One week before Christmas and shopping is picking up in Cameroon. One store, Arno, was noticeably more crowded than usual and for the first time we had trouble parking there. Many stores, lampposts, and public places have Christmas lights and decorations. Just a hint of a Christmas season, compared to America.
Our big adventure this week was a visit to an orphanage with the Bonaberi Relief Society. We went to deliver some rice, cooking oil and soap for which the RS had raised money. The orphanage was nicer than I expected. The 32 kids were well-dressed, well-behaved, and appeared to be well-cared for. We drove in through a big iron gate that secures the compound. The kids came out to the courtyard to shake our hands. Then we went into the big hall for speeches and a performance. They live off of donations and get no help from the government. They raise goats, pigs, chickens, and rabbits and grow plants to feed them. The owner, Mme. Collette, waved around a rubber hose that she uses to enforce discipline, which is shocking to us but seems common and acceptable here.
|RS Sisters with a Pastor (l) & Orphanage Director (in green)|
|The Boys' Quarters|
|Orphans Performing a Song & Dance (so cute!)|
|Chatting with the older boys|
|The grounds with goats|
|Chickens & Bunnies|
The Bonaberi Branch had a Christmas party and decorated the chapel/cultural hall with two artificial, decorated Christmas trees. The primary activity was supposed to start at 2:00 but none of the leaders seemed to have anything planned. No problem; the kids ran around and organized games among themselves for an hour. Then the gang settled down in the chapel and sang Primary songs and hymns while the kids took turns leading. We don’t know what happened after that because we loaded up the truck with RS sisters and left for the orphanage. When we came back the whole branch was eating a supper of foufou, ndole, fish, chicken, meatballs, rice, and fried plantains.
|Bonaberi Branch kids love to pose for a photo|
|Branch Christmas Tree|
|Spontaneous Group Game|
|The kids organized themselves for group singing|
|Cooking fish on a wood stove for the branch party|
We had a going away party for Elder Hatch on Monday. He selected hamburgers and french fries for his meal, with flan for dessert. The one thing that we couldn’t provide was pickle relish. It is one of the few things that are unavailable here.
|Elders Mwehu, Larson, Legerski, Hatch, Johnson, Rakotondrabeharison, Colindres, & West|
|Elder Kabasele, Johnson, Hatch, Colindres, & Mwehu|
The next day we welcomed Elder Kabasele into our zone to replace Elder Hatch. Elder Kabasele is from the DRC and speaks little English. He is now in the same apartment as his compatriot, Elder Mwehu, so they can prepare and enjoy together the Congolese food that they love, instead of that yucky American food that the other Elders eat. That’s right, Africans are picky eaters.
|Elder Kabasele, newly arrived in Douala|
Odile asked an interesting question once. She was concerned about her deceased father. “In our tradition, after a man has been dead for a year we remove his head and put it in a special place. Will that be a problem when he is resurrected?” No. Wait. You do what?
One thing that is funny here is directions. Few people drive cars and few know how to read a map or which way is north. Even left and right are confusing to many. So when I am driving and someone is giving directions, each turn is described the same: “On va comme ca.” (Go like that.) Then I have to swivel my head to see where they are pointing. Sometimes I just ask “left or right?” Most of the time they know which is which, but it is risky.
We told someone that we are going to Utah for a few days and he asked us to pick up something from a friend in Virginia while we are there. We explained the distances involved but I’m not sure he managed to conceive of a country as huge as the USA.
We had to cancel piano lessons the third week in a row due to a lack of electricity at the Douala Branch building. We will be glad to get a new building. We are nearing the final contract signing.
In case any of the previous Douala couples are reading this let me say a big THANK YOU! You have done a great job setting up the couples apartment and getting the branches going. It must have been very difficult to open up the city, find safe lodging, furnish the apartments, and adapt to all the craziness that is life in Douala. Life for us is great, thanks to you.
Merry Christmas to all!