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.

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