Monday, March 31, 2008

Naomi's painting job

Here in Cameroon I decided to paint my room. I first chose the colors that I wanted. Then during spring break we took the time to do it and got a bucket of white paint and coloring. I invited one of my best friends (Nicole) over to help me paint.

At first we had to scrape the ceiling and the parts of the walls that were pealing. That is a lot harder then it sounds. It took us about one-and-a-half days. Then we had to put a layer of white paint over the ceiling and all the walls.

Finally it came to the fun part of it all. We took white and then added slowly blue coloring. Then, while mixing colors, the top of the concentrated blue bottle suddenly popped off! We had too much blue, and had to scoop some out but still a lot was left in there. We decided to not mix it up a lot so there were different shades everywhere.

I had decided to do sponge painting instead of normal brush painting. We set out with rectangular sponges. We had different shades of blue on each sponge. We finished one wall and left a little square so we could sign there.

Then we moved over to the wall next to it. We washed everything off and took some new sponges. We cut them into circles, two big and one small. We added green and yellow to the white paint to make different shades of lime green with yellow and green randomly mixed in.

After that wall was done we went to the last one. We tried mixing blue and red into the white paint to get  purple but whatever we did the purple always turned a grey color! So we made that wall just one really light yellow and we were going to put a couple of orange dots around places to make it stick out more. But when we were mixing up the orange the red cap fell off and we ended up with a red paint. This did not help.

I was getting very frustrated from the whole days of hard work. So we put the paint away for that night and would continue tomorrow with a clear head.

The next day I had another friend over (Juliette) and we looked at the wall and my mom came with the idea of bringing back the green and blue a tiny bit. So we put a little bit of blue and green.

Finally we were done with the walls. Now we had to do the closets, windows, door, etc. This we wanted to do purple but had no way of getting purple. Then the next day my mom asked our house help, Marie, to go out and buy some cloth die powder to see if it would be able to mix in and make a good purple. IT DID! We finally had our purple. Now I just have to paint them and be done. I am planning on doing it this weekend.

This was full of fun and frustration but now I am happy!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


When Presbyterians visitors arrive at the airport in Kinshasa most are met by Mike’s smiling face. Today, we know him as Mukila, but not infrequently I still hear people calling him by his “radio” name. It’s a nostalgic reference from the days when CB’s (Citizen Band radio’s) were a common means of communication among the missionary community in the country. Cell phones have put an end to most two-way radios, yet the name Mike lingers for some.

While waiting for my luggage next to the carousel, Mukila and I chat. We ask about each other's families. My son is in college in the Netherlands, he has four kids at different universities in Kinshasa. He speaks of the difficulties of life, particularly the challenge of paying the fees associated with four university students.

A father of more than eight children, Mukila shares how he has come to understand the words of caution missionaries gave about having many children. But at the time his village experience was front and center in his mind: families in rural areas wanted, needed, many children to help grow food for the family and do chores around the house. Besides, the cost of living is low in the village. Years later, with a job in the nation’s capital, he realizes that urban life has made it more difficult to care for such a large family. In the city, he explains, the expenses are many. School fees are higher, transportation costs are a daily burden on the family and food generally needs to be bought, as there is little opportunity to grow it in the city.

The struggle Mukila faces to care for his family and to give them opportunities for the future are felt by the vast majority of those living in Kinshasa or other cities in Congo. For many, the idea of children getting an education, let alone a university education, remains a dream.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Tumultuous Times

Jeff just left for Douala, barely four days after his return from a two-week trip to the Congo. Those familiar with our usual agenda’s would think nothing particular of this. But with the tumultuous times Cameroon is going through this week, it is definitely different today.

Initially scheduled to arrive from Kinshasa into Douala last Monday, Jeff’s flight was cancelled because of a volatile unrest that had been building up there over the course of the weekend, resulting in several fatalities. With the riots having in the meantime spilled over to other regions in Western Cameroon, it wasn’t sure whether Jeff could even fly into Yaounde the next day as our home town had also grown restless.

Thankfully, he got in the eve before it all broke out here on Wednesday. Taxi’s stayed off the roads for a third day in a row, and by now the protest had gone beyond the objection by the transportation unions to hiking gas prices, to include the peoples general exasperation with ever rising costs of living and the intended constitutional changes to eliminate term limits for the President. School closed early that day and our girls arrived home at a time we were hearing gun shots just down the road.

After a day of violent protests and riots, with statements from various religious leaders calling for calm, and a televised address by the Head of State later that night, the city woke up to an uneasy quiet on Thursday, as the army patrolled the streets and taxi’s remained on the curbs for another day of strikes. Some said the President spoke appropriately as a Father of the Nation, but many were dissatisfied with the lack of recognition for the difficulties faced by the population and upset with the harsh words spoken about the youth.

While unrest continued in the West Provinces, Douala and Yaounde became under control, and on Friday usual activities started picking up, allegedly under threat for the confiscation of cars and goods if taxi men did not start driving and if shopkeepers held their stores closed. The people are obviously relieved with the break in direct threat and the opportunity to purchase a few necessities, but given the suppressed frustrations it is not sure how long this relative calm will last. Allegedly, demonstrations that had originally been planned for this weekend have been postponed for the next week.

So, after checking in with our various sources, we decided that this weekend may be the best window of opportunity to get the church’s car from Douala, where it had stayed after our family’s outing to Limbe, with Jeff flying on to Kinshasa and the girls and me returning by bus to Yaoundé. We trust God will provide for Jeff’s safe return tomorrow. But under the current circumstances, his plans to visit next week with our church partners in Equatorial Guinea may well need to be postponed.

Please, lift up the Cameroonian people in your thoughts and prayers so they may continue to live peacefully, but with founded hope for a better future.

To read the special statement on the crisis in Cameroon from the Rt. Rev. Dr. Nyansako-ni-NKU, Moderator of PCC,
click here >>>