February 11 this year was Youth Day. Well, Feb. 11 – 17 was Youth Week. Or, maybe, February is Youth Month. Many activities have been planned throughout Cameroon during this month. In most towns, there were parades and celebrations on Feb. 11. Feb. 17 was Youth Sunday at the Lutheran church where I have been attending. Add to that lots of missionary visitors and colleagues from Baboua coming to Garoua Boulai and it ended up a busy week for me.
I went to the parade Monday with a Cameroonian friend. I had been told it started at 8:30 a.m., but we got there about 10 a.m. and still had to wait for about an hour. That gave me time to crowd watch and take some pictures. There was a reviewing stand where important local people sat. (See picture.) This included the sous-prefet and mayor, the latter is the woman in the center. There were lots of students wearing uniforms. The material used to make them seems lightweight so they look more like pajamas than school clothes to me. Still, lighter fabric makes them less expensive and more affordable to all students.
As the students lined up by school and by class (girls generally first and then boys), many people set up to sell food and drinks – sounds like a parade in the US, right?? Yes, but the foods they sell are different. Here are some pictures of some of the things that were sold:
Hard-boiled eggs with hot sauce, as a powder (carried on the head on the way to a spot where the stool can be lowered and the boy sit to sell them)
Sandwiches that seemed to be spaghetti with a little sauce on a baguette-type piece of bread.
Just before the parade started, a speech by Cameroonian President Paul Biya was broadcast through large speakers. Then, about four groups marched or danced to the front of the reviewing stand and danced for those in the stands. To show their appreciation, people went to the group and put a coin or small bill on the forehead of a dancer or put it on the ground in front of them. A teacher (or other responsible adult) collected the money after the song ended. Here are pictures of what my friend called majorettes (although they had no batons) and then traditional dancers. Then next picture shows some students marching. They put out their hands as they passed the reviewing stand as a kind of greeting.
Tuesday, Anne Langdji, ELCA Regional Representative, and Rev. Dr. Andrea Walker, new ELCA Director for West and Central Africa, came to town. Since Wednesday, February 13 was Ash Wednesday, we went to a liturgy with imposition of ashes at the Bible School (that trains 20 catechists for two years). After Anne and Pr. Andrea talked with the director, we were invited to a breakfast prepared by the wives of the director and another professor. We ate about 11 a.m.; it was really a complete meal: bread, coffee (foods I would expect at breakfast), but also, rice, macaroni, and chicken in vegetable sauce. We ate very well! After a brief visit to the Lutheran hospital, Anne and Pr. Andrea left for Yaoundé.
Wednesday through Sunday, four people came to visit from N’gaoundéré: the assistant to the national bishop who works with evangelism, Jack and Valerie Fredrick (a retired pastor and his wife who come for 4-5 months most years – he was the pastor at an English-speaking church in N’gaoundéré for four years some years ago), and Gashu (an Ethiopian who studied French with his wife in N’gaoundéré for a year in preparation for work in Mali. Because of the fighting there, they are working for the Cameroonian church for several months hoping that peace will return in Mali. These guests and the Director of the Bible School visited the area and spoke to the Bible School students. Sunday I went to church with them – Youth Sunday. The youth choir sang numerous songs. As at the parade, congregants put coins or small bills on the foreheads (or in a basket before the choir) to show their appreciation. This picture is a little blurry, but you can see one singer with a 500 cfa (about $1) note on her forehead. I am including another blurry picture of myself in a new dress I had made.
|Assistant to the Nat'l Bishop|
|Director of the Bible School|
|Valerie and Jack Fredrick|
Also this week, the Chargé de Pédagogie (Curriculum Coach) from the Village School Program came to meet with me Friday and the Director of Christian Education came for a meeting on Saturday. Also Saturday, we met with the national president of the EEL-RCA (who had come to Garoua Boulai for a meeting with Gashu).
I certainly enjoyed all the visits and special activities but after all those visits (and continuing Sango and Gbaya classes), I took a break Sunday afternoon!