Mbingo Baptist Hospital: view from Mbingo Hill

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Culture & Adjusting

Well, after about a month in Cameroon, we have come to "appreciate" some of the cultural differences we are exposed.

1. Today, there was a herd of cows eating our grass and pooping in the front yard.
* this is the same group of cows. Last week they stayed on the other side of the road out of people's yards.

2. Keys: we have a total of 6 doors in our house. We have a different key for each door in the house. We have only 1 front door key and 1 back door key. We have a key for the refrigerator. We have a key for the laundry room. We have a key for the safe. We have 9 keys to make our home functional, and no spares for any of them.
* our keys

3. Phrases:
     a) "Aasha." This roughly translates to "my condolences for your hard work," or "that is rough, keep your chin up," or "I'm sorry for your load." When in doubt, you can always respond with "aasha" and it seems to make sense.

     b) "You're Welcome." If "aasha" seems to fail you, "you're welcome" seems the next best phrase to use when unsure about what is appropriate. We are often greeted in the hallway with "you're welcome!" - much like: "you are welcome to work here, thank you for your time."

     c) "Purging." I finally discovered that "purging" was in reference to diarrhea and not vomit. Many of my patient's stories make a whole lot more sense now.

     d) Stool. Stool is at times called feces here in Cameroon. "Poop," however, has no meaning. More commonly, our friendly four-letter word beginning with an "sh" and ending with a "t" is the common vernacular. This is taking some getting used to. What wonderful things is Cathen going to be saying when we come back stateside?!?

4. Time: Time seems to have little bearing on how things operate... with the one exception of morning chapel, which starts promptly at 6:40 every morning. Otherwise meeting at 11:30 might mean 2:30, a STAT lab might come back the next day and as "O/S" (out of stock), and a chest radiograph might take a week to obtain. However, everything gets done, and everyone works on behalf of their neighbor; but our typical urgency simply does not translate.

5. Fire: two weeks ago, Mbingo mountain was set on fire. We thought it an interesting spectacle, but assumed it was a controlled burn. Apparently it was not. Many people fought the fire overnight to prevent property damage and injuries. Today, after a few days of rain, the entire mountain is green and lush.
* flames on Mbingo Mountain

We are adjusting and learning to live more comfortably in a new environment. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. More later.

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