So much has happened this week that it's hard to believe it's been only one week. Sorry, but this is going to be a long post. The biggest cultural event was the funeral, but I'll describe the week in chronological order so that is near the end.
Monday (P-day) we took the Elders to Limbe for some R&R. We took 3 in our truck and they hired a driver to take the other five for $50 RT (25k cfa). The Hotel Seme Beach cost $3 per person but had a nice black sand beach, small waves, and warm Atlantic water. We all waded knee-deep. We rented a volleyball for $2 and had a few games. Elder Leavitt climbed a coconut tree, we played with a soccer ball and had a tailgate lunch. Elder Okon had never been to a beach and was startled by the feeling of the ocean washing the sand from under his feet. Three friendly horses were roaming free on the beach so I petted one but Elder Okon couldn’t get used to the idea that such a huge animal was safe and ran away when the horse nodded at him. Riding was $6 for 30 minutes or $10 for 60 minutes, but missionaries aren’t allowed.
|Our Zone in Limbe|
|Elders Ntambwe & Ngalamulume|
Then we went to the Limbe Wildlife Center, which cares for rescued primates. It is small for a zoo, but large enough to be comfortable for the gorillas, mandrills, drills, monkeys, etc.
|Up Close with a Drill at the Limbe Wildlife Center|
We had some referrals from Limbe and nearby Buea (pronounced BOO’ yah) so we contacted nearly all of them, met two, and shared a bit about the gospel, leaving them with copies of the BoM and pamphlets. We also visited with a member in the area, Eric, who hasn’t been able to attend church due to the long distance. I think that when the Church is stronger in Douala and a district is formed, Limbe will need to form a group or branch of its own. There are so many people there and many are interested, but we have to proceed in a slow, orderly manner. It is frustrating that we don’t have enough missionaries to start and staff branches everywhere.
|Eric from Buea|
Along the way we enjoyed marvelous scenery, with views of Mount Cameroon, the second tallest mountain in Africa. We passed a huge Dole banana plantation, a huge rubber tree plantation, villages, vendors, and greenery everywhere. We crossed a bridge and saw numerous dug-out canoes on the river.
|She had a Tray of Bananas on her Head & We Bought Some|
We came home with some mild sunburns but everyone had a great time.
Notes on the transportation: We couldn’t find a regular bus service so we decided to just use a taxi. Then a branch member (Michel) had a friend who had a friend. We planned to leave at 6am but the friend didn’t show up on time so we finally hit the road about 7am. Traffic was heavy. There was one 500 cfa toll each way and the friend got stopped by cops once, paying a 1k cfa tip for carrying too many passengers. We didn’t get stopped at all, but we were completely legal.
Tuesday we spent most of the day with 3 young women: Purita, Laurelcia, and Wesly. They took us shopping and taught Sister Coleman how to make an African meal. Purita knows how to shop at a marche (open air marketplace). She would ask the price, the vendor would say 2,000, and Pruita would say “Give it to me for 500.” The price would always come down, often to what she asked. When we tried to find a fan she told us to wait while she negotiated, because when the vendor sees a white person the price goes up.
|Marche Central with Laurelcia & Purita|
Marche Central is an amazing place. There are thousands of tiny stalls crowded into dozens of narrow dirt passageways and selling just about anything. Except rolled oats. They are an exotic foreign item here and nobody even recognizes the French word for oats. It is also surprisingly difficult to find a saucepan with a lid. But sunglasses typically go for a buck if you are black. One vendor was afraid to have her picture taken. Another insisted on a photo, even though we didn’t want to. Both were senior women selling food items. We gave out a lot of brochures and could have given out more if we had them and more time. Just saying that we are missionaries draws a crowd.
When we got home the girls made ndole, boiled plantains, and manioc strips. The ndole is mostly leaves and peanuts so it seems quite nutritious. But we are still getting used to the taste.
|Wesly, Faith Divine, Laurelcia, & Purita in our Kitchen|
We learned of a new Elder arriving just 6 hours before his plane landed. Elder West arrived and we took him to the Douala Elders’ apartment. Elder Etherington arrived late at night and we had a day’s notice. That gave us time to buy sheets and pillows for the 3 new Elders.
Three Elders, because Elder Barthelemy Nyom was set apart as a full-time missionary. He enters the MTC in 2 weeks but the mission president was here for a day now, so he got set apart and moved in with the Elders here to serve his first 2 weeks in his hometown.
|Elder Barthelemy Nyom with Pres. & Sister Cook|
The president here meant more interviews, meetings, and driving around town, but we enjoyed it.
We had to pick up 5 packages from the post office for various missionaries. This time the big supervisor came out and demanded big duties. We had heard about that guy. He came down a bit when I gently protested but we still ended up paying $10 each for some packages of candy, a toy, and a couple of pens. (He sliced each package open with a bread knife and examined the contents.) Normal duties are $20 for small packages. If the packages were for me, I would be tempted to tell them to keep the candy because it’s not worth it. I think that would prick their consciences, because people are very religious and really respect missionaries here. Maybe brownies again next time.
Piano lessons went well with 14 students this time.
