Articles from Third Ministries!
Part 3: Challenges
Apologies for the long delay in writing the third part of this series but we are in the middle of an ongoing strike which has resulted in closed schools and blocked access to the internet. Nonetheless daily life has continued, albeit differently than was originally expected.
Despite these new challenges to living in Cameroon I would not alter what I consider the more difficult aspects of residing in sub-Sahara Africa. There have been many adjustments, all of which have understandably come with the territory. For instance, most of the food that I have tried I have enjoyed experiencing especially the roasted fish and fried plantains. That said, I have not and don’t believe I will acquire a taste for “palm oil,” which is often used in preparing several of the dishes here like cooked vegetables and black beans. On a more superficial level, as a result of being a chocoholic finding good dark chocolate has proved to be cumbersome at best and relatively expensive.
It has also been an adjustment to learn to do my laundry on a regular basis by hand in my bathroom sink. Washing machines are quite rare and dryers are non-existent to my knowledge (which is actually not a bad thing because we therefore use clotheslines and in a small way benefit the environment).
All of these challenges have been fairly standard and to be expected. But what I have found to be the most frustrating is the lack of consistent running water. We can go weeks at a time with no running water and as a result learning to “fetch” water has been a new skill acquired. If we knew the water was not going to be available based on a schedule it would be easier to manage but at times I have been in the shower, all soaped up and the water has disappeared for some time. When we are lucky the water may trickle back enough to finish quickly, but if not then hopefully you have some water stored on the side. If indeed running water is not available for weeks then this makes showering a most appreciated luxury.
Often times we have not had running water inside but outside the rains are coming down hard. It should come as no surprise then that when this has been the case I have wondered if it would be culturally unacceptable for a naked white man to go outside and soap up under the natural flowing waters from the sky. My guess is that this would not go over too well: Janice and Chad you don’t need to worry about unexpected phone calls from the bishop’s house. Haha!
I had basically figured out an acceptable solution to this problem when my friend Catherine was going to bring me a camp shower to string up in my bathroom but she has had to postpone her trip due to the socio-political unrest in this country. I did however find all the necessary components to make a hand-washing station but since I did not have all the necessary tools I had to enlist the assistance of the carpenters on grounds and paid them in the currency of Guinness!
All in all the challenges have been eye opening and have helped me appreciate the things I take for granted, and also to realize the daily struggles that my Cameroonian brothers and sisters face even for the most basic needs. Walking in solidarity with them, even in small ways will, I pray, help me to grow in awareness and compassion for the millions of people who live with so little in comparison to my accustomed western lifestyle.