Friday, September 18, 2015

To Meng and Tibati

I arrived back in Garoua Boulai Friday evening and left again after church Sunday for Meng. That doesn’t give much time for unpacking and repacking – and I have evidence that it wasn’t enough because of the things I forgot.  I took the sheet, towel, flashlight, lamp, Bible, notes for what I was to teach, but forgot the umbrella, tea bags, fruit and maybe some other things.  Packing for a trip here is not the same as within the USA nor between the USA and here…  
Ah, well, things still went well.

The Dean (on the left in the picture) of the Seminary (Institut Théologique Luthérien de Meiganga – the Lutheran Theological Institute of Meganga) asked me in the spring if I would lead a training session on pedagogy for his professors and for those at the Bible School in Meng.  He chose Meng because this year they are opening a program to train evangelists as pastors.  I explained this once before, but will try again to distinguish the levels of training here in Cameroon and the CAR.  Catechists study for two years (in one of four Bible Schools) in Cameroon and for three years at the one Bible School in CAR.  They then lead the liturgy on Sunday, often preach, and help out in the congregation.  Evangelists in Cameroon study for three years, also at a Bible School, but not every Bible School has this level.  (Meng does.)  The Bible School in Baboua, CAR does not train evangelists.  These people work with several congregations to help them grow and or to plant new churches. And, in reality, they often act as assistants to the pastors.  A pastor studies for three years at the Institute in Meiganga, Cameroon or four years at the Seminary in Baboua, CAR.  They are fully trained to lead a congregation and perform the sacraments.  Pastors are generally assigned to a district or region; they have multiple congregations – some as few as 4-5 others with more than 30.  (The new teacher at the Bible School in Garoua Boulai was working as a pastor near Tibati and was responsible for 33 congregations!  Himself.  Imagine that.)

Since the church has a chronic shortage of pastors, especially in area in the west, EELC (the Evangelical Lutheran Cameroonian Church) has partnered with the Norwegians to create this new program.  Evangelists who are interested and qualified will complete a two-year training course at the Bible School in Meng.

Getting to Meng
I drove about 100 km. (63 miles) northwest to Meiganga.  Elisabeth Johnson joined me there since

she teaches at the seminary.  We then drove west to Meng, another 250 km. (156 m).  For this kind of travel, mentioning the condition of the roads is automatic.  GB-Meiganga is great – paved road all the way.  Driving 60 mph is common although there are lots of villages where drivers have to slow down – especially because there are often large speed bumps.  Still, one can generally arrive in 1 ¼ hours.  Much of the road from Meiganga to Meng is also paved, but it has MANY pot holes.  (Pittsburghers, you complain about holey roads, but this has you beat hands down.)  Many aren’t deep, but some are.  It isn’t always easy to tell until you are on top of them.  So, driving on the shoulder – or half on the shoulder – is common.  Plus, this is the rainy season.  For much of the distance on the way I drove in driving rain that made it hard for the wipers to keep the windshield clear.  Fortunately, on the way back it rained hard the night before and we had no rain on the road.  4 ½ hours going and 3 ½ coming back. 

Officially, the government should take care of the road, but that doesn’t happen unless it is being paved.  In fact, there was a very nice stretch of road that is not paved, but has been recently graded (probably in preparation for paving).  It was four lanes wide and flat as a pancake.  A joy! 

In some areas, pot holes are filled by local people.  These are often youth who hope that drivers passing by will give them a little money for their effort.  On the way back, we saw four such young people filling in holes – maybe ten years old, including two girls.  It was afternoon by then, so I hope they had attended school in the morning, but maybe not…  Still, we gave them a little money to encourage the work.

Elisabeth and I stayed at the Catholic guest house in Tibati, a larger town than Meng that is five km. beyond it.  (Tibati is known for the large lake that is nearby and for the fish people get from it.  We ate some wonderful Capitan the first night in Meng.)  The guest house at Meng housed the other professors from Meiganga.  Both houses are comfortable although they have a problem getting water at Meng.  Our guest house was separate rooms (as opposed to rooms in a common house as at Meng) and we had cold running water.  We appreciated the courtesy the organizers and Catholics extended us.  I wouldn’t have minded spending more time in the area to see the town and huge lake.  

The Training
The Bible Schools and Seminary generally start mid-September.  This teacher in-service could not be any later than it was because of these starting dates.  (It couldn’t be any sooner since Elisabeth and I would not have been back from the USA.) 

The idea of this training was to give participants time to consider what is working for them and what can be improved.  Then I introduced some basic concepts of Vygotsky – you teachers know who that is, right?  We talked about learning be a process done in collaboration with others and the ZPD – Zone of Proximal Development.  The nine profs were pleased to have the information.  Only one had heard of any of this before (as he had studied education).  Finally, we talked about self-evaluation; each rated him/herself and picked a couple of strategies taught to try out this year.  It would be nice to be able to follow up with them during the year.  Maybe that will be possible.  By the way, all instruction and conversation was in French…

Back in GB
In Garoua Boulai, the Bible School restarted Monday, September 14.  I teach on Wednesday, so I got back Tuesday evening in time to teach the next day.  In addition, students and profs at the Bible School take turns leading the meditation each morning.  I was scheduled for Wednesday morning.  I had asked the Director to switch things because of my travel, and although he agreed to do so, he had to go to N’gaoundéré and had made no arrangements.  Back with a bang!  In the end, I am glad I lead the meditation because we used my planning process in class as I talked to the students about how they can better plan for the meditations they must lead. 

Now I would like to get my email inbox cleaned out, but…  All this week Camtel, my provider, has been having difficulties.  Internet speed is less than half the usual bandwidth.  I have trouble opening my ELCA email account and can’t read Facebook at all.  My gmail (set to the basic level which takes up less bandwidth) works sometimes.  I can’t easily up- or download files.  All those emails sitting in my work inbox with reports attached might as well be on the moon!  I talked to the people in two Camtel offices today.  They are aware of the problem and need a technician to arrive from Yaoundé.  Who knows when that will be? 

I hope to be able to post this message later today, but we will be lucky if there are one or two pictures.  Meanwhile, I will limp along – making some phone calls, looking at a few reports I had downloaded in Yaoundé or PA, or finding other things that need to be done around the house.

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