Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pa for this Pikin

"It's a Happy Father's Day, a Happy Father's Day!  It's a Happy Father's Day, a Happy Father's Day!"  We sang this song in church while the deacons collected the offering.  I didn't even know that Cameroonians celebrated Father's Day, let alone that it could be an offertory song in church.  Wonders never cease, as Cameroonians say.  

In Pidgin, a father is called Pa for Pikin. So on this Pa for Pikin Day I think its fitting that I pay a small tribute to my own Pa.  When I was getting ready to come to Cameroon as a Peace Corps Volunteer nine years ago, he was more excited about it then I was.  I was filled with "what-if" questions and the worse case scenarios.  He saw the adventure and the educational, career building opportunity.  As soon as he and my mom could, they came and visited me in my village in 2006. 

Watching a surgery at the hospital

They came and saw my life, greeted many people, and ate a lot of fufu and njamajama.  I was so grateful they came because it was a significant demonstration of their support and it made our conversations afterwards about Cameroon so much easier and richer.  

My parents with the Fon of Mambu-Bafut

After I finished my Peace Corps service I remember my dad telling me that he never doubted I would complete the two-year commitment, even in the midst of some serious challenges.  And partly because of his belief and support I continued to be involved in  Cameroon years later.  

I returned to Cameroon in 2011 to do research for my doctorate and this brought my parents once more to Cameroon.   

Embracing the local transportation system

Papa Jerry and Baby Kate

And then I returned to Cameroon again to work as Nutrition Advisor and this brought my dad to Cameroon for a third time.  But by this time his visit wasn't so much to see me, but to see my Cameroonian friends and family who considered him their, "Papa Jerry."
A surprise visit to Ma Doris

In traditional dress, a gift from my colleagues
After I finished my Peace Corps Service in 2007 I was very unsure of what to do next. I felt like by returning to the States I had abadoned the Cameroonians who were so hospitable and generous to a young, naive, inexperienced 23 year-old.  It was my dad who encouraged me to go on and get my doctorate so I could teach in America and do research in Cameroon and have a "foot in both places."  And here I am in Cameroon, for a fourth time, doing just that and very grateful to be doing so.  

So Papa Jerry, Happy Father's Day.  Thanks for always challenging me to dream big, aim high, and use all of my God-given talents to serve with a foot in both places.  I danced and sang in church this morning  in remembrance of you.