The world cup song “Esto es África” keeps running through my head, as if to remind me that I’m actually here!My head is so full of new experiences and sights that I found myself wanting to delay writing—as though that would help! I don’t know what exactly to tell you about, so please bear with me if this post is long and meandering.
I left Michigan on Thursday afternoon, flying to Chicago, then Brussels. Everything went as planned, although there were a few sleep-deprived moments in the Brussels airport when I had to remind myself that God had worked out everything so far, so he would be watching to see that I made my connecting flight. I managed to get a little sleep on the six-hour flight from Belgium, so I was feeling more refreshed by the time we started our descent to Yaoundé. Red clay roads and emerald vegetation rose to meet us. Upon touchdown, the Africans on the flight applauded our safe arrival. As I left the plane and showed my passport and immunization card, I did my best to blend in by using my minimal French (physically blending in isn’t really possible for me anymore) and made it through to the baggage claim. I had been warned that my luggage might not make it right away, so I had everything I needed in my carry-on, and was almost hoping that my checked luggage wouldn’t arrive so that I didn’t have to unpack it right away. After checking a multitude of bags that were not mine, I had almost concluded that God had granted my secret wish when I noticed my bags on the belt. I wrangled them through customs and found a group of people from the school waiting to take me to the SIL complex.
We drove past houses, small and large, stores, restaurants, and saw people of every age, talking, eating, walking. I’m not sure exactly what I expected. Perhaps working in Detroit led me to expect something a little more urban while seeing so many beautifully dark-skinned people, or perhaps I was expecting the mountains and historic atmosphere of Quito, but my impression was of color, motion, and vibrancy that was both the same and different from the picture in my head. So far I don’t have many pictures, and it may be a while before I have a lot. As my packet on Cameroonian culture says, people are not machinery, nor are they scenery. People are people, and snapping random photos of them in the market or on the street doesn’t help to establish the types of relationships I hope to have. As I get to know individuals, I hope to introduce them to you as I also share my family with them.
I was shocked when I arrived at my apartment. It’s huge! I had prayed for at least one window, and I have eight in various places. Secretly, I also hoped for my own room, however tiny, just to be able to retreat somewhere when I’m particularly tired or culture-shocked. Not only do I have my own room, it’s fairly large, and I have my own bathroom! The kitchen is adequate, and I’m working on getting comfortable with the gas stove. I’ll be drinking filtered water and “javeling” (bleaching) all my fresh fruits and vegetables to prevent sickness.
On my second day in Cameroon, I got a kitchen lesson and explanation of some key Cameroonian foods. They eat a lot of greens, nuts, seeds, and beans here, and they love spicy food. I did snag a couple habanero peppers after the demonstration and I’m planning to de-seed one and use it in soup sometime later this week. Making dinner at home has been good experience for being here—I’m already used to cooking from scratch with a lot of fresh ingredients (those of you that know my family know what I mean). The produce here looks gorgeous and very flavorful, and I think I’m going to have a lot of fun learning to prepare it.
My adventure this morning was going to a bilingual French/English church. Out of about 100 people there, only about a dozen were other missionaries, so if I stay there it will be a great way to make Cameroonian friends. The people there were very friendly and the message was good (although the regular pastor is out of town), but it's still going to take a lot of getting used to. As most of you know, I don't speak French, and there was no powerpoint or hymnal, so I couldn't follow some of the singing. At a couple points while they were praying in French, I just had to say "God, I don't know what he's saying, but I believe you do, so I'll just be still and know it's okay." I keep reminding myself that this is a period for “acostumbrándome,” as they say in Spanish, or “getting accustomed.” Getting used to my new life is going to take a while, but I think I’m going to like it here.