What are you doing for Christmas break? You know, the time just before
Christmas until just after New Year’s? I find that I am falling into old habits. After all, as a teacher for many years, I have had time “off” from about December 22 until January 3. Here, the official church calendar says December 20 through January 6 are vacation days this year. But, as when I was a teacher, I have a long “to do” list to work through during the break! Here’s a sample (not necessarily in order of importance) – and my progress to date.
- Visit with friends and family. For me the Christmas season is a time to reconnect and spend time together. In Garoua Boulai I visited various friends during the days before Christmas. On Christmas Day (reminiscent of last year’s evacuation travel on 12/25!) I drove to N’gaoundéré so I can visit with friends here. I have talked to family members through Skype and continue to be in contact with Central African friends by phone. I am enjoying the intentional connections that sometimes get lost in other work at other times.
I can’t say that my job is strenuous, but it is emotionally difficult at
times because of the hardships faced by most Central Africans. Vicarious stress?!? So, coming to N’gaoundéré was to take me a
step away. I have had more time to walk
and read, but am still in contact with friends in CAR and Garoua Boulai, so
really the vicarious stress is only lessened.
I am still glad to have the break. (Once again, the program won't let me put the pictures where I want, but you get the idea...)
- Screen Door. One of my goals for December was to have a
screen door made for the front door of “my” guest house in Garoua Boulai. In Gbaya culture, one judges if a person is
home and/or available to visit by looking for an open door. I never kept my door open because unwanted
insects would come in – and maybe unwanted people/animals! I now have a beautiful wooden screen door
that I can lock so people can know I am available, I can get a very nice cross
breeze, and unwanted “guests” stay out!
The door was installed during the second half of December – so maybe
that wasn’t really a goal for Christmas break, but it feels like a great
Christmas present! Everyone who comes to
the house comments on what a great new door I have.
- Celebrate Jesus’ birth. Services here
(either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, depending on the church) include
confirmations and baptisms. I went to
the French service in GB on Christmas Eve.
I don’t have an exact count, but between 50 and 75 young people were
confirmed. There were also MANY
baptisms! Long service. Since I learned that the churches I was
considering attending in N’gaoundéré had confirmations and baptisms on
Christmas Day, I decided not to attend those long services. I did go to church here yesterday
- Car Maintenance. Since I am in the town with the ECLA car
mechanic, I am taking advantage to have some maintenance work done on the
car. Plus, as I drove here, the belt
that runs the fan for ventilation and AC broke, so it needs to be
replaced. The mechanic will also try to
identify why the gas gauge fluctuations between ½ full and empty. It gave me a scare as I was driving here to
see I had very little fuel left! I knew
I couldn’t have used that much. I wasn’t
worried because the pick-up has two tanks and I can easily switch to the
second, but… Then 10 minutes later I had
more than ½ a tank again. Denis, the
mechanic says some wires are touching somewhere they shouldn’t (or something)
and that he will explore the problem today.
I have been trimming my own hair which works OK – after all, people here
have very different hair and are less likely to be able to tell if I have a
great haircut! On the other hand, I know
that lengths have been uneven. I took
advantage of being near Jackie Griffin (another ELCA missionary) who has
experience cutting hair. She has evened
things out and I am good to go for a while now – and then to go back to doing
it again myself!
- Visit to the Dentist. For several years, I have had a spot between two teeth that would
occasionally catch food. My dentist in
Pittsburgh said things were fine. So,
when the same spot started catching food more often, I just started flossing
more often and did nothing else. But,
Christmas break is a time to get doctors’/dentist’s appointments! I know, my schedule with this job is much
more flexible than when I worked for the Pittsburgh Public Schools, but the
dentist is in N’gaoundéré, not Garoua Boulai.
So, December 26, I went to the Dental Clinic of the Protestant
Hospital. The system is that you show
up; no appointment necessary. It does mean that you wait. So, I waited an hour to go into the office;
then 20 minutes before an assistant looked in my mouth; then another 15 minutes
to see the dentist. It turns out I had a
cavity! I guess I should have come
sooner, but no harm done. The dentist
filled it and I have no more problems! I
can say that the office looked like most dentists’ offices in the US except
equipment is older, though modern, and dental chairs are separated by
partitions instead of in separate little rooms.
I can also say that I dislike the sound of a dentist’s drill as much
here as I did in Pittsburgh! Visit,
notebook to record my history, and filling all for about $30.
Being an educator, I have always used Christmas break to get caught up
and then work ahead. This year is no
exception. So far, I have updated my
financial records and, over the next few days, hope to get things set up for
the new year. I have made some copies
for Christian Ed. (Copies in Baboua are
100 cfa – about 20 cents each. In GB
they are 25 cfa each – about 5 cents each and in N’gaoundéré they are 15 cfa
each. Well worth making the copies here
since I am here anyway!) I can get most
of what I need in GB, but there are some things – like a book store – that
don’t exist there but do in N’gaoundéré.
Two people asked me to find an English/French dictionary and another
asked for a daily devotions book. I found all those. In the process, I also found a Gbaya/French
dictionary! These are as rare as hen’s
teeth, so I snapped it up. Now I can
better work on my Gbaya – another goal for break, although I haven’t started
yet… (Maybe when I finish this blog entry…) I will be continuing to teach at the Bible
School in GB for the second term that starts January 6 so I want to take time
to plan the syllabus for next term and work on the first couple of
lessons. Maybe tomorrow…
- Celebrate the coming 2014. I will celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends here and continue to pray that 2014 bring more peace throughout the world, and especially in the Central African Republic.
In all, Christmas break this year is following its usual pattern for me. More time to relax and visit, but lots of time to get caught up on various tasks.
I hope your break (even if the one you have/had is short) was restful and productive (however you define that for yourself). May 2014 bring you all the best. Pray and work for peace.