Saturday, April 20, 2013

R and R

Since the news this week has been pretty much the same as last week and I am still in N’gaoundéré, Cameroon, I asked people what they might like me to write about this week.  I got two requests:  education for girls from their perspective and R and R.  I need to talk to some girls and young to talk intelligently on the former so that topic will have to wait for another day.  (By the way, I am always open to suggestions for topics.  What would you like to know more about?)

So rest and relaxation.  Take a break from deeper, thought-provoking themes and lessons about culture here and relax with me!  Who would have guessed that I had so much to say on the topic!

I have always been an avid reader.  I can’t imagine what my life would be like without books and reading.  I like to be able to read to relax – to escape, if you will, into the world of a book.  At the same time, I prefer books that will also teach me something I didn’t know.  I have learned a lot that way!  For example, I have recently read a couple of books by Sarah Andrews.  The main character in each is Em Hansen, a forensic geologist!  Did you know there was such a thing?  I didn’t either.  So, although the books are mysteries, I also learned a lot about gold mining (An Eye for Gold) and dust picked up by in Africa that travels to Florida, sometimes carrying pathogens (Killer Dust).  In the process, I am also learning more about Mormons. 

I am also reading What’s Wrong with the World? by G. K. Chesterton.  I had heard his name before but never read any of his 80 or so books.  He wrote the Father Brown series, but was also a very important philosopher and writer at the turn of the 20th century.  I find that I don’t understand all the references to people and places (he is British), but his work is thought provoking. 
I am able to read as much as I’d like and the variety of genres because I got a Kindle just before I came.  I tend to borrow e-books from the library – I have always been a huge fan of libraries! – or to get free ones from  I do buy some titles, but the free ones have me exploring some older books that I had never considered reading before. 

I also read “real” books – ones I find at the guest houses or that are given to me.  I have a couple that I am reading in French (much more work and less relaxing, but important to do).  One is a novel (not yet started) and the other a collection of stories told by Gbaya people about their lives  I am reading it a little at a time.  I also read online – email, Facebook, some web surfing (mostly English, of course...) 

In addition to reading, I also watch movies sometimes on my computer.  The bandwidth of our internet connections is not wide enough to provide streaming – I can’t even watch short You-Tube videos easily – but others here have things I can borrow.  I got Bones, Season 7 for Christmas, borrowed NCIS, Season 8 from a friend, and I just borrowed My Cousin Vinny from another friend.  I have seen that before, but love the humor of it!

Another favorite pastime of mine is walking.  I like to go places on foot to see the neighborhoods, shops, people, and to learn more about where I am – ways roads connect, but also clues to culture here.  Walking also helps me process thoughts and get exercise.

I also relax with friends.  Recently, that has been other missionaries in N’gaoundéré, but I also talk with Cameroonians I have met.  We went to dinner at the Coffee Shop last evening.  It is a restaurant, not really what we know as a coffee shop, but the food is great and we have gotten to know the owners.  Jackie and I walked to get there, so we stopped to visit various people she knows along the way.  I enjoy talking to people – especially when I can do it in their language, but I have felt limited here.  Yes, I can speak French with them, but many here speak Fulfuldé and I can’t get beyond very simple greetings.  Others in town speak Gbaya, but my level is not yet to where I can have a conversation – I can do simple greetings, though.  If I were in Central Africa, I could be speaking in Sango.  I can carry on a conversation in that language, but need to deepen my knowledge.  Oh, well, that will have to wait since there are few Sango speakers in N’gaoundéré. 

I asked one Cameroonian what he did to relax.  He said that after a long day, especially if it has been stressful, he likes to lie flat on the floor and relax, thinking of nothing.  No music, no distractions, just time to unwind and calm his mind. 

I asked him whether people here listen to music much.  He said that the young like to listen to foreign music, especially rap from the US.  They often listen at home although “boites” exist.  Literally, that means box, but means a night club or place one goes to listen to music and dance.  There are a few like what we might see in the states, but it also might be an open-air bar with a live group or disk jockey.

I often see kids outside playing soccer with whatever ball or ball-like object they can find.  Since it is mango season, I also see them throwing rocks or mangos from the ground at ones still on the trees trying to get them down to eat.  I am sure they consider that fun!  Plus, they can eat the results if they get one that is ripe enough. 

Children, often boys, but now always, make “cars” or “trucks” from bits of whatever they can find.  I have not been able to get good pictures but here’s a poor one!  If you want to see more, check out Karen Lynn William’s picture book Galimoto.  I also see lots of boys rolling a bike (or other) tire down the street with a stick. 

I am convinced that children often have a great time just calling out to white people to see if they will answer! Or, following them to see what they will do.  We are, after all, strangers in their midst.  Calling “Munju” (Sango) or “Nasara” (Fulfulbé and Gbaya) is fun if they can get the person to greet them or shake their hand.  Even after I say hello, some will continue to call out the word to see if they can get me to greet them multiple times. 

Many Cameroonians and Central Africans listen to the radio (often music).  Most cell phones have the capability to play radio stations.  I listen to a short-wave radio, but usually to hear news, so that isn’t often relaxing! 

Africans who can afford it own a television.  I know they watch news, but other programs are shown too.  One can find channels in French, English, Arabic, Chinese, local languages, and a variety of others, especially with a satellite dish.  I have to say that I have seen very little television since I am here – of course, I didn’t watch much television in Pittsburgh before I came either.  For a long time I have preferred DVDs – from the library, Netflix, primarily!   

Playing soccer on the beach at dusk
Those Africans (and missionaries) who can afford it may also go to the beach such as we did in Limbé.  Most people there were Cameroonians enjoying a day at the beach.  The Atlantic Ocean is far from where we currently are, though, so most who go there are from closer areas such as Yaoundé or Douala.  There are other tourist destinations such as primate sanctuaries, botanical gardens, etc.  Foreigners go, but, nowadays, many Cameroonians do, too.  There are fewer of these kinds of place in CAR and fewer people with disposable income that can visit them.

Well, this focuses mostly on what I do to relax – I guess I could go out and get more information from the people to see what they do – but, even though that would be interesting to me, it might not be relaxing! 


  1. Wow. I'm glad you shared some books you're reading and enjoying because I was able to get a Barnes and Nobles gift card with my credit card points so I'll look for those by Sarah Andrews. Maybe I'll find the picture book Galimoto too. I commend the man who lies down on the floor and does nothing! I'll have to try that for some days after doing errands in the car like recycling, grocery shopping, and dropping off Abra at the Library or Dakota and Kaeling off at a friend's house. I think I would like the botanical gardens if I were there and try to make it to the ocean if possible. Thanks for sharing your R and R. Tracy

  2. You're welcome. Your request inspired the article - now it can inspire you!!