Friday, November 23, 2012

Moved into My House!

Move accomplished, but the work is far from done!  I am so pleased.  From the time I work up this morning, I started moving my things from the guest house to the one that is now mine.  I got help from Luc, the station manager and two others who work on the station – to move furniture around – in the house and between houses.  They also moved my suitcases and larger boxes.  It’s great to have a pick up at times like this.  Of course, we didn’t use mine since it has the tarp on the back; we borrowed Joe’s.

Then, I was going to sit and rest – after all, I am getting over a sinus infection (much better today with the new antibiotic I got yesterday).  But, then, we needed to turn on the generator (not usual during the day) so I decided to try out my “new” washer.  It is a Maytag from the US that I think is older than the Maytag I bought when I got my house in 1985…  It works, though; what else do I need???  So then I decided to unpack some things and make the place look more livable. 

Getting curtains made is a priority.  I got rings to sew on, but have to first decide what kind of material.  I want something that is not too dark, but do I want the same for all windows?  (Don’t know yet…)  In the meantime, I borrowed a couple of sheets from the guest house and put them up.  I also put up other material.  The problem is that these don’t open easily so the air doesn’t move well.  Finding material I like will be a priority.

I am borrowing couch cushions, dishes, pots, and silverware from the two guest houses.  I need to go to N’gaoundéré the second week of December, so I will get my own then.  I will also make a list of niceties or art to add as well.  (I have already bought a few paintings and sculptures that have made a drop in the bucket of home décor.) 

Currently, I am sharing my house with mud dauber wasps.  They look vicious, but don’t sting.  Still, I’d rather they go somewhere else…

I want to get porch furniture so I can watch sunsets, but I will have to find someone who can make it for me, so that will wait for a bit.  Curtains, first! 

My parting gift clock also now has a permanent home on the table beside my bed.  I like thinking of the Spring Hill friends who gave it to me and being able to tell the time in CAR and PA at the same time.  
Living Room

Living Room bookshelves

My Office

Today is the day we are celebrating Thanksgiving.  Joe Troester is preparing a duck and Deb Troester has made a pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes.  Esther, Danish nurse working in Gallo has come to share it with us.  I was thankful before that the house was ready.  Now I am even more grateful to be living in it.

So, I am tired from all I did today, but happy to be “home” – well almost.  I am at Troesters for Internet (wiring to my house to come next week, I hope) and duck! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

House - before work

Thanksgiving is, of course, a US holiday and not one in the CAR, but taking time to give thanks is important wherever we are.
I am thankful for many things.  Probably top on my list right now is the fact that I will be able to move into my house here in Baboua over the next few day!!  Luc, the station manager, and some workers prepared many things.  Then Phil (ECLA administrator and handyman extraordinaire) and Noel (Cameroonian who is both electrician and plumber) came two days ago and have been checking the wiring, installing the hot water heater, replacing the kitchen counter top, and checking on/completing a host of other details.  (This is a before picture of my house – I will take more once work is done and I can move it…)

I will need to do some cleaning (hopefully with help) and Luc and I have to move some furniture around – from storage, between the guest houses and mine, etc.  Then I hope to move in!  Maybe Friday. 

I am so looking forward to being to settle in and unpack all the suitcases and boxes I have been accumulating and storing.  It will take some time, but I will finally be able to begin to make this house my home.  I have bought a few paintings, banana leaf pictures, and a butterfly picture to add to the decor.  I am thankful to have had the guest house to live in and to use as a place to store my things, but I am even more thankful to soon be moving into my own place.

Joe Troester (my neighbor) has bought the cable and wireless router needed to extend the Internet from his house to mine.  Next week we hope to get that cable threaded through a pipe and buried so that I can have Internet at my house instead of just at his!  I am thankful!  We will still be sharing service and he will still be turning it on and off, but I can work from home!

I am very thankful that Joe and his wife Deb have been welcoming and as helpful as they have been.  Thank God for good neighbors and friends!

I am thankful for a blooming cactus plant just outside the guest house!

I am thankful that we have medication.  With the change to the dry season and too many germs running around during the Partners’ meeting, I picked up a sinus infection – but, then, I am prone to them, so it is not a big surprise.  Things are improving and this has enforced some rest which is also good for the body and soul!

I am thankful for beautiful, sunny weather that is not too hot.  Fortunately, we are at a high enough elevation that moderates the extremes.  It is very hot in the sun, but pretty pleasant at most times in the shade or in the house.  I am especially thankful for 70-80 degree days when I know that temperatures are dropping in the US!

I am thankful to be able to start work with the Village School Program and Christian Education.  I met with the school program personnel Monday and part of Tuesday.  I think, in the long run, they will be thankful for my organizational skills.  I can tell already, that things will work better once we can find papers, reports, digital files, etc…  Meanwhile two of those people went to Bouar today for a meeting and I spent the morning with the Christian Education program to learn more about what it is and to begin to consider how I can support them.  This second program helps train and produce materials for Sunday school programs for children.  We had a great conversation about what the program is and possible ways I can support them.  We’ll do more work next week.  I am thankful for the warm welcome everyone has shown me. 
I am thankful that the Village School Program Director, YAIMAN Etienne had a desk (table) set up for me in his office even before I arrived!  I am thankful for a good camera, too, even though recent pictures of staff I will work with came out so dark that I cannot include them here today.  (The contrast between sun and shadow is much starker on film that it seems to be when present!) 

