with assembly lines throughout the kitchen and dining room and the six pizzas we were creating rotating through the two oven racks. It was even as loud as I would imagine an Italian pizzeria would be, with everyone talking over the Nigerian music blaring from the speakers in the kitchen. Once the pizzas were done, the pizzeria transformed into a movie theater, and all seventeen of us settled down to watch the movie of choice for the evening: Tom and Huck. Well, we at least had it on in the background as we were all talking about the places we’ve been to, the movies we’ve seen, the Mount Cameroon climbing trip next week, and so on, and so on.

I love that we can offer a place to gather for a variety of people who often live alone or with host families. It’s so nice to be able to offer them a place to relax, have some amazing pizza, and form friendships with other people in their area.

Saturday, Feb. 5

This afternoon, most of the house went down the road to complete the exciting task of moving the pile of horse manure from where we had been dumping it to the actual dump, since the piles were bothering one of our neighbors. Apparently, watching people shovel poo into a truck is even more exciting than actually doing it, since one neighbor took time out of his Saturday afternoon to walk over and watch us.

After shoveling all of it into the back of a pickup, Katelyn and I sat on top of the manure; Chris, Pa and Alex climbed inside, and we all bounced down a dirt road to the dump. Katelyn and I had a great time, singing at the top of our voices, trying to stay inside the truck, and then shoving the poo onto the piles at the dump (or trying to stay out of the way while the guys shoved it out). Apparently, watching people unload poo from a truck is even more exciting than watching them shovel it into the truck, since three local guys and their dog took time out of their Saturday afternoon to walk over and watch us.

Sunday, Feb. 6

Today we had home church, were we compared and contrasted the story of Noah in the Bible and Koran. Around 1pm we went to dance class, then in the evening I went over to Uncle Fred’s house, where Elaine used to live and is staying for the weekend. It’s her last night in Bamenda, and we were finishing the movie Anne of Avonlea, which we started last night for Emmanuela’s birthday party. Emmanuela is a sweet, responsible twenty-two-year-old that helps run the ten-person household while attending school full-time.

Unfortunately, like most Sundays, the electricity was out. So I used the remaining sunlight of the day to give Elaine a haircut, adeptly using my extensive skills and experience. It was somewhat of a community event, since the house was too dark in which to do anything. The older girls of the house scanned Elaine’s fashion magazines while heating up dinner on an open fire, Fred’s eleven-year-old daughter Laura read aloud a story book, his five-year-old son Dan stomped on ants, and his eight-year-old daughter Abigail teased Dan.

Fortunately, like most Sundays, the electricity returned as it was getting dark. We settled down to watch the movie, and I got to eat fufu and njamajamma, my favorite Cameroonian dish. The movie was delightful, and I found a kindred spirit in Dezane, one of the teenage girls who lives in the house, who was falling all over the couch in grief as Anne rejects Gilbert. We sighed in sorrow together, even though we knew that an hour later we would be sighing in happiness. Which we did. I’m really enjoying getting to know Emmanuela and Dezane better, and I hope to keep building my friendships with them throughout the next several months. Currently I’m praying about starting a bible study with the two of them and a couple other teenage girls in my neighborhood.

Monday, Feb. 7

Katelyn, Lum and I couldn’t stop laughing during our Literature lesson today as we were reading It’s a Jungle Out There, an autobiographical book written by a guy who grew up as a missionary kid in Peru. Each chapter is a different story he remembers from his childhood, and they can relate to a lot of the challenges and excitements of his life. Inspired by this book, I assigned the girls to each write a narrative story about something that happened to them that is unique to Cameroon. Lum is going to write about the time she almost died of malaria, and Katelyn is going to tell the story about when she aggravated her pet monkey so much that it bit her sister on the finger. If they let me, I’ll post their stories when they finish them.

We have a laughing lifestyle here. Today was a good representation of how much we laugh. We laugh at each other’s morning grogginess, we laugh at funny names or events we read about in school, we laugh at mistakes we make, and every time we get into a taxi we laugh so hard we wonder why the taxi driver doesn’t kick us out for disturbing the peace. The girls and I could barely make it up our hill this evening because of doubling over with laughter. Just as we were getting ourselves under control, a string of neighbor toddlers ran towards us chanting, “white man, white man, white man!” and then we all burst out laughing all over again.

Tuesday, Feb. 8

3pm: The Jacksons’ dog Autumn has been tired and shaking and digging and panting for almost two days now: everyone who comes in the house asks, Have the puppies come yet?” Since veterinarians are rare here, we’re all acting like a team of home doctors. Karen looks up information about helping with puppy deliveries on the internet, Lum wakes up in the night to check on her, Katelyn makes sure her temporary “bed” in the empty fireplace is comfortable, and we all take turns rubbing her and loving on her. We’re all wondering why it’s taking so long, but with a house full of “doctors,” I don’t think there will be much of a problem.

7pm: Autumn has one adorable black puppy! The puppy’s name is Toka, which means “ash” in Fulfulde, since he was born in the fireplace.

Wednesday, Feb. 9

Two questions you should never ask here: “What time will it start?” and “How long will it last?” I foolishly tried asking these questions about the practice for our dance performance, and suffered the consequences. “Be here at 3:30,” our choreographer told Karissa and me. Karissa and I rolled our eyes and quietly agreed with each other to get there by four. We arrived at 4:15, and there was no one else there. We looked around, then sat around, and still no one showed up. Finally, around 4:30, two of the other dancers showed up, but we waited until about 5:30 before the other four of them came. We actually started practicing our choreography around 6:00, and had about an hour to nail it down.

Especially since this is not the first time this has happened, you’d think the lesson would have been fresh in my mind by 7:00 that night, but when we were talking about the performance tomorrow, I asked the forbidden questions. They said, “You must be here by 1:00, because we go on at 2:00.” We shall see.

Thursday, Feb. 10 (bonus entry!)

Karissa and I thought we were smart to arrive for the performance at 1:30, but we found out when we arrived that the show hadn’t even started yet, and we were the twenty-seventh dancing group. Will I never learn? After four hours of sitting behind the building, practicing a little, talking a lot, and watching another group do back flips, we performed: it was spectacular!


  1. This was such an enjoyable post, Catherine! It sounds like WAY more fun than a boring desk job here in the states ;)

  2. Thanks for posting, Catherine! I loved hearing about your week. :)_

  3. cool, cool, cool. If you did this every week, I wouldn't complain! :D You look spectacular with your dance partner, by the way... ;)

  4. Thanks! I'm glad you all enjoyed it! I love hearing your comments. :)