Monday, July 20, 2015

Chicken & Rice

I may never look at chicken and rice the same way again…

During formation, you spend a lot of time trying to learn as much as you can about the area you’re going into. When I thought I was going to Kenya, I did extensive research into customs, locations, past times, and food. I mean, come on, everyone wants to know what kinds of foods are available. Anyway, the reason for my post…

I have had my very first home cooked Cameroonian dinner, and I don’t think my life will ever be the same.

I left the Newburn’s house early this afternoon with the intention of rearranging the ten…or a million…chairs in my living room before firing up the gas stove to make spaghetti sauce. It’s easy. I have the ingredients. It will feed me for a few days. When I was thinking about it this morning it was a no brainer!

I’ve been home maybe ten minutes when someone knocks on my door. Huh? Someone at my door? Okay… The woman standing at my door has a broad smile and is wearing an apron.  She introduces herself as the school nurse for the school I am teaching at. She asks how I am settling in, and I was frank with her.  The market is overwhelming. I’ve only been here a week, and I am still trying to get used to the altitude. She laughed lightly and told me that she would gladly accompany me to the market so I had a friend and would get fair prices. Thank you, God, for sending Josepha to me!

The next question out of her mouth threw me a little. “What do you have for dinner?” I didn’t know if I should be making her some, but if she wanted to eat, I would gladly share. I told her I was making pasta and a tomato sauce, and her smile fell. Okay… Her look morphed to the ‘mom look’…you know, the look moms get when they find out their child has spent the last semester of college surviving on ramen noodles and fast food. “I am making chicken and rice. Is it okay if I bring you some?” 

Um, duh! Pros: I don’t have to cook, a Cameroonian meal that isn’t a fish head and flayed heart, and a really good friend to have. Cons:  none that I can see.  She returned to work, promising to be back after she cooked.

Just before seven my doorbell rings, and there is Josepha, a smile on her face and a bag in her hand. I offer her tea or water, but she declines. I can understand. She hasn’t really been home since she left for six o’clock mass this morning. With a hug, she walks out but not before promising me something.

“This weekend I will make my traditional meal. You will try it.” SCORE!

I open up the bag expecting a little rice and a little chicken, and that’s it. Let me tell you… The pan of rice is more than I can eat in three sittings (i.e. breakfast and dinner tomorrow…heck yes) and the pan of chicken…Oh the chicken. So the closest I can probably relate to it would be a mix between masala and mamou. Maybe I should explain mamou…it’s a Cajun sauce made with more butter than should be legal, garlic, peppers, chicken, etc. It’s a little slice of Cajun heaven.
Josepha’s chicken had green beans, carrots, onions, garlic, tantalizing spices, tomato… Oh my word. It was awesome. And the best part: It will still be awesome when I reheat it tomorrow.

Have I already thanked God for her? If not. THANK YOU!

Monday, July 6, 2015

First Impressions

It's strange...Even when I moved to Kentucky or Detroit, I don't think I have ever had an influx of new information quite like this. Culture, sayings, a new money system, people, the market (I'll explain more), and...potholes? Yeah, we'll go ahead and call them potholes even though they are more like sinkholes or ditches. Basically, you close your eyes and pray the car makes it over them. Seriously, I thought Detroit's roads were bad... 

Anyway, back to first impressions...

After what felt like a million hours in the air, cramped into confined spaces, we landed in Douala. We had been forewarned that Douala is hot and sticky, and I think the words used were "you are on to greener pastures". The sisters welcomed us warmly, a wonderful welcome to Cameroon. The next morning, we started off early for the drive to Bamenda. The drive started with traffic to rival the 405 at rush hour. I tried to sleep a little, but there is only so much sleeping you can do when you are stuck between a window and a body with your long legs trapped in an uncomfortable position. We passed by plantations of banana, mangos, palms, and papayas or pawpaw. Somewhere along the road, we stopped for pineapples. Okay, let me just say, I have tried local pineapples in three different places now (Hawaii, French Polynesia, and Cameroon), and the pineapples We pulled up and the man selling them slices one open for us. I had to lean over to avoid the juice that was dripping everywhere and the sweetness was out of this world. 

The last hour or so on the road gets bad. Potholes and cars and busses dodging them. Inside the car, you dodge this way then that way then fly forward and backwards...basically, you don't sleep and you pray nothing bad happens. It didn't. We were fine. Our driver knew the road well, and he navigated it the best he could. So we finally pull up at the Newburn's house. We are tired, but the excitement of meeting the people we had heard so much about helped to curb the fatigue. There were children, friendly faces, and a hot dinner waiting for us. I will forever be thankful for Joy, Logan, Eric, Jen, Brent and their kids for welcoming us and offering words of wisdom. 

It was bittersweet watching everyone trickle away. First, Alicia left for Shisong. Then Martha, the Burket-Thoenes, and the Newburn kids left for Njinikom, and finally the Horne's departed for Kumbo. It was the first moment where my stomach sort of hit my toes, and I felt alone. I wasn't. I had Joy, but I only have her for a week and then I will have Cody, the male calico cat. Because of that, she and I have not stopped. Get this fixed. Show you this place. Get to the market. How about shawarma? Let me introduce you to this person and that person. Like I said, it is a lot of information. I got to meet Elsie who is a Canadian that runs the homeschooling program here. She's been in Cameroon for twenty years. I left her house with an open invitation. That helps. I have someone I can go to. I have a friend that will be in Bamenda for the next three years. 

So the market...since I promised...The market is overwhelming at first. The lanes are narrow. There are people everywhere and everywhere people are trying to get you to buy their goods. Your senses are assaulted by the smells and colors, and you have to watch your feet because the ground is uneven. I met some amazing people in the market and figured out where to get most things I need. 

Things are coming along, but there is still a long way to go.