Dear Mr. Prime Minister

Greetings to you and your family from one of your citizens now living in Cameroon, West Africa. Given the potential dangers of international travel these days, I trust you will be safely back in Canada by the time you read this.

I have been following your progress just a little since you have been touring India, and an internet news clip from your time there caught my eye. Trudeau family in IndiaI applaud your motivation in wearing the designer clothes (i.e. to raise the status of women internationally), and your attempt to reach out to many peoples while there . . . but if I may be so bold, I would like to give you some caution on those fronts as well, and perhaps an invitation of sorts.

Canada, as we all know, is a pluralist, secular nation, where the separation between religion and state is an accepted axiom. (Speaking as a Christian of the Baptist persuasion, I write this with some sense of pride, since many of my Baptist forebears were persecuted for the way they believed they should practise their religion, and they were in the forefront of advocating for the division which we now enjoy.) What this means is that Canadian prime ministers do not usually need to discuss their personal religious beliefs in public. This has both positive and negative implications, but it does tend to ensure that no one religious group may feel entitled over against any other.

On your recent trip, however – and indeed throughout your political career – you seem to be seeking for a sense of acceptance based on your ability to join together with peoples of all religious beliefs. While this is perhaps laudable, you need to know that for people who sincerely and deeply hold the beliefs that you are wearing on your sleeve (as it were), you do not always represent yourself or our country in the best possible light. A Muslim and a Christian both know (for instance) that you cannot legitimately “pray” in a mosque one Friday, and the next Sunday “pray” in a church. If you do, you look like a spiritual dilettante, who does not know very much about either. (To be sure, some folks may be happy that you have ‘identified’ with them in the short run, but over time you will appear disingenuous and opportunistic.)

My caution is that your mixing of politics and religion will send the wrong signals to very many state leaders who lead religious nations, and who happen to be truly religious themselves (not to mention, many of your own Canadian citizens).

My advice, and invitation, on the other hand, is if you wish to genuinely follow a religious path, and if you are seeking to know which path is the ‘true’ one, then you should seriously pursue that journey (though, probably not when you are in the public eye). I would recommend beginning with the claims of Jesus Christ (admittedly, I am biased); I am sure there are some good, discrete followers of Jesus there in Ottawa who would be happy to instruct you in “the Way,” and allow you to weigh his claim to be “the way, the truth, and the life” for yourself.

Meanwhile, as I am instructed to do, I will continue to pray for you, and for the peace of our nation. Thanks for serving. God bless.

Efficiency, ADHD and Crutches in the Kitchen

It seems criminal sometimes to write a blog about the mundane things in my life here in Cameroon, especially when we find ourselves immersed in prayer for our friends in Nigeria whose lives  and homes are at risk as I write. But, nonetheless, my everyday life does go on, and if I can’t find humor in my life, I am indeed in trouble. So I hope you will enjoy this, AND pray for our friends.
For those of you over 40, if you have never watched this Youtube video called “Age Activated ADHD” you really ought to follow this link and get a laugh.  Those of you under 40 who have, or suspect you have ADHD, or know an adult who does, you will probably also enjoy this video.
As a self-diagnosed person with ADHD, I find great relief in watching other people who walk through life, as I do, constantly distracted by the next thing that needs to be done, and additionally trying to very efficient about the time I spend in the kitchen. So let me tell you about my Saturday morning.
I got up late-IMG_8173around 9 am, after reading my Bible in bed, and checking email and facebook on my phone, (since the internet IS working in my house today) as I was NOT looking forward to stumping around the house on my crutches.  Having forgotten to ask Irene, my househelp, to make some kind of quick bread loaf on Friday, to serve my company today, I decided that this was a good day to try my poppyseed loaf recipe, having recently rediscovered the bag of poppyseed that I brought from Canada. Knowing it takes almost an hour to bake and I need it by 4 pm, I decide this is a morning activity, so I start at about 10 am

I need a teaspoon of lemon juice for the loaf recipe, so I began by locating the lemons I had in the fridge. Examining them I decided they ALL should be used up today, since they look like the might dry up.  Not content to just squeeze the juice, I recall that I have also run out of dried lemon zest, which I have been using with ginger, in tea, which is good for coughs and colds.  So I grate all three lemons, then squeeze the juice. Can’t decide what to do with the extra, so   I set aside a couple of teaspoons of juice, and leave the rest in the citrus juicer thingamabob.  I realize when putting lemons in the compost that I haven’t fed my chicken, so I stump out to her cage with some feed mixture.
On my return,  I consult my recipe to see what else I need and suddenly I realize that I have no eggs. I usually get those myself, but running up to the market outside the gate on crutches in not an option. So I consult with Jeff and Suleymanu on their morning plans, and Suleymanu agrees to do that.  I suggest he finish his laundry first so that it can dry- since it looks like it might rain this afternoon.   I make the unusual decision to wash the dishes at this point and also to bleach the cutting boards, since they are looking a bit nasty. While I have the bleach out, I decide to also clean the kitchen sinks.
Since Suleymanu is still doing his laundry, I decide I might as well continue with the lemon ginger concoction.  I retrieve some ginger from the food locker, wash, peel and slice it, and put it in a thermos container with hot water. I look for the Tupperware container I usually use for this mixture, but realize it is in the fridge with a bit of that lemon ginger mixture left in it. Undeterred in my commitment to use up everything from my three lemons, I decide freeze the older mixture in ice cube form for individual servings, and then I can reuse the container.   I combine the new ginger water and lemon juice and put it in the fridge. Then I look at the lemon zest etc on the counter and stump out on my crutches to put it in the sun to dry.

