Saturday, September 04, 2004

Urban Living

This morning, we packed up for a half-day at ASOY, where we played a little basketball, swam, and I successfully logged onto the Internet for the first time! To my great relief, the world is still intact … though my Rangers are now further back in the division standings then they were when I left.

We live in an urban area, a mass of humanity. The streets are crowded with pedestrians, students, beggars, vendors. There don’t appear to be any traffic rules – the most aggressive drivers always get their way. Leah and I have learned to simply shut our eyes and pray when Mr. Djibril bullies the Land Rover out into the roundabout!

Our apartment is located in the “wealthy” neighborhood, Bastos, not a few blocks from where the American ambassador lives. But you wouldn’t know it, unless you were told. The streets are literally alive, with vendors everywhere.

We also live next door to a medical clinic, open twenty-four hours a day. From her bedroom window, Rachel can occasionally see someone giving blood, or giving birth! Unfortunately, when death strikes the clinic, we experience several minutes of mourning cries and wails.

It’s not safe yet to wander out on one’s own. So far, we have taken a safety-first approach to living here, as advised by Bill and Grace. It’s also given us the odd feeling of being rich white Americans in the midst of poverty, especially since we pay for house help! When we start feeling guilty that we are living some kind of luxurious lifestyle, we stop short, knowing that we are at least employing four people who otherwise would be part of the huge bloc of unemployed Cameroonians.

Next week, our focus will change. We begin language study on Monday, September 13, five hours every day. We had been told this was a bilingual country, but we’ve found very few English-speakers so far. Learning French will be vital for ministerial success here.

Before arrival, I was concerned about my ability to learn French, but I’ve changed my mind. Being immersed in the language now, I can already feel my brain synapses adjusting. I can hear French now in a different way, and am already beginning to distinguish sounds, words and phrases. The girls have daily French lessons at school, and they seem quite motivated to learn it for themselves. I walked out on the front porch yesterday, only to discover that Chloe had taken a French textbook out for Philip (day guard) to see. He was patiently sounding out words for her, and helping her pronounce correctly.