Saturday, March 16, 2013

In Baboua

view from my porch - Baboua!

I am happy to be back at home in Baboua. Lots of travel and other work, but finally I am back to the place where I have been called. 

The Biblical Storytelling Seminar was great (see the last blog entry) and I am now working on a summary in French so I can share the ideas with colleagues here.  The time in Yaoundé was fine although a bit hectic trying to get a lot of things done in a short time.  I actually drove for several kilometers in the city – not a big deal you’d think, but think again!  Taxis are everywhere and the drivers ignore the conventional rules of the road although they seem to have their own (not that I have figured them out yet).  Also, on this my third visit to the huge city, I recognize a few streets (not that I can really get around alone yet). 

Travel on the roads was fine – most routes we took are paved and we had no problems.  The trip from Mutengene (site of the storytelling conference along the Atlantic coast north of Douala) to Yaoundé took about six hours.  Yaoundé to Baboua took about 9.  No wonder I am glad to be in one place again.

We arrived in Baboua to find a continuing problem with the generator.  Normally we have electricity from 6 to 10 p.m. and the generator pumps water into cisterns so we have running water in the houses.  Although a new part was ordered from N’gaoundéré, they couldn’t find the exact one because our generator is too old.  People here couldn’t figure out how to get the new piece to fit.  Fortunately, we were able to borrow a small generator to pump water, but this week I have been living mostly by candle light at night. 

We are lucky that the missionary family next door have solar panels so I could have internet and a place to charge my computer and phone.  Living in both the early 20th and 21st centuries at one time! 

A man came from N’gaoundéré yesterday to make the new generator part work.  He had trouble leaving Cameroon because he doesn’t have a passport.  It used to be that Africans could get some temporary paperwork at the border, but the officials there said that is no longer possible.  After much discussion and pleading, our station manager, Luc, was able to get Fredrick into CAR.  After several hours and some difficulty, he got the generator working again about 7 p.m..  Hurray!  It meant, though, that he had to stay overnight and leave this morning since custom and police offices at the border close at 6 p.m. just before it gets dark and reopen about 8 in the morning.

So, what am I doing at work this week?  The letter from ELCA has arrived with the amounts of the 2013 grants for the various programs so the directors of Christian Education (ECB – Education Chrétienne de Base) and the Village School Program OS – Oeuvre Scolaire) and I are working to review and revise budgets.  All of us are relatively new so it takes longer than it otherwise might as we don’t have easy access to information from past years (we’re working on better filing systems already!) and estimating costs takes thought and discussion with others.  We still have questions which we hope to have answered by the EEL’s central administrators next week.

I am also catching up on work that has been done while I was away and planning next steps.  There is much to be done.  In addition, I am researching Performance Criticism (biblical storytelling) and translating the information.  At the same time, I am thinking of ways we might be able to use storytelling in ECB and OS.  It is right up my alley as I used a lot of storytelling in my classes as a teacher in the US (and it was the basis of my Ph.D.).

Monday and Tuesday the Village School Program Director and I will go to Bouar for meetings.  Yes, I thought I was home for some time, but duty calls!  Bouar is about two hours north on a paved road (in CAR); it is the seat of the national church.  There is a meeting for program directors to share projects and planned next steps.  We also plan to take advantage of the time to meet with others in Bouar. 

peanut plant
While I was gone from Baboua, my gardener was hard a work!  (I had originally hoped to work on a garden myself with friends, but the first person to come to my door looking for a work was Lambert – a highly recommended gardener looking for work.  Since I am still getting used to work and have little time – and then spent a lot of time in Cameroon! – I am glad I hired him.)  Here are some pictures of the big garden that he is creating.  Under the shelter are pepper plants that don’t like the direct, strong sun. We (because it is me who pays for seeds and salary and he who works!) have planted carrots, lettuce, peanuts, watermelon, peppers, basil, parsley, and some other things, too, I think.  I should be eating at least lettuce soon!  We will also soon be putting up some kind of fence.  We don't usually have wandering goats or pigs, but the local path goes right past the garden and we don’t want “help” harvesting veggies once they are almost ripe (since people here often pick things too soon).  I’d rather let them get ripe and then give away part of the crop as I am sure I will have too much!

I am trying out a new solar battery charger that I got for Christmas (arriving with visitors in February). It is currently on a table in my office.  On the desk you can see the papers to be sorted – from all the different places I have been recently – maybe you can understand why I am currently working on the table…  Organization is one of my Saturday jobs – after finishing this blog, of course. 

Insecurity Update:  The western part of CAR where I am continues to be calm.  The rebels still occupy some towns in the north, central, and southeastern parts of the country.  Although a coalition government has been formed by rebels, opposition parties, and government, some rebels are still saying that the current president is not upholding his part of the peace accord signed in Libreville in January 2013.  Of course, neither are they respecting all parts of the accord as there is some looting/disturbances in towns were they are still entrenched.  In all of this, it is the local people are the ones who suffer.  Many are displaced – to the countryside, other towns, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  I am pleased to know that the Lutheran Church is working with some displaced people in this area to provide some food security.  Please pray for true peace in the Central African Republic and for all of the people who are suffering because of the recent troubles. 

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