Cameroon Task Force

2012 Trip: Part 5 of 5

Laura Knapp is an active member of the CTF team. She traveled with the group four times (2010-2017). Knapp has offered to share her journal from the 2012 trip with everyone.

Bongahele Visit

(Trip 2012)

Rose's Well

Greetings By the Children

They were waiting for us, and as soon as they saw our bus the children began singing a welcome greeting poem. This village had never seen us before and the children welcomed us with singing like we were heroes – all this because we put in a well so they would all have clean water to drink. The well is right in front of the church, but is not finished yet.

Bible Verses

We all went inside to hear the church and village elders thank us for the well. Then some of the children recited bible verses. I didn’t know what verse each one said but they were so cute. Each one came before the group and in one smooth move extended their hands out from their shoulders, bent down almost to the floor, then rose up – said their verse – then swooped to the floor again before receiving praise for their efforts. They were just too cute.

After the visit at Rose’s well, our group took a gorgeous scenic hike to see a huge waterfall. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long due to the sunset. By the time we got back to the hotel it was pitch dark. Ricky was there selling his amazing acrylic paintings. We met him last time and his work has become more well-known since then. He has paintings inside the American embassy in Younde (the capital of Cameroon). We are very proud of him as it is very difficult to make a living as a full time artist in this very poor country.

Computer Training and Flag Painting

(Trip 2012)

22 Laptops Carried From Alaska

Training 5 Students:   The computer training with the five students (Phil, VaVa, Fred, Cyril, and Joe) went well. Cyril took to it like a duck to water given his prior experience with Microsoft-related programs. Phil, who just graduated with an IT degree demonstrated his computer savvy skills and was quite comfortable with the Ubuntu system. Bill, our computer guy in Anchorage used this operating system because it attracts less viruses than Windows, and, all the software is free and can be shared. Each student can do their research and homework on the computer, and if the Internet is not working, can save it on a jump-drive (we brought those, too) to give to the teacher. After training was done we entertained ourselves thumbing through Christi’s photos and videos, and listening to music on the laptop.

Painting Time!

Meanwhile back at the Wellness center LeAnn, Tom and Jody finished up work on their painting of the USA flag. Mom continued work on the sewing project (bags). And Phil, Christi and I went with Cyril to a convenience store that had a copier – to make 20 copies of mom’s bag patterns for the students. Christi and Phil stayed in the scorching hot van discussing serious topics on economics, politics, and some sensitive issues regarding marriages. Cyril and I spent the time in the air-conditioned store sorting out 300 pages into 20 sets.

Other Activities

(Trip 2012)

Mosque Visit

We finished up early that morning to go visit the local Moslem Mosque to visit the Imam – he and Pastor Nzameyo had been good friends, and respectful of the differences in the ways they both worshipped God. We delivered one of the two PETS to be picked up there by the new owner.

Biblical Activities

(Trip 2012)

Visit to Lundgie Village

We went a different direction today with a drive to Lundgie to so we could celebrate music and share the Bible story of Noah’s Ark with the children there. Again we were treated to hear children who recited Bible verses, and then performed the sweetest dance wearing grass-skirts – just so adorable and delightful to watch. After the service, the pastor’s wife gave Cathie a special gift for all of us, in a box wrapped in shiny green paper. LeAnn received a gift from her Kribi daughter – a beautiful tie-dyed dress.

Jeri concluded our visit with an interactive puppet story. She had created a backdrop of blue felt with Noah’s Ark in the center. As she told the story, Tom brought the animal puppets, made of felt and attached to wooden sticks, two by two. He put them into slits in the arc – very clever. When the sun came out and God produced a rainbow the story was over. LeAnn brought out her guitar to sing “The Noah’s Arc Song” complete with hand motions. The kids really liked the event. LeAnn brought the guitar from home – and left it in Kribi.

Our group – at least us young ones – took a long beautiful walk to the beach and learned about how the people smoked fish. The woman there gave us a sample of her fish to try – wow, it had a very nice kick to it; spicy and well-seasoned, mmm… It was definitely a perfect way to end the day. The sunset was beautiful.

Gail, Christi, and I woke up early to the oddest sound ever – we thought it was someone pounding and grinding nuts above our room. It was truly annoying to hear and there was nothing we could do about it – what it was remains a mystery. After the breakfast of bread and scrambled eggs, about 930 a.m., we went to Pauline’s house so we could get on a bus and go to Bissiang for church. We had worshipped at this church in 2010 – it is the village where Pauline ’s husband was raised and is now buried – and the location of Rose’s well #2. We arrived a half-hour late to church because our bus had experienced a flat tire, which took time to repair.

In Memory of Mathieu Mba Nzameyo

Five pastors (including Jo Ann and Tom) gave their sermons with great conviction and faith. Phil interpreted French to English and French to English, and a woman who wore the black robe of a Deacon of the Nzameyo church in Kribi interpreted the French to the Native language of Bissiang. Whew! That was a lot of translation. I sat on the front pew and swayed to the rhythm of the songs accompanied only by drums and wooden sticks. It is always a joy to hear the loud praises to God see and expressive dancing by the congregations. After church, we honored the graves of Pastor Nzameyo by placing a beautiful memorial wreath there. We also also paid our respects to the grave of his brother, and niece.

But the big event of the day was the dedication of Rose’s well. It is hard to imagine what it was like the day the well operated for the first time! The women no longer had to walk to the river and carry back water filled that was sometimes contaminated. Today the most visible evidence of the well is a simple metal pipe that comes up about 2 feet out of the ground with a simple faucet on top (like the one we have on the outside of the house and hook a hose to water the yard). We filled an empty water bottle with well water which will be given to Rose.

