Bayam Sellam

There’s a Cameroonian at the place where I work who used to work in the Computer Department. We grab lunch with every now and then. It’s nice to have someone else to connect with and he teaches me about Cameroonian culture and I get some additional French practice.

A few weeks ago, he asked me to help him improve his English — so we’ve been working through a little English learning book. In this book is a story about a market. We talked about the story and he would ask me what certain words meant. One that was confusing to him was  “hawker”.

“What’s a hawker?” he asked (we had this conversation in French)

“Someone who sells in a market and calls out to you ‘Come! I have things here’.”

“Oh! Like a buy-em sell-em”.

Then I had to stop him and ask him about these “Buy-em Sell-ems”.

He said, “They are the ladies who sit by the site of the road and lay out a mat with their goods. A buy-em sell-em”.

It turns out the French word here in Cameroon is “les Bayam-Sellam”.

A couple days later Shannon was reading a news site and found that word “les Bayam-Sellam”. She didn’t understand what it was referring to until she read it phonetically.

Verbs and Death

Verb Workshop

Shannon recently returned from another trip to the village where she helped with a verb workshop.  In Bantu languages, generally, verbs are known to be able to add suffixes or prefixes or even infixes for different tenses as well as for many other uses.  So, this verb workshop was an attempt to start the process of learning how verbs act and how they can change in this language.  We were able to learn a lot through the participatory workshop and the participants seemed to really grasp the richness and diversity of their language.  It was a productive workshop that also had to be very efficient, as it was cut short by one day due to the funeral of one of the main leaders of the community.  This sad situation was also an occasion for learning, as Shannon attended the wake and burial service.

Final preparations underway, the display and reception area are set up.

Grieving is  often a deeply personal experience in American culture, but in Cameroon, the entire community wails and weeps together.  They stay up throughout the night together; sitting, talking, and even dancing and music are prominent among the activities.  Of course, there is a lot of food too.

Singing and weeping and comforting each other

Laid to rest

I was really struck by the normalcy and injustice of death throughout this trip.  Death is both so wrong, especially when it takes a young person and so normal, in that everyone experiences it.  I appreciated the expressions of grief and the community striving together to make sense of what doesn’t make sense.  And even more, I’m grateful for the eternal life and hope that belong to all who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and the chance to share that hope with others.

I Corinthians 15:50-57 NIV

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Greentech

Over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege of being able to teach computers to the 3/4 and 5/6 grades at our boys’ school. We used the curriculum from “Hour of Code” (code.org) where the kids have to solve a series of puzzles by putting “blocks” that represent computer instructions in the correct order to make shapes, instruct a farmer how to harvest crops, or even navigate around in Minecraft.

It’s a fun program and the kids seemed to enjoy it a lot.  At the end of the class they were able to design a little project that they worked on over the course of a few sessions and then demonstrated their work to the other groups.

Here’s one photo of the kids in action:

International Fun

Cinco de mayo was no time for siesta, but time to fiesta.  We planned a fun little party to celebrate the defeat of the French forces in Pueblo and also to eat lots of good Mexican food with a wide variety of international families (but unfortunately not even one hispanic person in the mix.)  The boys made signs to let folks know about the fun to come.  Eila made a piñata. We all worked to make food and some decorations.  There was lots of music and dancing, and, of course, football (soccer).

Eila and the middle schoolers, especially her friend, Kate, helped to make decorations and activities for the party.

La Macarena, anyone?

 

 

Josiah tested out some of the props he worked on.

We had a little help at the photo booth.

Breaking open the cactus piñata, made by Eila and friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, on the occasion of the royal wedding (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle), our British neighbor and friend, hosted a lovely garden party.  It was a royal afternoon tea party to which the ladies wore hats and the gents sported bowties.  Again, of course, there was music and food and even a little badminton.  This was also the date we celebrated Brian’s birth and so it was extra special.

From the Eye of Thaddeus

Thaddeus has once said he wanted to be a ‘tophographer’. That was many years ago, but recently he has enjoyed taking the camera around our compound, or on a walk in the neighborhood, and taking pictures.

Recently we took a walk around the neighborhood (quartier) and Thaddeus brought along the camera.  Here are pictures of the walk as he saw them:

And why are there two pictures of chickens?  Well, there are a lot of chickens. I mean a lot. So if there were going to be two pictures of something, it would be chickens.

Chinese Face

It’s interesting to me that I get noticed as being Chinese much more in Yaoundé than in the US. Well, maybe it’s really just that people here in Cameroon will point out the observation while in the US people won’t say anything. I will from time to time hear someone yell “Nihao” or “Chinois!” (Chinese person!) out of a car window, or as I walk by.

(As an aside, I suppose it’s no different than hearing “Les Blanc” (white person) on the street.)

I had a funny encounter the the other day, as I was buying a sandwich in a little shop by the side of the road. Two Cameroonians walked in while I was waiting and one said (the conversation was originally in French), “Oh, Nihao”. I said, “Well, I am American”. This didn’t compute initially so the friend said, “He said he’s American”. Then the first person said, “Oh, well you have a Chinese face”.

