Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TED talk by Ken Robinson who says Schools Kill Creativity

This guy has really nailed it on the head.

TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on Nurturing Creativity

This is really good. It's a long one, but it's worth watching all of it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cameroon: The Last Leg

Friday, Sepember 25th

Since Brian was leaving in the evening, we went to the Parc National de la Mefou (National Park of the Primate) instead of working.

“It is where rescued primates are taken. As many as can be are released back into the wild, but most cannot and so live there for the rest of their lives. That’s a long time considering that many are orphaned as babies when they come and can live into their forties (chimpanzees).” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

“Each enclosure is multiple acres or hectares and has one or two keepers. The fences are very high and electric so that it delivers a shock if touched. The interior perimeter is kept short to prevent the inhabitants from climbing above the fence and leaping out. However, they are only out during the day. They are fed in cages in the evening and locked up for the night. Reason being, when the keepers are gone they contrive escape using wood sticks to pry the wires apart and prevent electrocution. If escape does happen, most are easily caught again by their keepers. The keepers are part of their troupe/group and so are family. Escaped individuals will come to them when called.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

It is really a fascinating place housing chimpanzees, gorillas, and baboons along with a few other small primates. When the young animals are brought in, they are put with others of their kind an in their age group. This becomes their group and when they're old enough to leave the nursery, an enclosure is built for the group. They are never split up. One of the gorilla groups that we were able to visit has been there long enough that the second generation has begun. It was interesting to see the very evident family relationships of alpha male (Dad), Mom, and aunties and uncles.

From there we went to the SIL Cameroon Training Center compound to shop at the boutique. One of the women keeps it stocked with sewn items made by a women's self-help cooperative in Bafut, called Seheco.

 Saturday, September 26th

It was a rest day!

Dad and Lendl went to a soccer game and I stayed back at the compound reading and doing laundry. At one point in the afternoon I thought I heard rain, ...but it wasn’t raining. It kept getting louder and then I remembered. The rain was coming across the city and I was hearing it on the metal roofs as it got closer and closer.

I ran out to the line and began frantically pulling down the clothes. Just as I stepped back onto the verandah, the rain reached me. I was just in time.

Sunday, September 27th

"Covenant Baptist Church. It was planted by the first church that we went to here in Yaoundé. Their service is bilingual, so everything said in English was repeated in French. While the pastor preached in English, he would pause every 1-3 sentences so that the turn-talk could repeat it in French." (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)


It was really good to see how the Cameroonian church has grown in both size and leadership. They are firm in their faith and are sharing with others. It was good to see that what my parents invested in when I was a child had grown and flourished. The pastor that did the sermon is a Cameroonian who evangelizes Muslims. They have missionaries! We could use a few of them here.

We rested that afternoon, then joined SIL people at the Cameroon Training Center for an evening chapel. My Dad volunteered to do the devotional. His topic was about living by faith instead of just trying hard. It was really good.

Monday, September 28th

Another work day. I was looking forward to putting up ceiling pieces with the same men I had the week before. But new guys had been hired and, being new, they were not experienced with working with white people as the other construction workers were. They might have been in awe if I had been a guy, but since I was a gal they really didn't know how to respond or what do do with me. I stuck it out and did my best to let them know I was capable without treading on their toes and being a nasty white woman. It was certainly an adventure.

Tuesday, September 29th

I switched jobs again and got apprenticed to a wall builder.

"I watched for a bit, then he showed me how to place adn adjust the blocks. He did the ends adn the corner and had me do the middle ones." (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

Those cement blocks are heavy and seem even heavier when you have to lift up and set down slowly and fairly accurately. I was really missing my muscles I had back in my picture framing days. I could have used them.

For supper Dad and I were the guests of an interesting couple.

"He's a linguistic consultant and she's a literacy consultant. They travel a lot, both together and separately." (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

Since they not only travel, but move house a lot they don't weigh themselves down with a lot of possessions. The apartment they hosted us in was rented along with all the contents. The only things that were theres were the necessary personal items and a very few decorative items acquired during their stay there.

