Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Assimilation Blues

I’m finally feeling better. I think I’ve kicked the sinus infection which has kept me perpetually drowsy over the last 36 hours. I have so many mixed feelings at this point.

For one, we feel great about the girls’ school. The American School of Yaounde (ASOY) is top-notch quality, no doubt. The girls are certainly safe there. And they like it. It’s a wonderful place – already they’re deep into French lessons, swimming, chess, and dozens of learning-rich activities. Their teachers are warm and friendly. The school has sort of a laidback style; the students are given lots of liberties, and are treated as individuals, not robots.

We found out today that the mission was also paying for their school lunches all year. Another blessing!

And we discovered that, by virtue of having kids in the school, we are automatically members of their “club,” which includes weekend access to the pool, tennis courts, gym and canteen!

However, it will take awhile for us to get a grasp on how to “live” here in Cameroon. How does mail work? How in the world will I get online in the near future? Cellphones? Personal banking? And where can I find a newspaper in English around here?

All the rules that worked in America simply don’t work here; it’s a completely different kind of place!

A great example is our experience today with our new washing machine. Buying it was an ordeal in itself, but we got it home, began to install it, and discovered that the electrical outlet wasn’t grounded! The machine, when plugged in, was “hot” to the touch! Upon inquiry, Bill, to his horror, discovered that NONE of the outlets in our apartment were grounded! – even though he’d specifically paid the electrician to wire the place for our arrival. “I didn’t know I’d have to be THAT specific,” he sputtered while he figured out how to fix the mess.

Besides this amusing problem, there are significant other problems. The electricity has gone out for significant lengths of time at least twice already. Water outages are also common, apparently. And Bill still hasn’t been able to get online from his apartment office since we arrived!

That’s typical Africa, I think. And even though it’s frustrating, I’m not surprised. Besides, it is a beautiful place. I only worry that we’re a little too cloistered here. With guards, a driver, a private school for the children. We can’t even go to the supermarket without an escort. At least for now.

It doesn’t feel very “missionary-like” or “sacrificial,” but I wouldn’t know what those things feel like anyway. I don’t know how to describe what life is like here, yet. I sit at the keyboard, trying to figure out how to put it all in words.

I can’t wait until I know some French, and have a better sense of life-skills for Cameroon. Then we can concentrate on church-building.

Simply put, I haven’t done any “missionary” work yet, and won’t for a couple more months. But that’s by design.

Bill and Grace, the resident missionaries, surrogate grandparents and our upstairs neighbors, have devised a plan for us to slowly work our way into our jobs. Eventually, of course, we will replace them as directors of the mission. But right now, the watchword is “assimilation.”