Wednesday, June 25, 2014


The GCE exams are finally finished. We only have the CAPIEMP exams for the TTC next week, then the school year is complete. I spent 3 hours today invigilating the last exam of the GCE. Sitting in a room for 3 hours watching students write an exam is tedious... even worse than writing the exam itself. You can't do anything, no reading, no talking on the phone, no nothing. The most you can do is step outside the door for a minute or two, where you can still see inside. But it's done now.

I still have work to do in the office. I finished the transcripts for the current batch of graduating students. But I just learned today that the transcripts from two years ago were not completed and those students that were in Form Five then are now completing high school and are requesting their Form Five transcripts, so I have to complete those transcripts for them. Plus I'm working on the end of year reports (statistical summaries of the exams, etc). I should have that all done in a few days.

Tomorrow we have our end of year staff meeting and, from what the principal said, a bit of a send off for those teachers who will be leaving (including me). I'm planning to take the weekend off and go to Kumbo for a bit of a break and to do some shopping. Next week will be busy again.

One problem with living on campus and being the school secretary is that the principal has no qualms about asking me to come into the office in the evening to print something for him. Well, it's not like I have anything else I'm doing in the evenings anyways... just relaxing in the house.

Since I haven't written in a while, I have some old events to report on. Palm Sunday weekend I spent in Ako (parish in the northern part of the diocese) for the Diocesan Youth Day. Ako is at a much lower elevation and therefore quite hot. Had to drink lots of water and ended up staying inside as much as possible. Got some mosquito bites, but no malaria (yeah!). Even the youths from other parts of the diocese had problems with the heat. While there, we made a trip to a nearby village to go to their market, but in order to get to that village you have to cross a river by canoe. There are boys who run the canoes back and forth all day. The river was low enough that the boys could push/pull the canoe most of the way, they only had to actually swim maybe 3-4 feet at one point where the river was deeper. We were told that during the height of the rainy season the river gets very high, and we were shown trees that are completely underwater that time of year. I learned that Fr. Paul and many other people from this part of the country can't swim and are afraid of that much water. I wouldn't have wanted to go into the river either, because the water was brown and I'm afraid of diseases that might be in the water. However, our trip across the river and back was uneventful. The weekend was good and the youths seemed to get a lot out of it.

I haven't done much else out of the ordinary. I supervised the computer science practicals again. This time I was back in GBHS Kumbo for three days, so I stayed in SAC and got to visit with the Hornes. Also, I went to Djottin parish for the celebration of their 75th anniversary as a parish. Bishop Agapitus (the auxiliary bishop of Bamenda) is from Djottin, his family home is right next to the parish church, so he was the celebrant at the mass. I had a chance to talk to him briefly before the mass. We mostly spoke about the Lay Mission-Helpers working in Bamenda Diocese. It was a nice celebration.

That's about it. Mostly just keeping busy in the office at school.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Time Flies

I've been thinking about human nature; particularly that when a group of people are put into certain situations, they act in specific ways that aren't necessarily their usual behaviors. I guess it's group dynamics.

Take, for instance, the student teachers in TTC. Some of them have teaching experience, but when you put them in a classroom you can't tell the difference between the ones right out of high school and the ones who have been working for years... they fall into "student" behaviors. But when these same student teachers are out on teaching practice, then they start acting like "teachers". In fact, it's often the ones who are themselves the most troublesome in school who are in turn the most strict disciplinarians to their own students. But when they return from teaching practice, the whole class is often more difficult to manage than before.

Then there are the teachers in TTC. About a month ago we went to a seminar with other TTCs in the area about the changes in the curriculum and the final exams for all TTCs. While in the seminar, you could see the teachers acting like students (I'll even admit I did it too); there were those sitting in the back whispering to each other or doing their own things, those sitting in the front furiously taking notes, and everything in between. But when this same group of teachers got together a few weeks later to draw up questions for a joint exam, then they put on their "teacher"-hats and applied themselves much more seriously.

Maybe those who have studied psychology can explain it -- I never got beyond Psych 101 and that was almost 20 years ago.

On to other matters... we're just finishing the second term and we have two weeks of vacation. However, I'll be working during part of it. I have to re-shelve books in the library (should take a day or two) and get the computer lab ready for the GCE exams (should also take about a day). I also have to set questions for the promotional exams (should only take a few hours). Then for the weekend of Palm Sunday (Thursday to Sunday), I'm going with the Diocesan Youth team to Ako Parish for the Diocesan World Youth Day celebrations. Ako is located in the northern part of the diocese, fairly close to the Nigerian border. This will be my first trip to that parish. A friend of mine who works at the Pastoral Centre in Kumbo is from Ako and has invited me to visit in the past, but I didn't have a chance before.