Wednesday, September 30th

"Today I got to help Deudonner finish the wall. He had me do one row of mortar but after that he had me just hand him blocks and keep him supplied...It was too high for me and he needed to get the wall done that day." (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

It was SO HOT that day. I think the only dry part of me was the last half inch on the tips of the bandanna around my neck.

"For dinner we had more African food. Several forms (3 to be exact) of njama-njama, fried plantains, boiled plantains, and boiled sweet potatoes." (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)


Thursday, October 1st

Since Deudonner was off in his village negotiating a bride price I ended up back on the little tractor. I cut a new place to keep the gravel they use for concrete and finished up with the back hoe just as it sprung a leak.  So, while Dad and Johannes tried to see if they could fix it, I finished up with a hand shovel. It was another extra hot day, so I took longer breaks than normal in the shade, keeping myself hydrated.

When I was done with my spot, I went to help Lendl. He looked as tired as I felt. I kept him supplied with dirt while he compressed it in the hole he was filling up by hand.

Our after dinner bonus was getting to see Lendl's pictures of where he lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It's a beautiful country which looks quite run down from the civil war. There's some real need there.

Friday, October 2nd

It was our last day in Cameroon. Since I had a lot to do before leaving, I didn't go to work at the school site. Instead I did laundry. That was a little more stressful than I was hoping for since it was overcast and humid. While trying not to think about the laundry getting dry enough to pack, I sorted through things and started to pack them up. Throughout the day, people kept showing up with letters for me to post back in the States for them. I think I ended up with almost 300 pieces. They were good padding for the ceramics that I was taking back.

I kept checking on the laundry, turning it occasionally, trying to shorten the drying time. Finally, mid-afternoon, it was dry enough.  You see, in Africa you don't want to take your laundry off the line too soon since if it isn't completely dry there are these little bugs that like to burrow into your skin and...you get the picture. One way to take care of that problem if your laundry won't dry is to iron it and I REALLY didn't want to have to iron everything.

After supper, we finished up the last of our packing and waited for Mickey to take us to the airport. I sat on the veranda for awhile to soak in the sounds and smells one last time. When he did come, there was another family in the van who were also going to the airport to return home to the States.

"When we pulled into the airport parking lot, a swarm of porteurs raced across the ground toward us. We grabbed our small things before opening the doors so that a porteur wouldn't grab them. They were a little disappointed with how little luggage there was for so many people."

We boarded our SM Brussels flight, and left Africa.

Saturday, October 3rd

We were home again. My sister and her family met us at the airport and it was so good to see them. I still had some Cameroonian money so I gave each of the kids a 1000 franc note.

"We collected our things from baggage claim and went out to the car. Brenda had some bread, cheese, sausage, and apple slices to munch on and Dad and I talked about our trip all the way home." (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Cameroon: The Mbingo Weekend

Friday, September 18th

“Got up, got ready, and we loaded into the van and headed out of Yaoundé for Mbingo...Mickey was wearing a Cameroonian football (soccer) team jersey which I complimented him on. He said he always wears it when he travels because it often helps with getting quickly through checkpoints if stopped. We managed to get out of Yaoundé without too much difficulty and cruised on a smooth paved road at high speeds.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

Oh, joy! We were going to Mbingo!

When I was six years old, we moved to Mbingo and lived there for four years. Four years may not seem long to many, but when you’re a missionary family, that can actually be a long time. Mbingo is one of the places that I count as home and I never thought I would ever get to go back to that beautiful place.


As we got closer and closer to Mbingo, the landscape became more and more familiar. When we got to Bamenda, I was truly almost home. As we climbed that road toward Mbingo Valley, Dad commented on how bad it had been when it was raining. Slippery and difficult even for a Land Rover. Now it’s paved.

“It all looked so very the same, yet so very different at the same time.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

As we came into the valley along that winding road, we could see the Big Waterfall off on the valley’s back “wall.” The same as it was before. However, we passed a grove of palm trees that hadn’t been there. The market was still where it had been, but now there were permanent cubicles for the vendors instead of just poles and grass roofs. The same sign announcing Mbingo Baptist Hospital stood where it always has, but the hospital has expanded to meet it rather than sitting back at a discreet distance.