I guess I have a Chinese face.

Nouns Done

I (Shannon) just returned from my second village trip to work with the same community on nouns.  Just as French, Italian and Spanish have some similarities as they are related languages, this language also has similarities with related languages.  This is extremely helpful in having an idea of how the grammar of the language might work.  However, even closely related languages are not the same and sometimes there are interesting surprises and variations in the way each language is structured and used.

Participants in the Noun Workshop Part 2

During this workshop, the community make big steps forward in understanding and using their new orthography (alphabet).  They are helping and correcting each other in their writing and seem to fully understand why and how to use the various letters, which are very different from the French system that they have been used to.  They also made  a preliminary decision on the marking of tones.  This language uses tones to distinguish meaning and also for various grammatical functions (ex. a mark of association, like a tree in the forest is denoted only by a high tone), so it is an important part of the language and of the writing system.  Our data at this point shows a fairly even distribution of the high vs low tone across all parts of the language and the community seemed to favor marking the low tone.  Up to this point, we’ve been marking all tones and this step of marking only one tone will help to simplify the writing and reading for the future.

Working on minimal pairs with vowel length and tone

In addition, the noun phrase system was explored and much data gathered for further analysis.  At the end of the week, the participants made charts summarizing all of the information that was gathered about their noun system and the way in which nouns work in their language.  It was good review for everyone and they corrected a few errors which shows that they are really understanding it now.

One part of the noun phrase summary chart

After finalizing the alphabet chart, groups worked on making sentences for each letter which can be made into a primer for literacy classes in the future.  We were also able to collect a few fairytales and many proverbs from the older men in the community.  They were eager to share and this information is extremely helpful in making sure that future translation works are clear, natural, and accurate.

Creating sentences for each letter of the alpahbet

 

 

A Ride In the Helicopter

With the arrival of the new R66 helicopter here in Cameroon, there have been reasons to celebrate.  And over Easter weekend, there was a celebration at the aviation hangar with a BBQ, a presentation and dedication of the helicopter, and of course, helicopter rides.

Brian, Eila, Josiah, and Thaddeus went on the ride.  Shannon stayed on the ground, like she prefers.

Here we are just after our ride.

The helicopter ride gave us a chance to see Yaoundé from the air.  It’s a big, sprawling city.  Unfortunately the air was very hazy while we were flying, so visibility was poor, but we could see much of the city right below us.

Yaoundé stretching off to the horizon.

Brian also assisted with the BBQ portion of the event, which involved an entire pig and an entire sheep.  They were slowly roasted overnight underground wrapped in banana leaves and foil.  Another one of the dads here orchestrated the whole pig roast.  It was fun to be able to help out.

It was a memorable day.

April Update from the Yees

We hope you had a happy Easter celebration.

We just want to send a very quick update and give thanks to you for your prayers and to God for His great power!

Shannon has been pain free for almost two weeks now. She experienced immediate relief and full healing as a small group prayed over her. Praise God.

Schedules returned to normal this week after spring break. Also, Shannon is away this week at the village to continue with the next linguistics workshop with the same language community.

Our Easter family portrait for 2018.

Please pray for Shannon’s workshop in the village this week to go well and also for continued good health for the whole family.

We were able to take a ride in the new R66 helicopter. It was a great experience.

March Update from the Yees

It has been a little while since our last update, and maybe you are wondering how Shannon’s village trip went.  The short answer is: wonderfully!  You can read more details and see a few pictures here.

Shannon working on nouns with a small group at the participatory workshop in February.

One of the downsides to life in a tropical climate is the large insect population, mosquitos especially.  While Shannon was in the village, she got quite a few bug bites, one of which likely resulted in a virus called chikungunya (similar to dengue fever or the zika virus). Shortly after returning from her travels, she got a high fever, itchy rash, headache, etc. that lasted about a week.  Then, the second stage of the virus set in with severe arthritis pain in her joints.  She is doing better each day and is easing back into resuming her regular workload, but still from home.

Brian and the kids enjoyed a Valentine’s Day banquet at Eila’s school while Shannon rested at home.

Brian continues to work on the final details of the new payroll system, as well as preparing a new website for the Cameroon branch. The computer services department is very busy, and Brian is glad to have great colleagues. He and the kids have been playing soccer in their free time as well as doing some extra cooking and cleaning.

We really want to thank you for partnering with us in this work; we are so encouraged when we think about the people that are participating with us in Bible translation here in Cameroon!

Please thank God for:

  • protecting and caring for us each day,
  • deepening friendships (Shannon’s sickness has opened the door for others to come alongside and love on us.)
  • safety in travel and the productive noun workshop in February.

Thank you for praying. We would appreciate your prayers for:

  • good health: in addition to Shannon’s virus, stomach troubles and bug bites are a common problem for all of us, and Eila has been having some bad headaches lately;
  • continued development of friendships and adjustments to cultural differences.

With love,
The Yees