|Lutheran Station in Garoua Boulai|
So how is it different here? Let me count the way! First, there was a lot more travel involved to get back here, including a 5-hour time change. I am back to speaking a lot of French instead of being surrounded by English. I also hear Sango and Gbaya and feel like I need to do more to become proficient in those.
Next, there is much more uncertainty in my current return. I knew it was likely, but dealing with it day-by-day is sometimes wearing. Although security in CAR is better in some ways, overall insecurity is still rampant. Villages and the capital are still plagued by violence. So, I won’t be going back to CAR right away, even though everything remains calm in Baboua, my “home” town.
I worry about my Central African colleagues – well, everyone there, really, especially those in the villages who have no say in the difficulties that have invaded their lives. Please continue to pray for peace in CAR and stability in the people’s lives again.
As I arrived back in Garoua Boulai, I found boxes of books and other materials from Joe and Deb Troester who worked in Baboua for 5 years and lived in the house next to mine. Dr. Joe worked with PASE, a program working to bring clean water to villages, and Pastor Deb taught at the Theological Seminary. Neither could do their work at a distance; so, with the continuing insecurity, they have left definitively. I will miss them and the support they gave me during my first year of work. I wish them the best as they look for their next job and face much larger readjustment issues that I do! I also appreciate the books and materials they have left behind for us to share.
I took time upon arrival to sort through and organize my new and older books. I love books! (I am extremelyI have reorganized the bookcase in the guest house living/dining room so that the old mission books are on the bottom two shelves. These are novels and religions books for children and adults that have been here for years (some are dated 1959!). On the other shelves are now books divided by language (Sango, Gbaya, French, English-language learning) and topic (papers for work, and novels). Organized and ready to use – though I don’t look forward to having to move them – the one major drawback to “real” books!
I can’t go back to Baboua to work yet, but I can do a lot from Garoua Boulai. Yesterday, the Village School Program leadership team came to meet with me. We had a productive meeting (as we always do, I am very happy to say!) in the guest house where I stay. This picture shows Arnold Minang, Accountant; Mathias Votoko, Community Developer; Abel Service, Director; me, Education Adviser; and David Zodo, Pedagogical Adviser. One person (in Baboua) commented to me (on the phone) that I was in Baboua yesterday because the VSP team was with me and I am with them all in spirit. So true. Distance may make connections more difficult, but I am connected to many anyway – in lots of different places. It is a pleasure to work with these people again.
I am also content that everyone I meet is happy to see me in GB again – including a couple of Fulani women I pass regularly on the street! They did a double take when they saw me for the first time after a month and smiled shyly saying “Sanu” (hello). It feels good to be recognized and appreciated (even if we don’t speak the same language or know each other)!
I have noticed another cultural phenomenon. My weight has not changed much over the past year. Still, when I went to the US, various people said, “Oh, you lost weight!” Now that I am back, several people have said, “Oh, you’re gained weight!” In both contexts, these are complements. How our perceptions are colored by what our culture values/thinks about.
I have restarted my work with the Village School Program and Christian Education. I will also be having discussions with the National President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of CAR, the Director of the Bible School in GB, and others to see if I can support other education programs in CAR and/or Cameroon while I am based in GB.
Uncertainty abounds so readjustment more difficult, but I am trying to focus on the positive and the known. There is much that I can learn and do, including learning to better live with uncertainty. I thank God for the support of family, colleagues, friends, and readers of this blog as I do my best based here in Garoua Boulai.