Friday, December 23, 2011

I Am The Happiest of Happies

One of the things I enjoy most about living in Cameroon is the gratitude of the Cameroonians.  Every month I give my housekeeper, Doris, approximately $10 for coming once a week to scrub my floors; destroy wasps nests and spiderwebs; and wash my sheets, towels, and windows.  Each time I give her the money a bright smile quickly spreads across her face and she thanks me profusely as she turns around with an extra bounce in her step.  It always brings me joy to see her and other Cameroonian's gratitude and thus I was looking forward to Christmas and the opportunity to give gifts.   I've spent the last few days celebrating Christmas early with my friends who live around or in Bamenda. 

One of my first Christmas celebrations was with Franklin and his siblings.  After a discussion on the African view of metaphysics, I gave him a tie that my mom sent and his sisters fabric so they could sew their Christmas dresses.  

My next Christmas celebration was with Eunice's children and Peter. I bought matching suits for Lord and Babila.  I'm pretty sure the suits came from China, so they aren't the highest quality, but they seemed quite proud of their new threads.

Lord in his new suit.
Peter dressing Babila.  Unfortunately the person in China who sewed the clothes forgot to burst the holes, so he couldn't button the suit.  
Babila in his unbuttonable suit

I bought Kate a new dress for Christmas day.  In a blink of an eye she tore off her old clothes and put on her new dress.  My mom also sent her a doll and based on the input from Lord, she named her Courage.  She also received glow-in-the dark glasses which didn't quite fit, but were fun for the moment.

After opening the gifts we went to a nearby restaurant for dinner.  Peter kept telling me that he is the happiest of happies on this day and so grateful not only for the gifts, but also the support throughout the year.

I spent my very first Christmas in Cameroon with Eunice, Peter, Lord, and Babila, shortly before this picture was taken in 2005.  I still remember that day.  I had only been in Bafut for a few weeks and not wanting to spend Christmas by myself I made a cake and brought it to her house.  She promptly invited me inside and offered me food and made me feel apart of her family even though at that time we had only knew each other for a few weeks.  How I wish she could've been there the other night for her to see how handsome and beautiful her children are and to celebrate another Christmas in Cameroon with her.  But I am also the happiest of happies that I can still share and see her spirit in her children.

Lord Jesus Christ, your world awaits you. 
In the longing of the persecuted for justice;
In the longing of the poor for prosperity;
In the longing of the privileged for riches greater than wealth;
In the longing of our hearts for a better life;
And in the song of your Church, expectation is ever present. 
O come, Lord, desire behind our greatest needs.
O come, Lord, liberator of humanity. 
O come, Lord, O come, Immanuel.
An Advent Prayer 

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You Be Like Some Kind Pioneer

After three years of living in Cameroon I still smile when I hear Cameroonian's descriptions or phrases and in the past few weeks I've heard some good ones.  Last week we finished our last listening session with the control group.  Before the participants filled out the post-tests one of the nurses, Margaret, was explaining to the participants in Pidgin the importance of filling out the form as a way to prove that the program is effective.  In her discourse she told them, "You be like some kind pioneer".   Now in Public Health terms what we are doing is pilot-testing the program, but I think I like pioneer-testing better.  Perhaps because sometimes I feel like I'm a pioneer on the American frontier as I climb a ladder to reach the loft in my cottage, wash my clothes by hand, bake bread from scratch, throw my trash into a hole in the ground, use a kerosene lamp when the electricity goes out, and eat food that is grown on land around me.  

Our "Pioneers" struggling to complete the post-test.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with my usual motorcycle driver about taking a trip to Ndu, a village about an hour away.  He said to me, "Kate do you want a casket?"  Now, when you are contemplating a trip by motorcycle on perilous roads, the word casket is not really something you want to hear.  I looked at him perplexed and asked, "A casket?"  "Yes," he said, "For your head."  And then I realized its a casket, not a helmet, and thought that word too is probably a better description of a hard piece of plastic that entombs your head.

Other great phrases of recent include, "Things are not working inside your head" when referring to an HIV-positive person who refuses to take his antiretroviral drugs; "We will send our eyes inside that book" when I gave my friend a magazine I finished reading; "When your brain falls on my son" meaning when you think of my son who is struggling; and "I am hungry to see you" from a friend who I have not seen for a few days.

In the last week I have changed my schedule and planning on returning to the States in February.  Since  making that decision I've been reminding myself of all of the phrases I say here that are really not appropriate in the States.  For example, when meeting someone far out on the running trail its polite to just wave, not stop and ask, "How you sleep?"  Every answer to a question should not begin with "No" especially when the correct answer is actually "Yes".  The phrase "You are welcome"  should come after someone says "Thank you" and doesn't need to be repeated every five minutes or randomly inserted into the middle of a conversation.  I need to stop clicking my tongue to demonstrate disgust and "Waay, ashia" is not an appropriate response not matter how versatile it is here.  If I say that "I am coming" I have to mean that I will be there soon, instead of implying that I've thought about perhaps leaving my house and hope to get there in an hour, two, or even the next day.  And if I say "Tomorrow" I have to really mean the next day, not just some time in the near future.  I cannot tell someone to "Shii down fo that side" when I want them to take a seat nor can I ask "You come out for which side?" when I want to know from where they come.  Perhaps hardest of all will be to stop stating the obvious. "You are there", "You have come", "You are in the market", "You are making sport",  or "You are washing" aren't conversation starters in America but an opening for sarcastic jokes.  Although I realize there are many things I say here that don't translate in America, I do hope I can pioneer some words and phrases as many of them better describe life or show concern for the other person.