A few weeks ago, I went to Jakiri with the Diocesan Youth team. They were supposed to be going to give some leadership workshops to the parish youth team, but it turned out that there was in fact no parish youth team in place. So instead they spent the weekend raising awareness in the parish and forming the parish youth team. Although it wasn't what was planned, it ended up working out well. At mass on Sunday, the new youth team was introduced to the parish and greeted with much applause.

This past Friday was the annual pilgrimage to Boyong Hill in Ndu parish, which is the next big town after Tatum. The roads are pretty good right now, so it's about a 30 minute drive or 2-3 hour walk from Tatum to Ndu. Many people walk from all parts of the diocese to Ndu, while others drive. They all meet at the grandstand in Ndu for a blessing before the official pilgrimage, which is from the grandstand to a hill outside of town. I think this is the third or fourth year they have been doing it. Stations of the Cross are said on the way to the hill. It took about 2 hours to walk including stopping for prayers at each Station. After everyone reaches the summit of the hill, there is a reconciliation service and Confessions, followed Holy Mass.

Last year, the bishop wasn't able to be there and the auxiliary bishop of Bamenda was there in his place, but this year Bishop George was there himself and walked the pilgrimage route with everyone else.

After mass, everyone heads back home. Some people bring their cars up to the hill and so drive back, but others (including us) walk the route back to Ndu. We were blessed that the rain held off until after the pilgrimage. We were still in Ndu when it started to rain, but most people had already left. I went with Fr. Paul and members of the Diocesan Laity Council, one of whom provided food for us to eat when we got back to the car. It was a good day, but I got a bit too much sun but luckily not so much as to get an actual sunburn. (I didn't put on sun block since the previous few days had been cloudy.)

So that's the latest news from me. I can't believe I only have 3 more months until my term officially ends at the end of June. I've promised Fr. Paul I would stick around until at least the third week of July for the annual youth camp and I may stay for a few weeks after that as well.

Wow! Time flies!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Belated Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

November and December were the usual busy. On November 29, Misaje (where Fr. Edwin Boye, former bishop's chancellor, now is) became a full-fledged parish (St. John the Apostle). So I got a ride up there on the 28th with a friend of Fr. Paul (Mr Julius, a retired government official). Thursday night before the celebration, I spent at the house of the head mistress of the school. The next morning was a beautiful day, perfect for the celebration. It was a good turnout for a parish that is quite out of the way. We headed back to Kumbo in the late afternoon, but got a flat tire on the way (and a broken wheel mount so it couldn't be fixed on the road). After an hour or so, Fr. Paul called a friend of his who worked in a parish near the break-down and asked for a ride. The priest generously lent us his car for the rest of the evening so we could get back to Kumbo. In the course of this adventure, I became friends with Mr. Julius and he invited me to his house during the holiday where I met his wife and son and he claimed me as part of their family.

First Term officially ended on the Dec. 20th and Second Term began on Jan. 6th.

I spent most of my time off in Kumbo, except for the weekend when I went back to Tatum for the final profession of Br. Brendan - one of the Marist brothers who has been working at the school. It was similar to the final profession of Br. Evaristus last year in Shisong, but better since it was in Tatum. :) While in Kumbo I spent a lot of time with the Horne family - the kids remind me of my nieces and nephews back home. They took me into their home and made me part of their celebration of both Christmas and New Year's Eve. Eric and Logan both asked me what they should expect for the holidays in Kumbo, but I had to tell them that I didn't really know since each year I've done something different.

My first Christmas and New Years in Cameroon I was in Njinikom with the Hakes, where we went to Christmas Eve mass in the parish and New Years in the hospital. I spent most of my time there resting in their house, but I also went on hospital rounds with them a few times. On Christmas day, we passed out candy to the children (and some of the adults) in the hospital. It was a blessing to be able to bring a little joy to the patients.

My second year, I was in the Kumbo area for the holidays but was in Kikaikelaki (now a) parish (10 minutes from Kumbo) for Christmas. I spent New Year’s Eve with Sonja and Elinor (two Germans). That Christmas Eve mass was one of the best masses I have been to, ever. It was in a small village called Yeh where they have no electricity so the mass was done by candlelight. The building was very small, fitting maybe about 30 people. I went there with Fr. Paul and Sr. Rosalie (who works at the Bishop's House). When we arrived, no one was there yet because they hadn't been told there was to be a mass. Upon our arrival, the person who happened to be cleaning the church/chapel at the time rang the bell to let people know that a priest had arrived. By the time Father had his vestments on, people had started to gather. The way the people looked at me, I think they get very few foreign (i.e. white) visitors in Yeh.