After stopping for a key, we continued up the hill to the house we had lived in. The road up to it is as steep as ever.

“The house has changed so much. The yard is smaller. There is now a flower hedge not far from the house on the south side. You can’t even see where the carport was or the hill I learned to ride a bike on.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)


I spent quite a bit of time investigating everything, remembering how it used to be and deciding how I felt about what it is now. Purely by chance, my bags were deposited with Nora’s in my old room.

What hasn’t changed is the magnificence of the view out toward the open end of the valley.


“About 4:30 or 5, Dad and I walked down the old path to the back of the hospital and through past Hiller’s old house and the one where Aunt Gigi and Aunt Myrna lived, over to Aunt Pat’s house.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

To missionary kids, all adults are Uncle or Auntie and that never changes. It was great to visit Auntie Pat in the same home that she lived in when we were there and where she taught me art.

Saturday, September 19th

“We all had a big breakfast around the table of pancakes, fried spam, and scrambled eggs.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

We set out to do some more sightseeing and shopping in the area.

“The first place we went was Presbook to their arts and crafts shop. ...After that we went to Bamenda market. That brought back a lot of memories...Barb and Nora had found some boiled groundnuts and some guavas. We headed out of Bamenda after that and took part of the Ring Road to the Ndop Plain to visit PresPot. We got a tour of the pottery works from one of the senior potters named Primus. He showed us where they pull the clay out of the ground during dry season, and the process they put it through to clean it for use. Then he threw a pot, showed us the kilns, and talked about their glazes.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)


Sunday, September 20th

Sunday morning we went to church at Mbingo Baptist Church and discovered that there was going to be a wedding. The bridal car arrived just as we did with the best man, the head of the bride’s family, the groom, the bride, the maid of honor and the ring bearers and flower girls. There was a sign on the back that said “About to be wed.”



“The wedding was completely integrated into the service. During the first song was the processional. The groom and best man came in first followed by the flower girls and ring bearers. Then the bride and relatives came in. They were all seated up front during the singing for worship. We sang for a long time. I think the “solemnization” - wedding vows - were next, then the sermon from Malachi 2. Then the presentation of the gifts and more singing. Church started at 9:30 am and we were finally done at 12:30 pm.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)


I wanted hike up towards the back valley. Not all the way, just up to the waterfalls. However, our time there was so full, I wasn’t sure I’d get to. It was going to have to be Sunday afternoon, but during lunch it started to rain. Hiking up a mountain in an Mbingo downpour on Mbingo slippery mud isn’t a good idea.


“Brian and Lendl talked about hiking in the rain and we talked them out of it. They were determined to go, so when the rain stopped, I went with them. We took the road up. It curves around and gives great views in all directions. We eventually came to the stream that feeds the Little Waterfall.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)


We climbed up as far as the Big Waterfall even though it was going to make me late getting back for another dinner at Auntie Pat’s. It was worth it.


Monday, September 21st


“While they were packing up the kitchen, I went for one more look at the valley. I found myself crying. I suppose I was grieving for both goodbyes. This one and the one in 1977. Mbingo is one of the places I call home and didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance to return. Now part of me is afraid that this was the last time.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)





We headed back to Yaoundé then.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Cameroon: Getting Into It For Real

Wednesday, September 16th

The small tractor was fixed, so I was looking forward to not hammering nails. I had taken some pain killers in the morning so that I could get through the day with minimal troubles.



“Brian went back to hammering nails and Dad taught me how to use the smaller tractor to move sand piles. Soon I was on my own while he worked on the generator.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)



I had fun learning to coordinate my hands so that the bucket operated smoothly. The hardest part was trying to pick up sand and get as close to the bottom of the pile as possible without scooping up dirt along with it. I'm afraid that the ground wasn't even close to level and I was highly unsuccessful in keeping the dirt out of the sand. However, I hope I didn't have too much contamination. At one point I disturbed a driver ant colony, so I worked in another area for awhile. The last thing I wanted was to have them attacking the tractor to get at me.

You laugh? You've never encountered driver ants then. You wouldn't laugh if you had!