Still unable to continue without the eggs, I turn my attention to my email for a while. Shortly thereafter, (around 12 noon)  Suleymanu leaves to get my eggs (and a few other grocery things that have come to my mind) and I start on the first step of the loaf, because the poppyseed has to soak in milk for 30 minutes.  Of course, I have to mix some powdered milk for this since there is NO WAY I am going to use any of our expensive fresh milk that we have for baking. SInce my can of milk power is empty and I have to hop around the kitchen to find where I keep the larger bag, so all that takes another 10 minutes.
Deciding I need a sit-down task for a while, I go to the spare room where I keep my sewing things, and set to fixing the cast boot that I made on Thursday. It has a design flaw and keeps sliding forward.  Jeff makes an appearance, and I tell him that lunch is leftover stew. He says he will wait for Suleymanu to return.





Suleymanyu comes back as I finish my sewing task, and I stump over to the kitchen to begin. But since my work area is right around the microwave, (which we CAN use today, since the power is on) I decide I should heat the  stew for them, so they are not trying to do that while I am working there. Given the low wattage of my microwave, this takes about 5-10 minutes.  There’s not enough room on the island for everything I want to do, so I decide to peel the papaya and serve it for lunch too. The peel goes in bowl to give to my chicken later. Jeff and Suleymanu sit down to lunch and I begin in earnest to make my poppyseed loaf.


Turning on the oven, I remember that I have some leftover cookie dough in the fridge, and since I don’t like to use the gas to heat the oven for just one thing, I pull it out of the fridge.20 minutes later or so, the cookie dough is on the sheets, the poppyseed batter is divided between a large and small pan (and a few mini muffins, and it all goes into the oven.  I turn it down a bit since it has gotten up to 400, and I want it at 350. But there is no thermostat in these ovens. So you have to watch it yourself.

Since I am known to forget about items in the oven, I decide I should remain in the kitchen till at least the cookies and mini muffins are done. I eat the last few Whole wheat crackers that my neighbor Amy made for us, so I text her to ask for the recipe.  I decide I should find out about adding bran to flour so that I too can have whole wheat flour (which can’t be purchased here in Ndu)  Internet is still working, and Google helps me find that answer to that, so I go to mix a little bran and white flour together.

Looking in the bag of bran, I realize that I have NOT sifted all the bran I do have (I get very rough bran from the feed supply store and have to sift it to something I can use in baking)IMG_8176. Out comes my sifter/colander thingy that we have determined works well for that, and I start sifting. As tons of bran ends up all over the island, I remember that I usually put a pizza pan under it to catch all the mess. I manage to remember to remove the cookies and mini muffins, and turn the oven up a bit since it is getting too cool.  Suleymanu, bless his heart, comes in to wash the lunch dishes, as well as my baking ones.  I finish sifting the bran bump around the kitchen to find a better container for it, and rescue the small and large loaf which are threatening to burn on the bottom because heating the oven while there is baking in it is not a good idea. But it’s unavoidable in this setup.  Oven goes off.  The bran tailings get added to the chicken’s feed.

I sort of clean up the bran, decide to forget about making a whole wheat mixture til I get Amy’s recipe, and take the baked loaves out the pans.  Having asked Jeff if he would sweep the kitchen later, I leave everything else in the kitchen and go lie down. It is 2:15 pm.   I think I did better than the lady in the video. I have lemon ginger tea additive in the fridge, lemon zest drying in the sun, cookies and poppyseed loaf on the counter. My email is answered, and I fixed the cover for my cast.  But I am pooped, and there is lemon zest, bran and poppyseed all over my kitchen floor.



Update since Saturday  …my company didn’t end up coming, so we get to eat the poppyseed loaf and share the cookies at our prayer gathering on Sunday evening. In my opinion, the recipe needs more lemon juice…and zest…and is a bit dry, so I need to be more careful about the oven temperature, if I decide I want to try this adventure again. 





