We’ve now been in Cameroon for three weeks. We’ve had plenty of exciting, crazy, good, and different experiences so far. Here are a few of them, in no particular order.
First, Cameroon is a bi-lingual country – both French and English. Way more people speak French than English, however. But many other languages are used as well. Our friend Timothee Sodea, for example, speaks at least five – Gbaya (pronounced “Bye-ah”), Dii (pronounced “Dee”), Fulfulde, French, and English. We’ve learned to say hello in Gbaya – “Mo saa ne” for the morning and “Mo gaa ne” for the afternoon. It’s “Sannu” in Fulfulde, and “Bonjour/Bonsoir” in French.
White people are called “Nassara” here. It is apparently a Fulfulde word, with origins in the word “Nazareth”. It was first meant to distinguish those who believed in Jesus of Nazareth – that is, Christians – from others. Today, it means “white person”. And walking down the street, we hear it all the time. It’s almost like it’s our name here. Children will scream it when they see us walking – they’ll wave and smile and shout “Nassara, Nassara!” In the market we’ll often here people say “Beaucoup de Nassara!” (translation – “many white people”). There’s even a little bar called “Club de Nassara” in Meiganga, at which I’ve never seen a white person. In fact, I think I know all the Nassara’s in town – five, I think.
Football – in American English, soccer – is the big sport here. There is a field at the seminary, 75 meters from our house. There’s one at the Place de l’Independance, about a half mile away. There are a few other’s we’ve seen, and except in the heat of the day, it seems that at least a few people, if not whole teams, are out playing.
May 20 is “National Day” or “Day of National Unity Here” here. With large percentages of Muslims and Christians, about 250 different tribal groups, dozens (or scores or hundreds, I don’t know) of languages, and a very spread-out country, it was amazing to see nearly the entire town of Meiganga and people from the surrounding area turn out in the heat of the day for the fete (party) at the Place de l’Independance. The military paraded by, then for about and hour school groups did, too (I left after about an hour, as it was incredibly hot). I hate to guess at the numbers of people – but to try and give an idea, I’d say there were a couple thousand children who marched, hundreds of teachers/adults, and a crowd of many thousands more.
Crickets are everywhere after it rains. They are in the sink, the shower, the living room, flying around and landing on my shoulder, my back, and trying to crawl up my legs.
Motorcycles (called “motos”) are everywhere here, and are used for taxis. They can fit three or four or five people on a moto – or a driver and a huge bundle of wood – or a driver and a box that is four feet wide and four feet high. They zip everywhere with their official taxi driver vest, no helmet, but sometimes with a beanie-type hat. Their bikes are often wrapped in bubblewrap to keep the dirt, mud, and dust off of them.
Today we went to a church for baptisms – 28 college-aged students were baptized in the local river (read: stream with a deep spot in it). It was awesome to experience. Tomorrow we will go to the same church for worship, where another twenty-some will be baptized during the service.
Just a brief look into our Cameroonian life – more soon, I hope.