Monday, March 31, 2014

Home in GB

So this past week I left home (
Mechanicsburg with my parents) to come home (Garoua Boulai) waiting for the day when I can go home (Baboua) and regretting not having time to visit home (Pittsburgh) while I was in the US!  Someone said, “Home is where the heart is.” I glad that my heart is big enough to have multiple homes that I love.

The good news is that my father is making slow, steady progress with his physical therapy.  He must also go to dialysis three times a week.  I am glad for the progress and prayers everyone continues to send his direction.  I am back to phone calls home to keep in contact.

As I got back to Garoua Boulai, many people came to greet me.  I felt welcomed in many ways.  I missed being here for International Women’s Day on March 8. There are parties and a parade, they tell me.  Each year material is made to commemorate the date – a choice of two different colors.  I had bought a dress in the material, but didn’t wear it until I got back.  No sense taking a summer dress to then-snowy Pennsylvania.  Still, women wear the dresses even after the date.  I am, in fact, wearing mine now.  Here’s a glimpse. 

 As I got back four Central Africans were in GB (Patrick, Antoine, Mathias, and Cyrique) with a chauffeur from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cameroon (Denis).  They are here to arrange to take more of the rice and oil as Humanitarian Aid to Bouar and the surrounding area.  What a huge job – for so many reasons.  

Imagine having to load and unload trucks with 50 kg (100 lb.) sacks of rice and lighter, but more fragile boxes of oil.  Who will do it?  For how much?  Where can it be stored while waiting to cross into CAR?  Who will take it?  How difficult will it be to get through customs?  Will it be the same as last time? (Probably not…)

 There is a storage building on the Lutheran campus that workers have fixed up to make more secure and serviceable for storage.  It is currently filled with rice.  The products come from Yaoundé (or beyond) in trucks driven by Cameroonian drivers.  Most of them don’t want to take the chance to drive to Bouar in CAR – even though security is now good along the main road at least that far.  Others will take loads, but demand exorbitantly high prices.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon has agreed to rent their truck and driver to help out.  The truck is smaller so it means more trips, but at least food is getting where it is needed.  There are still complications, but maybe they are now better defined – if no easier to deal.  As I was writing this last evening, Pres. Golike, Patrick, Antoine, Josephine, and Abel arrived from CAR.  The first three are dealing with some of the complications today.  May it go smoothly!

This whole process has me thinking a lot about greed.  There are so many degrees of greed that raise are evident.  What is greed, really? says, “1. excessively or inordinately desirous of wealth, profit, etc.; avaricious: the greedy owners of the company; 2. having a strong or great desire for food or drink; 3. keenly desirous; eager (often followed by of  or for  ): greedy for praise.”  I think it is also wanting more than we need… Taking what belongs to others…

Or, maybe the better term for these latter definitions is delaying gratification.  If we can’t, we see, so we want.  We want immediately, preferably without effort and in large quantities.

We all experience this (whether it is greed or the desire for instant gratification) to some degree, but some of us have learned how to curb acting on the feelings.  Who hasn’t seen a plate of cookies in the kitchen before a reception and taken one, or two, or three…  Who hasn’t seen others eating candy and wanted some for him/herself?  But do we act on these feelings?  When does it matter?  Here are a few examples of why I’m thinking about greed/gratification now. 

The mango trees are full of fruit now, but much of it is still green (unripe).  Still, for the past month, youth (and even adults) have been climbing the trees to get it.  Or, throwing rocks and fallen mangos to make other fruit fall.  Why?  It is inedible.  You can tell from the many mangos on the ground that have had one bite taken out and then dropped because they are rock hard and have no taste.  I know people are hungry, but if all the fruit is wasted this way, there will never be ripe mangos to share. 

When I mentioned in GB that Willie had bought great t-shirts made for those distributing Humanitarian Aid to wear, a couple of local Cameroonians said, “I hope there is one for me.”  The shirts say Église Évangélique Luthériennne-République Centrafricaine, partnered with ELCA and Mission Afrika.  Why would a Cameroonian not working with the aid want one?  Of course, I saw the shirts and wanted one, too! (See selfie with the attempt to get the front and back of the shirt…)  I hope that I can make the case that it was appropriate for me to take one. 

Last week, after the weigh-station weighed the aid truck and charged them their fees (probably too high), the official then asked for a sack of rice and box of oil.  He knew this was humanitarian aid for those with little or nothing.  He had a job, a salary, and “gifts,” yet he wanted some of what he saw.  (They gave him none.)

Why are we so self-centered that want what is not ours, even at the expense of those who have much less?  Isn’t that a big part of the trouble, too, in CAR with the “rebels”?  How do we change or control these unhealthy appetites?  They damage us as much as those we take from. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Snow and the Hospital - in Pennsylvania

St. Patrick's Day!  This is much more of an event in the US than in Cameroon/CAR.  Stating the obvious, I know.  I am aware of the holiday because I am currently in Mechanicsburg, PA because of my father’s medical crisis.  I am happy to report that he is out of the hospital and in rehab.  It will be a long, slow road back to where he was, but I am very grateful for the slow, steady progress.  Thanks to all who have been praying.  For those of you who are hearing for the first time, please feel free to pray for his continued progress and healing.

Mom fixing Dad's dinner tray
I have been stuck by the differences between hospitals in the US and Cameroon.  Wow.  Here’s a picture of the outside of Holy Spirit Hospital where Dad spent several weeks.  Look at the size!  He had to be in Intensive Care for a while and the array of machines and materials was truly impressive.  Because he had a couple of infections, we had to wear gowns and gloves to be in the room – everyone did and they had to be changed each time one entered the room.  Think of the number of gowns and gloves we went through!  I think we’ll be setting the new fashion trend – what do you think???

Dad at Rehab
When Dad was moved to Manor Care for rehab, we immediately noticed that his room seemed larger and quieter.  The hospital bed is there, but none of the other machines.  Nurses, aides, and therapists go in and out a lot, but it is still calmer.  He is very fortunate to be at a place that is well run and has extremely caring and competent staff.  What a blessing!

Of course, I flew to Philadelphia (and drove to Mechanicsburg with my niece and her boyfriend) at the tail end of the Polar Vortex – cold!  I could not have made the trip without much support in Cameroon – to get me from Garoua Boulai to Yaoundé airport, to arrange the ticket, and even to lend me a coat and gloves.  Many thanks to friends there.

 Here’s a couple of snow pictures from around my parents’ house – not so deep, but much more than we get in Garoua Boulai!  Since I arrived, it has been warmer and the snow is melting, but they are talking about cold again today with possible snow.  Ah, March – in like a lion and out like a lamb (if we are lucky).

Later in the week!

I will be going back to Cameroon soon, so the next blog entry should be from there again.