Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Yesterday my friend Andrea and I went to the "big" market to do some shopping. She is leaving with her family next week so this was the last time she could go to market. It's crazy in the market place and seems to get even crazier when "white" people show up. Everyone is trying to get your attention and have you buy from them. People are standing on tables shouting, some just come and grab our arm and try to persuade us to shop from them. When we walked into the area that has all the used clothes and blankets, a couple of guys just shouted "White Women!" - just to get the frenzy going I guess. We know that any price that is given to us will be at least 3X the price given to a Cameroonian. It's frustrating because I am not very good at bargaining and I know I am getting ripped off. When we shop for our groceries for the week we leave all the shopping up to our cook so that we get the best price. I bought some material from one of the many vendors. I knew I just wanted the least expensive material but he was trying to upgrade me to the most expensive. He said "Come on, Americans are rich." (My friend is actually Canadian but they lump us both together as American.) I started saying that Americans aren't all rich... but stopped myself because in comparison, we really are. Even those of us who have to pinch pennies to make it, are rich. The problem is that it is SO expensive to live in America that we end up feeling poor. If you have a job as a cook for a white family here in Cameroon, you have a good paying job at 40,000 CFA per month (that is about $80). My daughter makes that much money babysitting part time at home. Guys that work in construction make $3 - $5 per day. Fruit bought here, in season, is amazingly cheap for us. Other things, like powdered milk, are considered a luxury. This is the dry season and many people are running out of food and money as they anticipate the rain. It's much like 100 years ago in America, people would plant and harvest food in preparation for the long winter. By the end of winter, many people would starve if they had not planned well or if their crops failed. Dan (Andrea's husband) is reading "The Color Purple", which is written in the 1700's, the description in the beginning of the book could be here in Ndu, today. Life is very difficult here. It's so hard to be discerning with our relationships we are making here. Everyone has their story and they all tug at your heart. Some of the time the stories told to us are in hopes that we will give them money; but other times, it is just because we listen and we care that they share their story with us. A few times men have made sure that Drew is out of my earshot when they talk to him... this is a pretty good sign that they want something and know that Drew is the guy to talk to. Thankfully Drew recognizes that too. I don't want to be suspicious of everyone I talk to - please pray for us in this area: that we will be wise and discerning as well as compassionate and caring. We try to pray with those who have needs. There are so many needs it can be overwhelming - and we know throwing money at most of these needs is not the answer.