Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cameroon: The First 5 Days

Friday, September 11th
"We had ice cream over western Nigeria and northern Cameroon. Looking out the window I could see the sun glinting off of metal roofs. I watched as we transitioned from savannah to mountains, from yellow dirt to red, open spaces to forest. When we finally landed at Yaoundé it was the smoothest landing I had ever experienced." (Excerpt from Cameroon journal)

We were met at Nsimalen International Airport in Yaoundé by Mickey. He and his wife, Barb, take care of the volunteers who come to Cameroon through Wycliffe Associates and they do a really great job of it. They worked hard to make our accommodations in the city comfortable and safe and provided many chances to meet Cameroonians and see the country.

One of our teammates in this adventure was Brian and he arrived safely on Saturday. Our final teammate, Lendl arrived later in the week.

Sunday, September 13th
"They took us to church at Etoug-Ebe Baptist Church...The interesting part, to me, was the baby announcements. They announced as many births as deaths and the congregation really responded to that. With joy at the births and sadness at the deaths." (Excerpt from Cameroon journal)

Monday, September 14th
"...at about 7:15-7:30 we heard the voices of little children running past talking about the super hero status of one of their classmates. The Parent Run School for the elementary kids is next door and there is a connector gate in the wall." (Excerpt from Cameroon journal)

In the morning, we saw where the Rain Forest International School (RFIS) is currently set up and sharing space with the Summer Institute of Linguistics training facilities. Both are getting too big to share anymore and so the construction of a permanent home for the school has become a high priority.

"The RFIS compound is very large. One end is dominated by the soccer pitch. On the slopes at the other end is the school buildings area. They have 5 buildings in process. Various stages are represented. Two more buildings need to be completed but they need another $250,000 to do it." (Excerpt from Cameroon journal)

When we saw the RFIS site for the first time, we could see that it had been cut out of the jungle with walls not only for security, but for holding the forest back.

Tuesday, September 15th
"Paul said that the tractor needed reparing so I hammered nails in roof trusses all afternoon. I was having to go through 3 layers of hardwood and it seemed that the last layer was harder because the last inch on the nail was the most difficult. By 4 pm my right arm was in serious pain." (Excerpt from Cameroon journal)

I was relieved when Paul, the Wycliffe Associates construction administrator, set me up with the small tractor the next day. I can handle a manual transmission and a bucket or back hoe better than 4 inch nails in hardwood any day of the week.


Close your eyes and imagine this...

You're getting ready to send your daughter off to international boarding school. You're sewing the little ribbon name tags into the back of each piece of clothing. You've taken the list provided by the hostel where she'll be living and gathered things like sheets, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, towels and washcloths, book bag, and all the other things she'll need to be as self-sufficient as possible far from Mom and Dad. You've even cut her long, beautiful hair short so that she can take care of it by herself with the braid wrapped and stored as a keepsake. You send another prayer up that her visa comes in time since she's not only going away from home for school, she's going to a different country.

I'm having to imagine it myself since I'm speaking for my Mom. She is the one that can truly tell you what it's like to send your child off to another country to boarding school.

However, I can speak as the child since I was that child. Mom and Dad did a great job of making it an adventure. I felt very grown up to be going off by myself to school. I knew other kids who had already begun doing that, and at the time it was normal to start boarding school in 4th grade. Mom had home schooled me up to that point because Cameroon didn't have public schools that were good enough to keep me at the same level of education as my peers in the United States. Now it was time to do big girl things and go to school in Nigeria.

I have no children of my own, but even imagining my nieces and nephews being sent off at a very young age causes me fear. Would they be safe? Who can they go to if they get homesick or need help with their homework? Will they be okay? What happens if they have trouble in school with other kids or with their teacher?

So when I found out about the opportunity to go to Cameroon to help build the Rain Forest International School (RFIS) for missionary kids, I checked out their web site. Since it's a fact of life for a lot of missionary kids, I wanted to find out if they had goals and beliefs that would make the school the best it could be. It's important to me that when parents send their children away to school that it's safe and the child comes first. I liked what I saw and decided that I wanted to be a part of that.

So, I embarked on a journey; raising money to go and be a construction worker at the new school site. Thanks to God's grace and a lot of people who were generous both financially and with their prayers, I left for Cameroon on September 10th, 2009. And, lucky me, my Dad went with me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Trip Journal

Here it is, all the thoughts and things I collected on my Cameroon trip.

It's quite full. I have always hand bound my travel journals in the past, but there was no time this year. So I used blank Moleskine Cahiers for both my Uganda trip and this trip to Cameroon.

But it's still stewing and rolling around in my mind. Still very personal, although I'm working on that. It's full of photos I printed on my PoGo every day to accompany what I wrote and the other things that I collected.

Only one sketch, but a lot of other things like a leaf, water bottle labels, tickets, brochures, and all sorts of other bits and pieces glued in that help tell the story. I wish I'd had more time for sketching but it seemed that the only time I was sitting still long enough it was always back at the Wycliffe Associates volunteer compound at the end of the day and I was just too tired.

But don't give up on me. I'll get it sorted out and posted sometime soon.