I am thankful that I can learn languages easily so that I can understand a lot of Sango.  I have much more work to do, but am on my way.  I think I am even thankful that people laugh when I speak!  They tell me it is the pleasure at hearing me speak their language and with a good accent.  Yesterday, some people told me that even with a cold (sinus infection) that affect my voice, energy level, etc., I can still speak well!  What a complement.  (Right???)

I am thankful for family and friends at home who communicate with me and offer me support of all kinds. I know that everyone is busy, but I hope that contact and support will continue as it is very important to me!  Thanks to all.

OK, I’m not so thankful for the dueling roosters who live and wander on the station.  They don’t seem to know that roosters are to crow to welcome the dawn and quit!  These two crow on and off 24/7.  Still, I should be thankful that someone will eventually have a a great dinner sometime and because of them there are hens around laying eggs… 

We will be having a Thanksgiving dinner, but not Thursday – probably Friday.  I am thankful that Joe and Deb are organizing it even though I don’t know the menu yet.  They have also invited the missionaries from Gallo to come.   I am looking forward to the fellowship and time together. 

May your Thanksgiving be blessed.  May you remember all of the reasons you have to be thankful.  May you have the best of health and lots of friends and family to support and love you. 

Remember us here in CAR as you give thanks this week!  Then, save me a bit of turkey – dark meat from that bird has always been one of my favorites!! 

Partners' Consultation

Meeting in progress
The first week of November the Evangelical Lutheran Church of CAR (EEL-RCA) and its met to consider the past year and plan for the next.  There were about 20 people from the church’s central administration and various projects.  In addition, there were about 15 people from other countries – missionaries who work here, ELCA’s regional representative, pastors from 2 synods in the US that support project here, and people representing 4-5 other organizations that provide various kinds and levels of support for the church.  It all seemed so natural to me.  That’s what we do – meet, evaluate, plan, discuss…

It turns out this is only the third year that this consultation has taken place formally.  Before, different organizations met with members of the church separately, and, maybe, they occasionally talked to each other along the way.  I am took, too, that this year was the most cooperative and collaborative that the meeting has ever been.

In addition, this year, EEL-RCA has been actively involved in strategic planning at all levels of the church.  Again, having been involved in a public school system for years, this is automatic and expected for me, but the people here have not done it.  Starting in May, they began analysis of the current situation and have involved all stake holders from the National President down to members on congregations in various towns.  The summary document is an impressive and accurate description of strengths, weakness, threats, and problems to address.  The next step is to send the information and documents back to local levels so that action plans can be developed and later implemented.  They have to decide what actions, who will do them, what resources are needed, what indicators will be used to measure success, and a timeline for action and evaluation.  Sound familiar??? I bet it does!  The vocabulary used here is not the same as within the PPS, but certainly the planning is the same!

So, during three days of meetings, people talked about programs, discussed problems, brainstormed solutions, and then picked some actions to address immediately.  As with most schools, churches, and other organizations, finances were a huge topic. 

I was one of about five people who helped to do simultaneous interpretation so that those from the US could follow the French (and, occasionally, Sango) discussion.  We traded off every 20 minutes.  The part I had trouble with was the report of the external audit.  I don’t know a lot of those words in English – so it’s not surprising I didn’t know them in French either.  Still, we got buy and were able to help the visitors understand. 

This meeting was also a good time for me to get an overview of programs and how they fit together within the organization.  I am grateful to have this view as I now begin local work.

During Liturgy, 2 pastors from Bouar and the National President
Thursday, November 8 began the more “fun” part of the consolation.  International visitors arranged to visit the various programs they support.  I got to go along as an interpreter – not only for programs I work with, but also for others – see the early blog entries about the Village School and Village Savings and Loan Program.  My group also visited the Bible School in Baboua (a three-year program designed to teach basic Bible
knowledge for people sent by their congregations), the Theological School, also in Baboua (a three-year training program for pastors), a food security program (designed to help people – mostly women – find ways to make a little money and better take care of crops so that they have food
to feed their families year-round), the clinic and medical programs in Gallo (45 min. from my town) and, of course, a couple of churches.  There are many programs that EEL-RCA runs, but these are some of the ones we saw recently.  A great overview of what is and how it is working.

Pastor Paul Schaur, North Dakota, Floribert Ngare (CA administrator who showed us around), Pastor Alan Kethan, Texas

Floribert Ngare – center; Betty and Gordon Olson of LPGM, Minneapolis, MN

I am very glad to have met the partners and they all felt the time very worthwhile to establish and deepen contacts and friendships so that the work of the church can move forward.

Maybe you haven’t thought about this aspect of the consultation:  how do you house and feed the people when motels are rare and restaurants rarer?  The church administration had a few meals prepared and, then, much of the burden of housing and feeding international visitors fell to the two missionaries who live in Bouar.  I stayed at Pr. Jackie’s house – as did up to 10 people on some days.  She hired some help, but did the organizing and preparing of lots of our meals.  Francois, newly arrived from France, had people at his house and cooked for even more.  The rest who didn’t cook, pitched in with dishes and general clean up. 

I look forward to seeing how things work next year – when I have more of a sense of being here in my job and to find ways to get greater cooperation and collaboration with the national church as the planning is done.