So this year, as I said, I spent much of the holiday with the Hornes. On Christmas Eve, I helped make some cookies and in the evening we all went to mass in Bamkika'a which is a neighborhood at the northern end of Kumbo where SAC (St. Augustine's College) is located. It's probably about a mile walk (pretty level) from the Horne’s house to the current church in Bamkika'a which is on the grounds of the Youth Center. (They are building a new church a little ways up the road, but it's doesn't have a roof yet.) There was "low current" (low voltage) in town that evening, so most of the lights in the church (fluorescent tubes) were just flickering instead of actually turning on, which was very annoying and a bit headache-inducing. Overall, the mass was disappointing. The Hornes invited me to join them on Christmas morning as well, so I accepted the invitation and was surprised to find that "Santa" had brought me a present to their house - a nice pottery teacup and saucer from PresCraft (the Presbyterian local crafts store) in Bamenda. I am using it right now.

On New Years' Eve we managed to stay up until midnight and had a toast with non-alcoholic sparkling "wine"... we'd already been drinking sangria in the late afternoon and topped it off with Baileys after the kids where in bed. (Logan makes very good "tropical" sangria.) I had just come back from Tatum that morning for a special mass at the cathedral in support for the "Open Door" Day at the Youth Center. On New Years' Day, Eric and Logan and their friend Sara (visiting from New Mexico) came over to the Fathers' house for a nice simple private mass in the sitting room with Fr. Edwin Kewai and Fr. Paul. It was in the sitting room because Fr. Kewai injured his ankle a few weeks back and so is on crutches and therefore can't manage the stairs to the chapel very well. All in all, it was a good holiday.

I returned to school on Saturday, Jan. 4, to have a few days to prepare for school to resume. Br. Simon had gotten me to do some work when I was in Tatum on the 30th, so I also completed other pending tasks that day, which meant I could still relax on the 4th and 5th. Next week the TTC is having exams, so this week I have been typing the questions for most of the subjects. Plus, we posted the results of the pre-mock for Form 5 and Upper 6th this evening, so I had to enter all the marks this week. It doesn't take very long to enter marks into the computer, what often takes more time is chasing down the teachers to get them to give them to me. So it's back to the usual until the Easter holiday.

News from the homefront. Welcome to my newest nephew (#14) - Eric Michael Williams - born on Jan. 5th. ...Guess my prayers for a girl weren't strong enough this time. ;)

Monday, November 25, 2013

School In Session

Aah, I can hardly believe that it's been almost two and a half months since my last blog update. The school year has been busy as usual.

However, after Janice's visit at the beginning of October, Br. Simon decided that I have too much work on my plate... could be because I've had to miss some classes due to work in the office. So he searched around and found a part-time teacher to take over the English classes I have been teaching. She started this week. Since she's part-time, we also had to switch around a couple classes to fit her timetable. The fall-out is that now I'm full-time secretary on Mondays and Tuesdays; and the rest of the week I only have about 2 classes per day.

As school secretary, I get to enter the grades after exams, type any necessary documents for the administrative staff (fortunately Br. Simon types most of his own documents but Fr. Joe and the deans aren't as helpful), compile beginning of the year reports, run the photocopier, type the exam questions for the mock exams (and later for the promotional exams), etc. Br. Simon has decided that we can get income from the photocopier by allowing students and teachers to use the photocopier for a small charge per page. However, at present the photocopier and the computer are running out of the same outlet and there is not enough current to run them both at once, so whenever I need to turn on the copier I have to turn off the computer and vice-versa. Also, the copier doesn't like the cold and runs best when it has had a chance to warm up. Oh, and Brother had another idea for revenue by having a school phone and charging by the minute for usage and I am supposed  to monitor each call. Neither of these is difficult, but they do make for many interruptions.