"For supper we had real fufu. A lady brought the fufu in little bags along with njama-njama and properly cooked plantains. It was so good! I finished mine and then took the second half of Brian’s. And yes...I ate with my fingers.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

Talk about heaven. Real Cameroonian food using real palm oil. For those not in the know, njama-njama is like spinach, but has a more bitter taste. The reason I ate with my fingers is because that's how you eat fufu. In some areas they stipulate that you only use the first two fingers and you never eat with your left hand anywhere since that's the hand you use for unclean things. (Sorry lefties.)

The reason I took the second half of Brian's helping is not because I'm greedy or unfeeling. According to my husband, fufu is an acquired taste. The kind we had is made from cornmeal mixed quickly with boiling water and a little salt to a play-dough consistency. Bland is the word often used.

But think about it. Mashed potatoes are bland too and it's a matter of what you're accustomed to and what you eat it with. So I could hardly let good fufu go to waste. Brian had his taste and was fine with that, so I finished it off for him.

Thursday, September 17th

“We were joined by a newcomer named Lendl. He’s been working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and decided to use his vacation time to visit Cameroon.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

We were expecting Lendl to join us and he had arrived late the night before, after I had already gone to bed. It was nice to have another addition to our little group. Since Dad and I had each other, Brian and Lendl were buddies.

“I drove the tractor again. Finished the sand pile as well as could be expected. Then I learned how to fill and compress a ditch.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

You'll notice that I've skipped a few days right here. That's because I've made it a different post. So you'll have to read the next one too. A little 101 Arabian Nights strategy for you.

Tuesday, September 22nd

“The men were already in the middle of putting up a rafter when we got there. The guys helped with the next one and sent me running for a camera. I sat and watched as they hoisted two more up then began sliding them into place and bracing them. At lunch time we were invited to join them for lunch and had fufu, njama-njama, and chicken.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

Wow! That was incredible to watch the guys putting up those rafters. I've had the privilege of watching a really good crane operator place I-beams on a construction site and it's like watching ballet. This raising of the rafters was all about brute strength and total teamwork instead. There were 20 men doing the lifting, 2 men on the roof with ropes, 2 at the other end on rafters already raised (also with ropes), a man on each wall, and one man directing it all.

They estimated that each rafter weighed about a ton and this is how it was done. First off, the job of the guy directing it all wasn't just to tell them how to do it, but to coordinate their efforts. So, when everyone was ready, they would bend over to prepare to lift. The director said, in a deep and booming voice, "Brrrujjay, brrrujjay, one time, Go!" At "go," they would all lift together.

First they would lift one end up onto the wall and push it far enough out to free the other end up. The other end would then be lifted up onto the opposite wall and they would all be standing holding the rafter in a flat position, ends on the walls, with boards. After nudging the rafter down next to the last one raised, they would switch to longer boards in order to raise it into a vertical position. Each effort was coordinated with the same cry from the director. "Brrrujay, brrrujay, one time, Go!"


When they had them all vertical together at one end, they began taking them one by one across. Each one positioned so that they were spaced correctly for the roof. In order to keep them vertical and move them at the same time, two men would hold long boards crossed for tension against one another.

After lunch I had to quit playing spectator/event recorder and get back to work.


“I moved sand and concrete blocks for the rest of the afternoon.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

Wednesday, September 23rd

“The guys finished installing the rafters and I moved a pile of gravel. It took me all day.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)


Thursday, September 24th

“Today I did something different. It began to rain as soon as we got there, so we found different jobs. I started helping nail plywood onto the ceiling of one of the first buildings. The scaffolding was a little high for me so I had to hunch over a little bit. And it took 3 or 4 panels to figure out how to hammer up without bending most of the nails.”  (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

It's quite different hammering nails on a ceiling when one is used to doing it facing the other direction. It didn't help that the hammer was a little too heavy for me as well. All the ones that have been donated to the project are for men. We ladies usually need something a little lighter. However, I made it work.

That evening I got to go shopping!

“An artisan brought his goods and Barb had him set up in an empty apartment. Carvings, paintings, jewelry, and such.” (Excerpt from Cameroon journal.)

He had some wonderful things and I was able to get a few gifts to take home as well as a little something for myself.