Payday!

Yesterday was
payday and it was quite a celebration! While Mr. Sama went to town in the
morning to get money, Yost and I, Mr. Fru, Mr. Fon, Abednego, Doris and Richard
went on a tour of the PRTC grounds — or at least the main compound. After
lunch Abednego took me on a ride on his motorcycle to see the rest of the
grounds from the road — they stretch a good 7-8 miles north of the compound. We
returned just in time to miss the daily downpour, phew!

When we returned,
most people were sitting in the canteen, so we joined them. Then, Mr. Sama
returned (with my refrigerator! amongst other things) and within moments, the
canteen was empty. What happened? It was payday and all the staff were lined up
outside the administration office to get paid. This was great for me because I
think it was the first time I ever saw all the staff in one place and I could
ask the names of different people. (I've not had much chance to meet the
watchmen or the herdsman.) After getting paid — or, in a few cases, signing a
piece of paper that showed they were still in debt (bummer) — most people headed back
to the canteen, but there were several missing. Doris and I went back to the
canteen and then she invited me to join her at her njangi. Following her, we
ended up in Papa Joe's house where I found Mr. Fru, Mr. Fon, Mattias,
Valentine, Mercy, Beatrice, Joe and his wife. All of them (except Valentine and
me) are an njangi together and they meet monthly on payday.

An njangi is a
group of people who meet together and each person contributes a set amount of
money and each time they meet, the total pot goes to one of the members. It's
sort of a group savings plan. So this njangi meets once a month, each person
putting in 20,000 CFA ($40 which is pretty steep I thought) and then, on a set
rotation, each person gets the pot (which comes to $280 with the current
membership). There's no interest either paid or earned, but each month, it is
also someone's turn to bring a case of drinks. I was really happy to have been
invited to see how this idea operates. It is very, very common in Cameroon. In
fact, so far I have not met a single person who is not part of an njangi group.
This one I saw is relatively informal — they only meet once a month, they
don't have a written constitution, etc. But other groups are much more formal
— the Samas and Luis belong to an njangi in Bambui that meets twice a month,
has a formal constitution and even uniforms (nice, fancy traditional outfits).
The Bambui njangi is all business people. Since njangis operate on trust, the
group decide who can and cannot be a member, with some groups requiring
sponsorship or invitation by current members. And people seem to use the money
for a variety of things. Doris, who will receive the pot in December, plans to
use it for Christmas expense. I know the Samas have used their portion to
invest in their various side businesses.

After the njangi
meeting, several headed back to the canteen where beer flowed, music played and
there was even some dancing. Except for one almost drunken brawl between Lucas
and Valentine, everyone was in a great mood. It was the first time I had a
chance to experience any sort of real social life on the compound and it was a
lot of fun. I had my camera with me because I had been taking pictures of the
compound. Here is a collage of photos from that afternoon.


Top row, left to right: Valentine (in
black) and Papa Joe (in red), Luis, Mattias (I told him to smile and he went
wild!)

Middle, left to right: Goodlove and his
wife, Lillian, Beatrice, Lucas

Bottom row, left to right: Doris, Mr. Sama,
Lucas, Valentine, Joe and Doris dancing

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About Seth Longacre

primal health coach, vision fast guide, itinerant discalced Episcopal Deacon, barefoot runner, photographer, spiritual director, yoga teacher, minimalist, pilgrim
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