Friday, September 7, 2012

Traveling in Cameroon

Part of my time in Cameroon is to enable me to meet people (mostly Cameroonians) working in Lutheran programs here.  In Yaoundé we visited UPAC, Université Protestante au Cameroon.  We were privileged to have time to talk to the Rector (head of the university), the Secretary General, and a small group of women who are involved in the Women’s Group (spouses of students.  There are female students, but currently no male spouses).  Our guide was Pastor Antoinette, a pastor from the Central African Republic who is finishing her doctorate; she defends her dissertation in December!  Everyone we met was gracious and informative. 

We left Yaoundé Wednesday, September 5, 2012 and traveled east then north to Garaou Boulai.  All of the road between these two cities is paved so it was smooth going!  We arrived in 7 ½ hours which included a ½-hour gas, bathroom, and food break.  Tthe road is one lane each direction with a little extra on each side.  It has lines, too, like any 2-lane road in the US.  Much of the way traffic was light; many vehicles were trucks – large or small.  It seems that many other truck drivers drive at night.

Here are some sights we saw:
* Much of the road has been recently completed, so we saw freshly cut passes through small hills – a couple of times rock “wall” lined the road; other times it was red, red soil that doesn’t yet have any plants.  Near the top workers have cut a path along which people can walk.
* Villages and towns built along the road have houses built from materials found nearby.  At first, they were woven sticks with mud filling in the gaps.  As we entered the Gbaya (an ethnic group) area, houses were made with mud brick.  Both kinds of buildings had thatched roofs.  There were also some round buildings. 
* Near the towns there are LOTS of stands selling cell phone credit!
* Trees I recognize include a few palm, mango, banana, and some citrus. By the way, many of the oranges they sell here are green or green and orange on the outside – they are orange inside and taste good.  There was also a gorgeous, large tree with yellow flowers that appear to be clusters of many small blooms.  I took a picture of this last kind of tree, but will be including no pictures with this entry because of limited Internet service. 
* In Gbaya country many people like to put cassava (manioc) along the side of the road to dry.  Advantage:  the area is flat and not muddy; disadvantage: all the passing traffic and resulting fumes!  We saw one woman hastily sweeping up here manioc as it began to rain.  Note:  cassava is the root of a plant that is eaten.  They cut it in pieces, wash it, dry it, pound it into powder, and finally mix it with water to make a dough-like preparation that is eaten with a sauce, often with the hands. 
* Along the road we sometimes saw piles of wood or sack of other things.  These are waiting for a ride (with those who will sell them) to another town.  I am not sure who picks them up, probably small buses, truck, friends…

In Garoua Boulai, we stayed overnight in a guest house.  We were invited to dinner by Dr. Solofo and his wife Joely.  They are both missionaries from Madagascar working at the hospital in town.  Great conversation and better food!

The next day we visited the hospital.  They have done amazing work and are supported by many partners so much of their equipment is state-of-the-art.  Next, we drove to Meiganga, a town a little less than 2 hours away.  This road is under construction, but most of it is not yet paved.  Because it is a dirt road, periodically there is a rain barrier.  Large trucks are not permitted to pass on the roads for a specific amount of time after the rain so that they don’t create more major problems and undo the grading work.  We drove through an impressive line of trucks waiting for permission to pass – it lined both sides of the road with more than 10-truck on each side!  We were permitted to pass because we have a smaller vehicle.  There were also a lot of motorcycles, too, that were permitted to pass.

In Meiganga, we visited the Institute Theologique Luteranne de Meiganga.  This is where Elisabeth will be teaching once she has learned French.  Classes there have not started, but we were able to meet the Dean and another professor.  After some conversation, we toured the institute and the house where Elisabeth will live after she finished French classes in N’gaoundéré. 

In a little less than 2 additional hours we reached N’gaoundéré.  We are staying at guest houses on the Lutheran Mission Campus.  It is gorgeous here, as are the houses.  Dr. Danki and his wife hosted us for dinner.  They work at the hospital that is a 5-minute walk away; he is a urologist (who also practices other medicine, as needed) and she is a physical therapist.  Once again we were shown fantastic hospitality.

Friday morning we met with the National Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Cameroon.  He talked to us about the history of US missions, which began in 1923.  There also 2 other Lutheran groups in the country: the Lutheran Brethren in the northern part of the country (whose US headquarters are in Minnesota) and churches supported by the Wisconsin Synod.  We also learned about other Lutheran programs in Cameroon and the recent ordination of the first women pastors here.

This is the rainy season, so it has rained every day, but not all day.  It has often been overcast although we see the sun sometimes.  For example, it was sunny in the morning today, but got cloudier as the day went on.  The rain began about 5:30 p.m.  We had been out about town in the afternoon, but were, fortunately home before the major rain.

Send questions that you would like me to answer and I will do my best to address them!

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