Sunday, January 25, 2015

1/25/2015 - Chicken Farmers, Engagement, Basketball, Love Triangle

This week has had no major events, but we have kept busy visiting members and with lots of mission business.  Little events happened all week, so here is a synopsis of the more interesting of them.

Sister Coleman cried "Look out!" and I stopped just as a heavy electric cable touched our windshield.  It was hanging low between poles and partially laying in the road.  We drove under it, then turned the corner and drove over it.  It was gone when we came back.  That kind of thing doesn't happen in America but is common here.

We came across an ice cream parlor, N’Ice Cream, that looks totally American and serves about 50 flavors.  One of their flavors is named “Obama” in honor of our president.  It is chocolate with cookie bits and really good.
N'Ice Cream Parlor

The cheerful dining area

We went to the Akwa Palace Hotel where our mission president asked us to get reservations for him and the Area president.  We sat down with the marketing manager and negotiated a 22% discount.  Hotels here normally charge everyone the posted rate and don’t generally offer discounts, so we were happy with 22%.  The posted rate is about $300 per night, so we were surprised when the manager looked us in the eye and said, “I think that’s a pretty low price, don’t you?”  African hotels that meet western standards tend to be very expensive.  But it has a backup generator and a reserve water supply, both of which are very important for business customers.

The missionaries arranged to play basketball in the gym at the “American School.”  So we finally met some Americans who live in Douala.  Two of them.  They said that there aren’t many here.
At the American School gym

The priesthood manuals for the branches are way overdue, so I requested info.  We found out that they had arrived 7 weeks ago but DHL never informed us.  They promised to pull the pallet out of storage and deliver it to us within 5 days.  They didn’t, but asked for 2 more days.  We’re hoping.

We had an interesting visit from Eric of Buea who was in Douala to buy chicken feed for his 100 chickens.  Details of his life came out.  12 years ago he left his “traditional” wife and children behind to work in Russia.  There he married a Russian woman to gain the right to stay.  They had kids, then his Russian wife divorced him, he joined the Church, and he was eventually deported.  Now he is back with his Cameroonian “wife.”  We encouraged him to legalize their marriage. 
Eric from Buea

Eric described how some couples get the legal marriage without their parents’ approval.  This requires a “small bribe” and can cause big problems in the family.  But nobody seems to care if they skip the legal marriage.  Traditional marriage is much more important here.

Our recently returned missionary, Yannick Njampou, just completed his traditional marriage and has finally told the branch.  He had been keeping his engagement a secret to avoid getting unsolicited advice.  They won’t consider themselves married, though, until they are sealed in the Washington D.C. Temple, probably in April.  Until then, she will wait in America where her family lives.  After that they will live in Cameroon.

We were perplexed by the problems between a branch member and some leaders.  Everyone involved seemed to be saintly.  Then someone explained the love triangle and it all made perfect sense.  That seems to be a frequent problem.

Our little lending library is almost out of books.  We started with about 20 English and 50 French children’s books and have been lending one per child for a two-week loan.  Next week they should start coming back in.  Our goal is to increase literacy and a love of books.

The assistants to the mission president came from Brazzaville for a two-day teaching visit.  They worked with the Elders in the field and then had a training meeting at our apartment.  That was fun.
Assistants to the President training the zone

APs training the zone
The Zone and APs, Elders Bybee & Rakotonindriana

The Douala Branch had to meet again in a building without electricity due to mistakes on the part of Church officials.  It was our week to meet with the other branch so we didn’t have to suffer from the lack of fans.  It is so hard to watch while the officials struggle to learn, but we have been told not to interfere.  The Africans have to learn to manage their own affairs.

We now have photos of nearly all of the active members of the Bonaberi Branch.  We will post them on the wall at the branch so everyone can get to know everyone else.
The Bonaberi EQ President, Nnane Stephen & his kids

The best part of the week was visiting members.  People are so nice and very spiritual.  They are always very happy to see us and treat us like VIPs.  Now we know 2 chicken farmers and 3 more people considering it.  At least 4 Douala Branch members are opticians, all because a senior couple trained one of them and left some equipment behind.
Fix the roads?  No, banana research is what we need!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

1/18/2015 - New Meetinghouse

Saturday night at 5:15pm the truck arrived with the first load of chairs and furnishings for the new Douala Branch meetinghouse.  Six hours later, with the help of the choir and some neighborhood kids, the branch president got the building ready for Sunday meetings.  There is still a lot of organizing to do, but we had a good turnout on Sunday, which was surprising since the building is so hard to find.
Our new meetinghouse

Arranging furniture in meetinghouse

Neighbor kids just dropped in and helped out.

On Friday the air conditioners were installed.  All week long we had been expecting and hoping for the chairs to arrive.  Meetings were held standing or sitting on the floor.  Now we can finally start to feel settled and invite the neighbors to join us.
Institute attendance was way down, but class was held even without chairs.

We bought 50 children’s books in French on Ebay and hauled them back from America.  Now most are loaned out to branch members.  Books are expensive here and it seems like few children have them.  We hope to encourage literacy.
Kids were excited to borrow books!

I played soccer in a branch competition.  I played for Bonaberi, who won 3-2.  Two players were injured at different times and each lay on the ground in agony for a few minutes due to strains, but both foolishly wanted to limp back into the game later.  None of the missionaries were injured.
After the soccer game - featuring Elder West

After the soccer game - featuring Elder Legerski

Soccer spectators.  The woman in back peels, cuts, and sells oranges.

The rest of the week was just the usual reports, errands, repairs, meetings, teaching, piano lessons, etc.

Life is good here.  Cameroonians who are given the option to live permanently in the US or France, usually come back to Cameroon.
The Tenchou family leaving church

Kids burning plastic pipes and other debris.  Aren't bonfires fun?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

1/11/2015 - Grandaughter Born, Douala Branch Homeless

On Dec 28th we flew to Utah to meet and help with our new granddaughter, Rhonda, for 10 days.  (Senior couples can take time off for significant family events.)
Grandma time with baby Rhonda

Our flight to America was smooth, with a free upgrade, but the return flight was arduous.  We got delayed and re-routed taking almost 2 days and passing through Salt Lake, New York, Paris, Casablanca, Yaoundé, and Douala.  And Sister Coleman’s suitcase was delayed by 12 additional hours.
Airline seats become beds with free upgrade

All of our children happened to be in Utah at the start of our visit so we had a family reunion of sorts.  We also visited with various people with links to Africa and picked up a few things that we couldn’t get in Douala.
The excruciating cold of Utah was a shock to my system.

I was afraid that we would find it painful to return to life in Africa, but it wasn’t.  We enjoyed being in America but at the same time we felt an emptiness, like we needed to be back home, in our mission.  The American lifestyle that we expected to really enjoy on the trip seemed unimportant.  Sure, walking through a well-stocked supermarket or Wal-Mart was fun, but they will still be there after our mission.  None of these small pleasures could compare to the joy of missionary service.  The only hard thing was leaving our loved ones, but we’ll keep in touch with video chats.

We got back yesterday and learned that Elder Kabasele is seeing a doctor for an abscess on his arm.  We got him some antibiotics and it is improving.

The Douala Branch is still homeless.  The house that they contracted to occupy was not vacated on time by its previous tenants so the branch held church services in a hotel for 2 Sundays.  I think that we can move in tomorrow.

We started taking photos of Bonaberi families, with the hope of putting them on the branch web site and on the bulletin board to increase unity in the branch and help me remember their names.
The Uche family.  He is 1st counselor.

The Ele family.  He is 2nd counselor.