Sunday, March 2, 2014

3/1 - The Good and Bad

Most people who write blogs focus on the unusual things that differ from home.  I do too, so I just want to say that much in Africa is westernized.  I expected to find people living in mud huts, starving children, burning sun, jungles, polluted wells, poor clothing, swarms of mosquitoes, orphans, AIDS victims, primitive farming, you know what I mean.  Instead I found a bustling city with buildings, cars, and nearly every amenity of western civilization.  I have yet to see a starving person or a mud hut or a swarm of mosquitoes, and nearly everyone is well-dressed in western attire.  There are a lot of ramshackle houses and stores but shelves are well-stocked and cinder-block construction is the norm.  Maybe when we get out to the villages we will find a more primitive lifestyle, but here in Douala it is not hard to imagine that we are in a black neighborhood of America.  Except that we feel safer here.  And there is no McDonalds.  And the traffic is crazy.  And folks carry stuff on their heads.
Motorcycle With Umbrella Carrying Guy w/Pink Shirt, Purse, Earrings

We bore our testimonies in Sacrament Meeting last Sunday. 

On Monday we traveled by bus 4 hours each way to visit Yaounde, the other city in Cameroon that has missionaries.  The senior couple there was going home and there is no other couple to replace them.  So now we are the only senior missionaries in the country of Cameroon and will be serving the 8 Elders in the Douala area and the 10 Elders in Yaounde for a few months at least.  We are officially living in 2 apartments 4 hours apart, managing finances, filing reports and doing many things in duplicate for 2 zones, shuttling back and forth once per month.  We didn’t think it would be possible, but there is no other option, so here we go.
Sort of a Rest Stop seen from the Bus

You Can Buy Parts for your Mercedes Here
In Yaounde the departing couple, the Whitesides, took us to the site where Elder Holland dedicated the country of Cameroon for the preaching of the Gospel.

Jan & Grant Whitesides
Site of Dedication of Cameroon, Yaounde in Background

Another View of Dedication Site
A Street in Yaounde

Street in a Small Town We Passed

Jungle Seen From the Bus
We had dinner at a the home of the Douala Branch Mission Leader, Frere Dim, last Sunday.  We had manioc, ndole, fried plantains and something like Koolaid.  The manioc had no flavor.  The ndole was some kind of greens cooked with fish.  It and the plantains were quite tasty.  
Manioc, Ndole, & Fried Plantains
 Frere Dim told me his conversion story:

He was dissatisfied with his church and began searching for the true church.  He studied and searched and prayed for a long time.  Then one night at 4 am the Savior appeared to him and he heard a voice telling him to go to Bonapriso and find the Mormon Church.  He had never heard of the Mormons, so at 6 am he began searching.  He searched until 4 pm when he found someone who knew where the meetinghouse was.  He attended church, met the missionaries, and was soon baptized.  He is a successful businessman with a nice home and family.

Some of our duties:  We attend the young missionaries’ district meetings, pick up mail and packages at the post office, and provide them cash, propane, and some other supplies.  We attend all of the branch leadership meetings that we can.  We manage passports, visas, bills and finances for the missionaries and file reports to the mission office.

We had baptisms today in both Douala area branches.  We hosted the one in Douala at our house because the meetinghouse still has no water.  Frere Jacques was baptized.  He is retired and was elected chief of his neighborhood.  (I don’t know what that means but I think it is mostly ceremonial.)  About 17 attended the baptism.
Friend, Elder Thibault, Jacques, daughter Christin (sp?), Elder Beutler

We bought some bananas from a woman carrying them on her head.  Vendors everywhere are walking around carrying their wares on their heads.  A common example is a guy selling shoes walking around with one shoe on his head and a few in his hands.  And often people just carry their groceries or other things that way.

I, Elder Coleman, finally gave up and drove on the sidewalk.  There was a huge traffic jam.  Both lanes were stopped so people were driving on the sidewalk.  The sidewalk was slow so people were driving in the dirt to go around them.  Others were driving through the weeds to go around the cars driving in the dirt.  Even big trucks and buses were flaunting the rules.  So, I joined the throng and drove on the sidewalk until my turnoff.  I’m learning to drive like an African.  I’ve never seen anyone get pulled over or given a traffic ticket in Cameroon.  People routinely run red lights and stop signs.  Intersections have no rules.  Chicken is the name of the game.

Most people (including young missionaries) travel by taxi.  Forty cents gets you across downtown.  Taxis are mostly little yellow Toyotas and they are everywhere.  Cheaper alternatives are crowded minivans which operate like buses, or motorcycle taxis.  I believe most vehicles on the road are motorcycle taxis in great throngs weaving among the cars like daredevils, carrying one or 2 passengers.  We saw a woman in a short dress stick out her hand and two motorcycles immediately stopped.  She got on the nicer one.

The days are passing fast and it seems like we’ve been here forever, but it’s only been 11 days.  We don’t have much spare time, as there is always more to do.  In some ways it feels like we’re living like royalty, but there are some things that just aren’t as good as at home.

For example, the people all treat us like we’re special, always wanting to help with everything everywhere we go.  In the post office people always stand and offer their chairs.  In the bank we are VIPs.  Our guard opens the gates as we drive in and out and washes our truck (for $6).  Being white, we stand out in every crowd as there are virtually zero white people here.  The weather is a bit warm but always overcast so we don’t need sunglasses and didn’t get sunburned even after 4 hours outside.  We have a nice, large apartment with a pool in a high-class neighborhood for far less than it would cost in San Diego.

French bread is really cheap (~40 cents) and French pastries are cheaper than in France.  Bananas and peanuts are also cheap and sold everywhere.  Many common fruits and vegetables are sold on corner stands, but oddly, we haven’t seen any orange yams and not much manioc.  I thought they were a basic staple here.  We haven’t seen broccoli, celery, or Romaine lettuce but there is plenty of citrus fruit, pineapples, avocados, potatoes, carrots, mangos, apples, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and some that I can’t remember.  Cold cereal is a bit pricy at $6/lb, as is the imported milk.  Ground beef is about $3/lb.
Red-headed lizard, about a foot long, very common here

Negatives:  We do find a few dozen dead bugs in the bathtub in the morning so we just wash them down the drain.  Sometimes we see tiny ants, so we spray them.  But bugs aren’t much of a problem.  We sleep under a net, but mosquitoes are seldom seen and aren’t much of a problem.  Few missionaries use nets.  Nowhere is there carpeting, except for a couple of throw rugs in our apartment.  In the post office, a customs official sat in front of a big poster calling for an end to corruption as she waived the $40 in duties on the packages we were picking up, and accepted my $4 tip.  We tip everyone here.  The water pressure drops to almost nothing at night.  Some missionaries in Yaounde only get water once per week, so they store water in trash cans and take "bucket baths."  And tap water is not safe to drink, so we filter it.  And, of course, there is the “anything goes” traffic situation.

Our Bed with Net
But overall, I would recommend this as a great place for a couple to serve, especially if they can speak some French.


  1. Elder Coleman!

    Could I get some contact info for missionaries in Yaounde, Cameroon? I have a friend living there that is interested in the church. You can contact me at Thanks!

  2. Elder Coleman!

    Could I get some contact info for missionaries in Yaounde, Cameroon? I have a friend living there that is interested in the church. You can contact me at Thanks!

  3. I too am looking for contact info for missionaries in Yaounde. I am in contact with someone there who would like to know more and attend church.

  4. I too am looking for contact info for missionaries in Yaounde. I am in contact with someone there who would like to know more and attend church.

    1. You can write to me at and I will send your contact info to Yaounde.