It rains every day. The apartment sits at the base of Mount Cameroon which more often than not, is hidden in a dense fog. The rains come suddenly and powerfully, a shower on full blast. It’s loud and competes with our conversation inside the house. It smells like fresh cilantro. As suddenly as it arrives, it departs. The sun comes out and the fog lifts and blue skies appear. But an hour later the rain can come back with a vengeance. It is a symphony. I love it. Sherri hates it. I love it because rainy days for a Georgia girl mean stay in bed and read books and put the kettle on. She hates it because this is her constant and for her it means wet, rain boots, mud, puddles, made in China umbrellas, laundry that never gets dry and black mold.
Old yellow taxis hoot throughout the city and carry everyone where they need to go. They must be busier in the rainy season. They play music just loud enough to be intrusive to an American passenger. The insides are decorated like the taxis in India, red and yellow fringe hangs from the rearview mirror, Mary and Jesus take the place of Ganesh on the windows and dashboards. Drivers need not speak but only hoot to relay the affirmative and will stop with a passengers command to “drop” at their destination.
I taught three days this week. My students called me Aunty Grace. They listen intently to every word. They seem to fully understand my Southern accent and my sense of humor. We laugh together. My lessons are based on cross-cultural relations to prepare them for opening an international guest house. I give examples of African vs American mindsets and ways of thinking. My years in Mozambique have taught me something. We laugh some more. Part of the lesson defines hot vs cold climate cultures and the ways they vary. American Southerners ironically fit, in part, into hot climate culture definitions, Africans are the poster child. Southerns don’t say what they mean. My Dutch friend finds my constant use of the phrase, “Kinda, sorta, not really” hysterical. But one can’t simply say, “No”. That’s rude. My Cameroonian friends agree. At the end of my first day they ask me about my life and how I came to know Jesus. I watched their faces as I spoke and gave them the play by play. They cheered at the good bits and shook their heads and groaned at the sad parts. They joined in with me in my history and when I finished they all said they wanted what I had. Each one came for prayer and I was able to give to them grace, favor and the love of the Father. That one hour of my life was worth the past year of working and the thousands of dollars it took to fly half way across the world. I got to share my reality, the tangible love of God, and the testimony of His goodness. They are not alone, they are not forsaken, they are the answer and the hope for a nation. He has the answers and wants them to join Him.
We met twice more to plan and prepare for the opening of a guest house to be able to host international visitors, teams and guests. The guest house can serve as a business for these students, hiring guides, chefs and housekeepers, and can be a place for volunteers to come and stay for weeks at a time. My teachings included what to prepare for in hosting Western guests but also encouraged them to dream big about what a partnership with the West could bring. What problems in this area do they want to solve? Who do they want to come and what can they bring or teach? What can your Western family bring that you need the most? If Bill and Melinda were to come here (a place where unemployment is 75%) and bring their resources, what problems would we want to eradicate? They are mulling that one over. So am I.
The rains are here now. So loud they seem to want to pound in the door. They entertain me. Poor Sherri. I like to go to the front door in my bare feet and watch with my hands on my hips. Sometimes there is heavy fog with the rains and sometimes not. The fog will often come right into the house, into the hall and even cut the corner into my room, just like Sandburg’s cat. The rains make everything green, more shades than the Tennessee hills. When it stops the birds gurgle and trill and tweet in the most pleasant euphonious chorus. It’s lovely.