Along those lines, the other day I was working in the office and one of the students came in to have some copies made. So I switched over to the copier (which I had to let warm up, since I hadn't used it yet that day). I had just started running the copies when I heard a squeaking from around the copier (note: the copier is on top of a cabinet) and next thing I know there's a paper jam. So, I open up the copier to un-jam the paper; and to my surprise the paper is fine and isn't jammed at all. Puzzled, I looked inside the copier to see what had jammed and I notice something gray and furry..... a rat (well, actually a mouse, but they call them rats here) had been squished between the rollers..... with it's tail, paws, and nose sticking out the other side. The problem then was how to get it out since the rollers would roll only one way. Brother called Pa Dora who runs a copy shop in Tatum to come and take a look; and he showed up the next morning. After looking at the problem for a little while, he had the brilliant idea of using a ruler to push the rat (mouse) back out of the rollers. The tail gave him a little trouble, but he got it unstuck and then scooped up the rat (mouse) on the end of the ruler to take it out of the copier. He brought it out like he was going to hand it to me and I just looked at him, so he took it and threw it outside. Then I had to find a rag and wipe out the inside of the copier to make sure there was nothing left of the rat (mouse) inside. So ended my latest adventure.

Thanks to everyone who sent me birthday greetings. I only just read them since I've been without internet for over a week. I've been invited to Kumbo for a Thanksgiving party hosted by some Wycliff missionaries, but I don't know yet if I'll be able to make it (depends mainly on if they do it on Thursday or Saturday). We have a LMH-MDA get-together in Mbingo (between Bamenda and Njinikom) the first weekend of December which I'm planning to go to... although Brother mentioned the other day something that he needed me for around that same time. Sonja and Eleanor (the German mother and daughter who were here last Christmas) came for visit in October so I took a day off and visited them in Kikaikelaki (where I also had a chance to greet the Cardinal's 116-year-old mother whose house they were staying at).

On October 20th, we celebrated the school feast day for the first time ever. (The feast of St. Pius X is actually in August and therefore not during the school year, so this year they decided to pick a day when school is in to celebrate it.) It started with Mass with the Catholic Education Secretary (Fr. Cyprian) presiding. He gave a very good homily on the lessons we can learn from the example of St. Pius X. After Mass, the celebration moved to the school hall and there was singing and dancing and speeches and finally food. After all the guests left, the students ended the evening with a social (music and dancing) until bed time.

The dry season has started (a little late) so now, besides regular power outages, we also get regular water outages. I am very grateful for the generator and well on campus. I have come to appreciate the value of good plumbing and a reliable water supply. In Southern California even in the middle a severe drought, there is always water in the tap, they just charge more for it and ask people to use less. The mud on the roads has turned to dust so getting places it easier (just dirtier) and we are praying (like we did last year) that the worst spots along the way get leveled out before the next rainy season otherwise the road may become impassible. (I think political promises are the same everywhere in the world.)


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back to Cameroon

Last week I went to a thanksgiving Mass for a newly ordained permanent deacon from Kikaikelaki. Deacon Marcel was ordained in Birmingham, UK where he has been living for the past 14 years. His wife and kids were with him to celebrate. I've gotten used to the Cameroonian accent so much that it was odd hearing his family (especially the kids) talking with a UK accent. There are no permanent deacons in this part of Cameroon, so they kept having to explain it to everyone. Since we've had permanent deacons at my parishes back in the States for so long, I was a bit surprised at the reaction and lack of knowledge here.

It made me think of things that we take for granted or assume are the same everywhere. We think that the way things are where we are is the way things are everywhere. Most of the time it's subtle things like "common knowledge" or even things like stereotypes. I've had to ask people here to explain things to me that they take for granted that everyone understands, and I've had to explain other things in return. I've learned that some idioms do not translate well across cultures. So it was a little weird when I was back in California this summer and didn't have to worry about that.

I spent most of the school break at home in California. I had a great time especially spending time with my family, even made a road trip out to Colorado. However, I'm glad to be back in Cameroon and Tatum in particular. School is starting this week... secondary school at least. The TTC will start later. 

I spent a good portion of the past two weeks in Kumbo. The Hornes (the LMH family) have settled in at SAC and there are 2 other Americans there with them this year -- Sarah and Alex, they came to Cameroon through their philosophy professor at Univ. of Colorado Boulder (same as Ilan 2 years ago). Also went to Bamenda for a one day get-together with all the other LMH/MDA groups that are now here in Cameroon. It was a strange feeling to be the "senior" in the group since I'm the one who has been here the longest.

This year I'm continuing to teach Form 1 English Language which I started mid-way through last year. That's in addition to Form 2 English Language and Form 1, 2, & 3 Computer Studies. Plus I've been asked to work as the school secretary. (Oh, and I'll still be teaching Music in the TTC.) Looks like it will be a busy year.