Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Road Trip to Cameroon!

We're in Cameroon right now... we delayed our trip a week and then even an extra day after driving for 3 hours and running into a closed road.... the only road to Cameroon from Gabon!!! We didn't know quite where we were and didn't see any decent hotels, so... back to Libreville!

We left Sam and Megan back in Libreville- they weren't too excited about a road trip and have a good time hangin' with the Solvig family.

We are leaving tomorrow morning to return to Gabon. We've had a great time in Cameroon. The town is called Yaounde. It is actually a city of 1.3 million- twice the size of Libreville.

On Monday (after our first attempt to drive here) we spent 14 hours on the road- departure at 5:30am and arrival at 7:30pm. The last hour or so was in the dark and it was very very stressful. We had a window full of bug guts that blurred all the headlights coming toward us and made it very hard to see the people using the road as a sidewalk. As we got into the city, there were more and more people. So, we slowed down and prayed alot. It's amazing we didn't hit someone.

Upon arrival to the Wycliff Bible translators compoud (Wycliff is called "SIL" overseas) we found the key to our apartment ($9 per night, per person- not bad!) and then found dinner down the street. The scenes in the road are similar to Libreville- many pedestrians, small "magazines" (shops), street venders, taxis (usually Toyota Corolla's)... actually, it's general chaos.

On Tuesday we visited the campus of Rain Forest Int'l School which is right on the same campus as our apartment. The student body is just over 100, starting with 7th grade and goes to 12th. It's pretty diverse- Cameroonese, Chinese, Canadian, American, and more. We joined the students at 9am for the assembly time- worship music, prayer, and announcements. Then, Joe was given the option of joining his class and he jumped right in! He stayed with them until about 3:30pm. In the mean time, Alace and I met with some of the administration and asked questions. Joey had a great time and gives the campus a thumbs up.

We ate dinner at a "hostel" run by missionaries who take in about a dozen students, just 1/4 mile from the capmus. It's a big house where Joey may live while attending here. At Rain Forest school, there is a mix of students who live in the hostel homes and those that live at home with their mom and dad. Dinner was spaghetti at a long table. Everyone knew what to do when the dinner bell rang as well as how to clean it all up at the end of the meal. Again, Joey gave the place a "thumbs up" and could see himself fitting in there.

On Wednesday (today), I met up with Daryl Young, an SIL pilot who I email with regularly. He showed me around the aviation department offices, then took me out to the airport where they were putting on the finishing touches to the brand new helicopter which is being added to their fleet. In fact, they pulled it out of the hangar and started up for the first time while I was there!

The lead mechanic here is Carl Stutsman- he has also been giving us a lot of input to our program. His parents go to a C&MA church that gives he and his wife a lot of support. On the initial startup of the helicopter, he was putting a meter on different parts of the helicopter testing for balance and vibration. All of the personnel there were so happy about the progress they are making on the helicopter- it was just a week ago that they pulled it out of the shipping container.

For lunch, I took some of the SIL folks out to lunch and got to know them better. I told them that it was my pleasure to buy them lunch as a thanks for all their input to our program, which they do from the kindness of their heart and without remuneration.

A funny thing happened after lunch... actually... it was potentially something that could have ruined the trip. Read on...

Here's the "back-story": When you drive a car from Gabon to Cameroon, they are concerned that maybe you will try and sell your car while you're here. To control your desire to do this, they make you register your vehicle at the border and get a document called a "Passe-avant". Then, at all checkpoints along your way (and there are many!), you must get the document stamped.

SO... at our last checkpoint prior to reaching the city of Yaounde, they said that we would have to find our way to the customs officials in Yaounde near the train station for our final stamp during regular business.

SO... after lunch, we headed down to the customs office, but on our way there, we realized that we were missing our "carte de grise"- the title for our car! I remembered that we had put it with our "travel documents" and put it in our apartment at the SIL campus. Without this, we would not be able to get the stamp on our Passe-Avant. We continued to the customs office thinking that we were close and we would just see if they would do it anyway. Well, they didn't. In fact, because I didn't have the title, they figured that I might be driving a stolen car! They had me park the car, then they took the keys, and said that they'd release the car and give me my stamp whenever I produced the title. Woah...

What's interesting is that there were 6 of us in the car! What to do now!?! One of the SIL folks grabbed a cab to get to another errand and the rest of us grabbed another cab (4 in the back seat of a TOYOTA Corolla) to go back to the SIL campus and grab our document&183;

I'm happy to say, that the customs folks kept their word. The only glitch was that when we got back, they asked for 5,000 Central African francs (about $10) for the stamp. When we asked for a receipt for this expense (which is the best response when you are asked for money) they hesitated then said that someone was out to get a new receipt book so we could go ahead and go. Hmm...

So, we have our car and we're ready to get on the road tomorrow, bright and early again. We're leaving a little bit earlier to try and get home so as to avoid any driving in the dark.

We are feeling pretty confident that this will be the school for Joey next year. We have talked with many parents, students, and staff and have really good vibes. We'll commit it all to more prayer as we take some time to fill out the paperwork. It is expensive, but cheaper than the Dakar Academy (Senegal) where many C&MA missionaries send their kids. Also, it's much much closer (2 hour flight or 14 hour drive) and I'll be visiting the SIL aviation department regularly as well.

While here, the aviation department chatted with us about ways in which we could bless one another and we came up with some great ideas. It will be exciting to see what the Lord has in store for the future.

That's the update for now!

Hope you're all doing well.

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