Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Thoughts I'm having on Life in Cameroon
I'm an observer by nature. The first few days we were here everything seemed so surreal and exciting. Now that I have been here a few weeks and met more people, had a few more experiences I feel like I am getting a clearer vision of some of the problems as well as some of the things that are better than I experience at home. I'm only getting a slightly clearer picture - I don't think I could ever grasp all of the ins and outs of the culture. One thing I have observed is that this campus has "missionaries" constantly coming in and out. There are a few missionaries here full time and I really admire their perseverance and dedication. The short term people (like us), come swooping in with all these grand ideas to save the day. Most of the way we do things just don't work here in Ndu. For instance, there is a team that came a few days ago to paint, they brought a container full of items to give away. The container had over 100 boxes of books and videos which are now being sorted in an already overloaded room, waiting to get into the computer system and shelved in their library. The kids and I are helping Henry work through these boxes. One box was full of old children's video tapes. Nice, except most people do not even have a tv, let alone a video player (or electricity much of the time). I also saw a child playing with a roller skate that had been brought here from the states, except for the sidewalk leading up to the classrooms and the steps Drew is working on, everything here is dusty dirt paths and roads, no place for a roller skate. The children were using it like a car to play with and had no idea what it's true purpose was. Even when you go to market many of the booths are old clothes that were shipped here in containers from Good Will or other thrift stores overload. Many of the clothes we wouldn't even use for rags. Some of the books given are completely inappropriate for this part of the world - they have no use for preparing for Y2K or retirement. On campus here we have received a warm welcome, it's overwhelming to the faculty and students the amount of work that needs to be done around here and they welcome the help. They also are Christian believers and recognize us as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. When we go to market or outside the campus as white people we get stared at, or mocked. My boys were with their friends and got sugar cane at the market, this caused laughter and pointing as some older boys said "Look white man eating sugar cane!" One day when I was out, an older woman said to me "We stare at you because you are white". I told her we have many different colors of people where I am from, many black people. I explained that we stare at them because they have such beautiful colored clothes and head coverings. She thought that was pretty funny. I haven't been here long enough to have my feelings hurt over the attitude to white people but I know some of my fellow long term missionaries have felt the sting. It's sad but the truth is white people have a history of abusing people of color, there are many people today on both sides of the color spectrum that cannot see past the skin and get to know the person within. When I am in my little MN bubble I don't think about these things, unless I'm reading a historical novel like "Uncle Tom's Cabin". I think it is good to see how hurtful it can be and just chose to be one little part of the change by how I treat my fellow humans.