Predencia’s best bits from her blog

Predencia’s best bits from her blog!

Arrival

I needn’t have worried. As I emerged into the early evening heat I saw my name held high by one of the people in the long line of those waiting for passengers to emerge. It was only when I was up close that I recognised him as Fred, the coordinator of the organisation I was going to.

He rushed over to me and hugged me like a long lost sister. I hugged him hard as all my pent up anxiety dissipated. ‘Can you hold my bags a while?’ I asked, ‘there’s something I have to do.’

In the time he was formulating his ‘why’ question, I’d made my way down the little slope, knelt down and kissed the ground. ‘It’s taken 500 years but I’ve come home,’ I said to my ancestors. ‘You called, I’ve answered, I’m here.’

Fred hugged me again as though he thoroughly approved of what I’d done, even though he couldn’t hear what I’d said.

Day One

By the time I got past the shock of a cold shower and into the lounge everyone had left. There was, however, a large home-made birthday card on the table for me, signed by all the other residents. Six signatures. I was wrong there are seven of us in the house. Two Germans and five British.

I was touched for the first time today. The second time was when Fred took me to the school to meet the children. After inviting me to introduce myself he cleverly engineered the topic around to my birthday, and the whole school wished me happy birthday in song. I didn’t see that one coming.

I was later given my time-table. I’m mostly going to be teaching what appears on the time-table as ‘Inter Active’. It will be a mixture of performance arts, personal development including public speaking, and moral development

Cameroon experience fish and chips

When the four English girls said they were going out for a drink and fish and chips I replied that I hadn’t been away from it long enough to miss it yet. ‘Oh, it’s not the usual fish and chips,’ Joanne assured me. ‘It’s local fish and the chips are not the same as in England’.

I ordered what looked like a large snapper and chips for less than a pound. It was beautifully barbecued and very, very, tasty. The chips were small round pieces of potatoes that tasted as if they’d been cooked in salt.

That’s something I’ve noticed here. Lots of salt and lots of sugar. I guess there will be the commensurate health issues but I haven’t checked yet.

Anyway, the night was delightful. The girls were great company and even pointed me in the direction of what seem to be an African spiritual church not far from our house. They’re also going to see a natural health practitioner tomorrow. I begged to tag along.

Who would have thought I’d be spending my birthday with 16 Europeans in a house inCameroon?

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“I hadn’t noticed before the chickens brought to market still alive. There are so few refrigerators here that people buy their meat fresh to use that day.”

Market visit

Saturday I went to the market for the first time by myself. It was a leisurely experience and I was able to take in much more that when I’d been previously dashing around with a guide.

I hadn’t noticed before the chickens brought to market still alive. There are so few refrigerators here that people buy their meet fresh to use that day, or alive if they want to use it on another day.

I had some interesting conversations about herbal versus traditional medicines, and Christianity versus traditional religion, but that’s for another blog.

Three of the volunteers leave tomorrow and three more will replace them. I’m quite excited to meet the new ones. I’ll no longer be the newest on in the house.

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“Majority of the children at the school are either orphans or severely disadvantaged in some other way.”

Teaching

I discovered that one young man who had been extremely resistive to working in the previous lesson couldn’t spell, or read from the board properly. Once I gave him, and the others permission to raise their hands and to ask for me to spell the words they couldn’t, the level of talking dropped considerably.

I realised that most of them were asking each other how to spell words.

The surly disruptive young man of the previous lesson managed to complete his work and was enormously pleased with himself. I was exceptionally pleased to note that some of them stayed in during the break to catch up with those who were ahead.

At the end of the lesson I read them the beginning of the story I’ve been writing about a buffalo called Abundance. A by product of teaching creative writing to younger children is that it’s forcing me to write for children. They’re very keen to get going on their own stories.

At the break the cleaning monitors got buckets of water and floor cloths ready to clean the floors of their classrooms. It’s the students’ responsibility to keep the school clean, and even to help out with some of the building work where appropriate. Imagine that happening in the UK!

The school relies heavily on volunteers. This morning, for instance, the only three teachers for the first session were volunteers, two of whom are young and not trained as teachers. Their level of commitment is amazing, but they question their efficacy.

Majority of the children at the school are either orphans or severely disadvantaged in some other way. It seems what they need most is consistency, yet there is less of this than in the Government schools where teaching is more predictable.

This is not a criticism of the school. The one consistency it provides is a place for the children to come to every week day, and many of them travel up to 90 minutes each way on foot to get there.

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“The bells on their ankles reminded me of English Morris dancers, but that’s where the similarities ended.”

Juju Dancers

My treat was seeing some juju dancers and getting to dance with one of them. The bells on their ankles reminded me of Morris dancers, but that’s where the similarities ended.

They were masked and remained so throughout. They danced to drums and xylophones, big wooden ones that I realised were the ones also used in the funeral rituals Malidoma Patrice Some writes about.

When they finished we wandered down to the palace which was fairly quiet as most people had been watching the juju dancers.

Rick pointed out a doorway with many symbols around it and said it was the home of the jujus. I took a picture and was trying to peep into the dark cave- like room when I heard someone shouting at me.I looked up to see a man running towards me.

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Doorway to where the “serious Juju men live.”

‘You can’t go in there?’ he said sternly, and said something to Chima that I didn’t understand. ‘Why?’ I asked curiously. ‘Because it’s secret. You shouldn’t be taking photo or going in there.’ ‘I was only looking,’ I protested. ‘Why is it secret?’

He just repeated, ‘because it’s secret’ and spoke to Rick again. Chima later explained that he was asking him why he hadn’t explained to me that I couldn’t take pictures or go in there.

Because that’s where the serious juju men live. The ones who can say some words and disappear in front of your eyes. The ones where its best to run if you see them. They’re the ones that can do serious things to you.’

‘But I was dancing with them just now, they didn’t seem that scary,’ I protested.

‘They are the ones in training. They haven’t been initiated yet. Once that get initiated things change, they learn how to do some serious magic.’

The interesting thing is that just a few doors down from the juju house is a mosque. Religion and magic side by side.

It was getting close to the time when the market would close so we headed back on a bike, our third of the day. I’m getting used to them now.

After haggling over a whole hand of plantains we went back home where Rick proceeded to kill the chicken we were going to have for dinner.

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