Min Fiji

Some things in language come easier than others, just because of the recognition factor. Fiji, in F*lfulde, is the past tense for “play,” so min fiji means, “we have played.” This is relatively easy for us to recall, because Fiji, the place, is where people go to play (more or less).

So, we have been playing around a bit here. Last semester I joined the Masters Football (i.e. soccer) Team. At first I thought it was “Masters” as in “old guys,” but I was mistaken. There are a couple of us old guys on the team, but it is actually the Masters’ level students here at the seminary.IMG_8144

We had a practise on Monday to shake the dust off from our holiday break. We (that is, those of us who were on time) began at 4 pm with a run around the trapezoid-shaped field. For me this was good, because it allowed me to get used to the field again, remembering to watch out for the little hillocks here and there. It rained a week or so ago, giving us some respite from the dust, so the field was not too bad that way. This little practise field actually has tufts of grass all around it – it makes it harder to run, or pass, or kick, or do anything creative with the ball, but it does help keep the dust down.

We had more guys out than we needed, enough for two teams and to spare, in fact, with guys on the sidelines clambering to play, but our captain/coach was strict – our team was here to practise, and the rest would have to work around that.

The practise turned out to be one long scrimmage, with all the kinks getting out swiftly. Mostly the game is kick and chase, since passing plays are very difficult to execute, and when they do happen everyone is pretty impressed. At the practise game we got toasted, 5-1, but we did not have our regular goal-keeper, so we were not too worried.IMG_8151

Wednesday night was game night, and – wouldn’t you know it – I was late! (Had to wait for another missionary who was coming to get some bread!) So, I sat off the first half and sort of watched my team get out to a one-goal lead. I say “sort of” because, while the regular playing field has some advantages over the practise field, lack of dust is not one of them. The dust there is an inch deep in places, and just walking raises a Pig-Pen-like cloud. When the ball got into a crowd of players, from the sidelines you could see nothing from the waist down.

Finally, I got into the game at half time, but five minutes later received a yellow card from the ref for an illegal substitution. He stalked over, stuck out hi chest, and waved the yellow card in my face – just like you see in the FIFA games on TV.  Then he did the same thing to three others from my team  – we had all forgot to tell him we were subbing on. I thought four yellows was a tad excessive, but then discovered that each yellow card carried with it a CFA 500 fine (about $1); naturally it all made sense :-/

There was another stoppage in play about ten minutes later when a huge white bull with a mind of his own strolled onto the field, followed by some poor guy on a rope. The bull just wanted to join his fellow cows on the far corner, so we all scattered while he made his dignified way there.IMG_8141

I played okay for the half – avoiding potholes, scuffles, getting mouthfuls of dirt, and so on – but was glad I did not play the whole game, because Monday’s practise just about did me in for the week. I made several good heading plays, being careful not to get concussed, and just tried to keep close to my mark. During practise they were careful with how they treated the old white guy, but on game day all bets are off, but I can still usually give as good as I get. Sadly, we all just kissed our sisters that game, winding up with a 1-1 draw.

Later that night we were hard at it with language learning once more, but still min fiji. This time the game was charades, trying to say in F*lfulde what we figured the other person was doing. Now THAT was funny. Ah well – all in a day’s fiji.

Death by Papercuts

Sometimes in life a major crisis can push you right to the limits of your endurance….or over it. But just as often, (and I suspect it is MORE often) it is the accumulation of many little problems, irritations or mini-crises that can be what overwhelms you.

In spite of various curfews and general political unrest, the CBTS campus has remained very quiet, so we are fortunate enough. But here’s sampling of the last 4 days of little stuff, that sort of made me think of the children’s book…” Alexander and the Terrible, HorribleNo Good, Very Bad Day”- only it has been going on for the greater part of the week. My neighboring missionary, Amy Moline, she described it as ‘death by papercuts’, and it seems an apt description.

For the last few weeks, I have had an ongoing issue with both inflamed Achilles tendons. Again. For the last 10 days. I have had an extremely tender ankle that most often woke me at about 3 am.
As of last Monday, my typing class finally has enough working computers with the correct program, installed  for all the women, but class has been cancelled all three days this week as there was not power on campus.
My rooster keeps finding a way out of his pen. When he is back in there, he and the hen are starting to break some of the 14 eggs she has laid. I think it is time for him to become soup.
Wednesday night Jeff was lethargic during and after his soccer game, and I was too tired to shower, so sponged off and went to bed.
Thursday the power went off again around 1 pm while meeting with Cal Hohn, and I wasn’mt paying attention and ran my computer down to 0%. It absolutely poured rain, and some hail, and the as-of-yet unrepaired roof panels meant that I had a lake in my ‘parlor’, and another leak issue on the veranda meant I had a river in my kitchen.
In the kerfuffle, I forgot to turn off the data and mobile tether on my phone all day, and I ran my cell phone data bill right up through the ceiling.  We did manage to cover all the items we needed to discuss, so Jeff goes to bed feeling a bit sick, and Cal retreats to the Molines, as he is also coming down with something.