The village now has safe water, but still has no electricity. So, they were really excited to receive one-hundred solar powered Nokero light bulbs. Video Clip: Nokero Light Bulbs They will be very useful since the sun goes down about 6pm every day.

Lunch was awesome!!! I ate like there was no tomorrow. They served spaghetti (my absolute favorite dish) and some exotic Cameroonian bean dishes – all were oh, so delicious.

Jeri did the Noah’s Arc story again with the puppet with of the children.

After dropping us off the bus went back to Kribi,, promising to pick us up later – but in a true Cameroonian experience – it didn’t really make it back. One by one team members and our extended family found rides back to Kribi. Kelly, Bonnie, and Christi left first because they just didn’t feel well. Mom, Tom, and I left because we just couldn’t bear the intense heat. A friend of Joaz friends drove us to Kribi and dropped us off near the hospital. We walked a mile back to the hotel, which was a nice – but long – walk.

We tried to dip into the ocean every day – just to cool off. That day Kendra did the boldest thing ever in her life: She swam for the first time in the ocean – we congratulated her for courage.

Farewell

(Trip 2012)

Goodbye Kribi

We woke up to the sad sound of rain pouring down outside our windows. It was our last night here at the Coco Beach hotel and we’d soon be saying farewell to Cameroon.

We left most of the big luggage we brought over filled with medical supplies and PETs. So it was pretty easy to pack our remaining things into our carry-on bags to take home. Once more we loaded all our stuff into the back of the bus and drove to Madame’s house to say our goodbyes. It was then that we realized we’d be taking up people with us to Douala.

Gail and I threw the suit cases out the windows to men who threw them up to the roof of the bus. As more people boarded the bus more bags went out the window. Then the men had to get out the tarps to cover the luggage so it wasn’t soaking wet by the time we got to Douala. Cathie took a few more photos of special gifts we brought so we’d have them for the donors. We wished CouCou, Pauline’s eldest daughter who was due to give birth sometime late June, the best of luck for her birth. Then we waved good-bye and shouted “au revoir” to our good friends left behind in Kribi.

Fast forward about 4 hours and our group arrived at the Serena Palace in Douala and had lunch at the restaurant bar. Several of us had corn flakes for lunch – sometimes comfort foods can be a breath of fresh air. Most of the group was leaving on the Air France flight to Paris at, 1030 p.m. the rest would leave later – or the next day – so we had some down time (read that as time to shop). Those of us spending the night in Douala checked into our rooms and stored all the luggage for all the others. Our room looked like the unclaimed baggage room at a hotel. JoAnn, wasn’t feeling well and had a big trip ahead to Russia, so she opted for a nap, but everyone else went shopping in the Douala market.

The heavy rain cleared, and the hotel minivan gave us a ride to the chaotic Douala market. It is in a one-floor building, with a walkway that weaves around maybe 100 vendors. Each shop was about 5’ wide and 8-10’ deep. There were carved masks, statues, crocodile leather purses, camel leather belts, dresses, shirts, earrings, necklaces, and many very insistent shop managers. We browsed and bargained our way through all the shops. Sellers were very insistent knowing they weren’t selling unless they got “us” into their shops. So they kept repeating phrases like, “Come this way… let me show you something,” or “My shop is here… you look around and we talk price later.” We shopped like crazy spending the remaining CFAs that we had. One guy who knew Mom had about $1 US dollars left came running out with one last pair of earrings to claim her last CFA. How could she pass them up?

At the hotel, the group hung around in our room; we visited, laughed, and showed-off things we had just bought at the market. I got myself a beautiful mosaic art piece made of exotic butterfly wings and this cool musical Tam Tam drum (pronounced as Tom-Tom). Everyone else bought jewelry, fabric, and other interesting African gifts for family, friends and the St. John Parcel Post auction in the spring (hint, hint).

Our closing banquet took place at that same restaurant across the street where we started only 10 days earlier. The food went a lot further than it did then – many of us were not feeling so well in the gastro-intestinal department (you get the idea). I was not up for a big meal and only ate French fries, a few bits of fish, and plantains.

We did manage to eat some celebration cake from an upscale bakery. We sang happy birthday to Eli who turned 11 (and took major steps to growing up with his work at the Center performing the job of a man without complaint) – well done! And much to my surprise, Kelly concluded the evening congratulating Phil and me for our recent college graduations. It is hard to graduate from college anywhere and Phil worked his way through school, and, women don’t get the chance to go to college very often in Cameroon, so we were both good role models for the African children around the table.

After dinner, Cathie, mom and I said our goodbyes to the rest of the group as they headed to the airport. Everyone was completely exhausted from our working trip and was looking forward to sleeping on the night flight to Paris. My concerns were concentrated on Jeri’s solo flight back through Brussels, and the health of Christi and Bonnie who were battling stomach illnesses. I was pretty sure Christi was hit the hardest for the longest time, would perk up in Paris but I would find out for sure until we all returned home two weeks later.

We were all so proud of our work in Cameroon. We were lucky to be the hands and feet of our Alaskan United Methodist and Presbyterian congregations. For those of us returning to Kribi it was good to greet old friends, see the growth of the children and meet new babies (like Joel). Mom’s sewing project was a huge success! Two PETs gave new mobility to people who had waited 2 years for their arrival. And, 400 people received glasses. But, Christian, our friend who leads one of the choirs and is going to finish high school next year said, “Your work here brings us hope”.

But hope fills two hearts at the same time: once when it is given, once when it is received.

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