We got stopped by another cop for no apparent reason. Sister Coleman told me to let her do the talking this time. She started right off and told the cop that we are from the USA and we are missionaries. He told us to drive on. Hooray! But Sister Coleman gave him a brochure before we left.
We attended the funeral services for Frere Bongongui (the first Mormon in Douala) and found them quite enlightening. The first phase started Friday at 11:30 am, although we had to drop Elder Etherington off at the airport at that time, so we were one hour and 45 minutes late. Fortunately, they hadn’t started yet. Services were at the military hospital in an open hangar-like building with plastic patio chairs with fancy chair covers. One-by-one they brought out 8 caskets and had a 20-minute service for each. We arrived in time to see the one before Frere Bongongui. When it was his turn we all (about 90) moved to the chairs in the center, sang songs, listened to a talk, and had a prayer. Then we left. But it wasn’t over.
The second phase started at 8:00 pm at the village chief’s home (the cheferie). The street was blocked by 400-500 chairs covered by awnings, and eventually there was standing room only. Sister Coleman played the keyboard as our choir sang hymns until the chiefs arrived about 9:00. There were about 40 “notables” or sub-chiefs with the chief, wearing shirts, skirts and skullcaps, and they arrived with much ringing of handbells and beating of “bolo” drums. Then the service could start. It was a good LDS service with songs, prayers, and 3 talks. Then the chief took over and said a few words in the local dialect (Douala) interspersed by drumming. Some time was given for the widow and daughter to say a few tearful words. Then all of the notables went into the room with the coffin and stayed about 15 minutes while we enjoyed a drum duet. About 10:30 the service ended and the Church members went into a courtyard for a refreshments of sandwiches and sodas. Traditionally, this service is supposed to be a “veuille” or wake and last all night, but they decided to let the widow go to bed.
|Funeral Setup in Street|
|Village Chief & Notables (sub-chiefs)|
The next morning we met at 11:30 am for the burial service. After a few talks and songs and parading of the casket, we formed four lines to walk to the cemetery, with women at the front (which I found out the hard way). The church members led the hearse, directed by a village “enforcer” who cleared traffic. (The enforcers is what I call the guys wearing Bonaduma t-shirts, wraparound skirts, and sandals.) We were instructed to keep our lines widely spaced to fill the entire boulevard while the enforcers directed traffic away from us. Our
death cemetery march took over 30 minutes (at
midday in the tropical sun) but we sang and kept walking followed by the
hearse and the family and village in a long precession. At the cemetery, the branch president
dedicated the grave, the pall-bearers lowered the casket with ropes, 13 huge
floral sprays were thrown in with handfuls of dirt, and we took a taxi back to
|The Front Group of the Cemetery March|
|Tossing Flowers into the Grave|
At one point a motorcyclist tried to drive between the chairs and awnings. He was grabbed by a sub-chief who reprimanded him for a minute while occasionally hitting him with a thin stick. He shut off his engine and pushed his bike away.
During the procession one of the bystanders got in a fight with one of the enforcers. There was a lot of yelling and shoving and a few swings but curiously no blows were landed. With all of the other enforcers and village people around, nobody else got involved. It was almost like they were pretending to fight, just for show, without wanting to hurt anyone.
The bolo drums were really hollowed-out sections of logs. The drummers beat on them with sticks getting two different pitches per log.
|Dugout "Bolo Ba Besombe" Drums|
Inside the “Cheferie” or chief’s house courtyard is a traditional house made of sticks and leaves. It is very well-built but just for show.
|Traditional House, Now Just for Show at the Cheferie|
When we arrived home Friday night about 11:30 our keys wouldn’t unlock our apartment! Something was sticking in the lock. We fiddled with it, our guards fiddled with it, we drove around looking for a place to buy WD40 or the equivalent (& finding everyplace closed), we returned and fiddled with it some more, and I tried putting oil and soap on the key. We considered a hotel but weren’t carrying enough cash. It looked like we would be sleeping in the truck. Finally, after about an hour and much prayer, one of our guards got the key to open the lock. Prayer works. The next morning I took the lock apart and found the cause: some of the screws were a bit loose. After this I will always carry a key to our back (kitchen) door.
Saturday morning we got an early phone call from the branch 1st counselor. During the nighttime thunderstorms branch member Bernadette’s roof was damaged. She didn’t have enough cash to fix it and the counselor didn’t have quite enough to help. The branch president couldn’t be reached. We inspected the damage and secretly kicked in $20 to make up the difference so the work could get started. Then we hauled the material in our truck. It is so hard to say no when the need is so urgent, but we know that help should come through the president, so we try to resist.
|A House Similar to Bernadette's & the Alley Leading to Hers|
|Bernadette's Damaged Roof|
After church and some socializing, all of the missionaries came over and watched the first session and priesthood session of General Conference. I set up a computer in our bedroom with the sessions in French for the 3 francophone missionaries. In between sessions we had dinner. It’s fun to get together like that. We love our job!
|All 10 Missionaries Here for Conference & Dinner|
|Random Photo of Common Banana Truck|
|Fish from Marche Just Before I Ate It|