Friday late afternoon Jeff figures that maybe he DOES have Malaria, so we decide to start him on a course of treatment.  With my generally scattered frame of mind, I was not up to trying my very first  malaria test in the dark. He is running a temperature if about 100.3 fahrenheit, so nothing staggering, just miserable.
All my extra ice reserves to keep my freezer cold are melted.   Meat and veggies starting to defrost.
My company,  joining us for a shared dinner, show up 90 minutes later than agreed, albeit for perfectly reasonable reasons. The student electrician arrives at the same time as my company, so I divide my time between hostessing, supervising, and discovering that there is something majorly wrong with my generator.   Water pressure is low, and the water remaining in the tank is stone cold. So no shower, and washing dishes in cold water, with a little water heated on the stove for rinsing.

Saturday the power comes on at 7 am, but for some reason, not in my house. Freezer contents about 70 percent thawed. A period of texts and phone calls bring Tim Moline over to help- he shows me a different exterior trip switch, which no one has every chosen to do. This problem is rectified, and I have power. This has taken me til after 9 am.  Shortly before this, I had to go to my room, pick up my Bible, read and pray a while, as I can feel my stress level rising. I also took some B vitamins (stress ones)

Jeff goes to the health centre, where the malaria test comes back negative, but since I had him on Coartem for about 12 hours, it may have masked the malaria, so that hasn’t been helpful. The doctor suggests he take vitamin c and Tylenol for the mild fever, and we decide on consultation with a few others that he will finish the malaria medication anyhow.  A half course of the medication is useless to us after anyhow.

By 11:30 am there is water for a shower- which I desperately need after almost 4 days. Low pressure, but I am clean.

Saturday after lunch we take a trip to Banso without Jeff ( the trip is getting longer again – about an hour plus now for vehicles, as are some of the roads are affected by the rain!!)  to visit Ibrahim and Bilkisu- and to pick up some materials for the repair of my living room (aka parlor) skylight. I contacted Doctors Brian and Mary Cairn, and they invited me up to discuss the ankle problem. Suleymanu spent time with our friends Ibrahim and BIlkisu.  About 3 hours later I have had an a xray, (which after being examined by 4 people results in a diagnosis of a stress fracture) and have a pair of crutches, and a cast.  Very glad I got the shower before this, as I am not sure how that is going to work for the 3 weeks in this cast.

Suleymanu and I find each other back eventually, and we head back to Ndu. We spent an extra 20+ minutes waiting for heavy equipment working on the road.
‘Yay duck; here is that the road work is continuing all along the way to Ndu- the plan is to pave in all the semi large towns along the way.  (Not in between the towns, mind you, but since there’s an election next year, and there are more votes to be had in town and the money is limited, that’s where they pave)
Another Yay Duck- Cairns blessed us and sent me home with some delicious left-over quiche, so there was no need to cook. Also, Molines brought me over a bag of scrap fabric which I have numerous plan for.  I found a cut off denim pant leg and quickly sewed in some elastic to put it over my cast to protect it somewhat from dirt. Very necessary, as the floors are never actually clean for more than 30 minutes after they are washed. Better cast cover designs to follow.  Also very glad I took the shower before I went to the hospital….

Student electrician has spent 3 hours on my generator while I was out, and it is still not working.
I went to bed to the sound of thunder, and put all the buckets out in the living room.
No rain, so Sunday morning did not include mopping up the parlor. Phew.
Church was out of the question, so I had some personal worship and song on the piano, and then Suleymanu and I read from the book of Mark (me in Fulfulde, and he in English) and did some language practise.  Jeff is finally up and dressed around 11:30 am- we’ll see how long that lasts.

2 pm Sunday- things seemed to have levelled off, and although Jeff is not yet showing many signs of getting better, he has been up for over 2 hours.  I am finding out how many things I cannot do on crutches. So glad that Suleymanu is around to help out, and looking forward to my house help Irene coming on Monday.    I’m going to have to cancel some classes, as there is no way I can do the up and down between the academic block to the primary school on crutches.

Very grateful for all of you who are praying for us.  Hope we don’t have another week like this anytime soon. I am trying to engage in the spiritual warfare of “giving no opportunity to the devil”- like trying not to  run my mouth off when I feel the irritations related to all of this piling up and making me short tempered.

Update as of Thursday, March 1.  Jeff seems to have recovered from what we are assuming was malaria, and now fighting a cough and cold. I have resigned myself to only getting to about half of my classes that I usually teach, and am making some arrangements for some work to go on in my absence.  We got roof panels, and the roof is repaired, and today we had power for the better part of 24 hours, which is better than the last 10+ days. Although it is off again now that I want to post a blog….ouch…another paper cut!!