Dreadful dogs, drama and culture change – Welcome to Jersey!

December 7, 2017

Our journeys separated for a day as I took what turned out to be a rather unfulfilling diversion to Los Angeles for the seventh game of the World Series (I’m a rabid Dodger fan.) Francis and Rosie jetted off to New York for a presentation. They were welcomed with open arms by Janice Dabney, who does great work with The Labor Management Project. She arranged for Francis and Rosie to update her team on CDVTA and their mission. Janice and Francis initially met a year earlier and the story of Cameroon resonated far and wide with her team.

I reconvened with my esteemed partners in crime at the Newark airport and we shot down the turnpike to meet up with one of my favorite people in the world, Denise Boudreau Scott. Denise is like a sister to me. We both juggle a lot of balls furthering our causes. We also share the neurotic need to stay on top of our multiple correspondents’ hourly and, of course, enthusiastically embracing plenty of levity along the way.

While planning this meeting in New Jersey as part of the Francis road trip, we agreed the additional east coast slice of the American pie would prove a tasty experience for the Knight and his wife. What’s more Americana than experiencing the high-brow entertainment of a high school play? Denise’s son played the starring role, so it was off to this live performance in living color!

Denise was kind enough to open her charming home to us, so while they enjoyed their thespian excursion, I savored the prospect of having a night to myself. Not only could I get to sleep early, but I got some much-needed laundry done. The opportunity to wander aimlessly throughout my friend’s home was irresistible – aren’t we all voyeurs on some level? My uninvited use of her laundry room was exhilarating and I memorialized the experience via smart phone pictures of what and where I was cleaning. Surely, she was a bit terrified to have her privacy so casually invaded, but alas, such is the life of a little sister! With my laundry clean, I crashed early, my upstairs bungalow was next to where Francis and Rosie would sleep.

As it turned out, the theatrics were not limited to the high school auditorium. Denise’s home became the unwitting backdrop for a night of unforetold suspense in the style of a classic Hitchcock thriller. At this point I will introduce you to Denise’s dog, Clover, an unassuming canine of Heinze varietal ancestry. Our American penchant for four-legged family members is not embraced in Cameroon, therefore, this is where the stuff of nightmares began. Clover, a shelter rescue pup, did not share our host’s welcoming spirit with our friends from another continent and, before retiring, Denise casually quipped of his talent for opening the door to their bedroom. This was the prescription for a sleepless and rather anxious night for our guests. I awoke a few times, hearing hushed whispers from Francis down the hall, mistakenly attributing these to romantic musings between husband and wife. While I awoke refreshed the next morning, my terrified neighbors, appearing more delighted than usual to see me, cautiously peered through a crack in their door. They revealed their perception of Clover as the stray embodiment of Stephen King’s ragingly rabid Cujo, holding them hostage in a foreign land, spawning their night of hypervigilance and little sleep. Once I stopped laughing at their tale terror we exited stage left, making off to another presentation.

My favorite moments in this adventure are the random, seemingly insignificant experiences that prove life changing for my new soulmates. With the specter of Cujo quickly dissipating into distant memory, we happened upon another one of these experiences as we drove a few short blocks to the beach. We piled out of the car and took a quick walk across the glittering sands toward the gentle waves of the Atlantic. It was a beautiful beach on an equally beautiful sunny day. Truly a nice moment in time, but nothing extraordinary in my estimation, unless of course you have never seen the ocean! Many of us take the vastness of the ocean for granted, however, this was far from the case with Rosie. This seemingly innocuous, brief pit stop proved earth shattering and mind boggling to my friend. She stood spellbound because from her perspective she was casting her gaze upon one of the world’s most precious treasures. I stood back in awe – so cool. My friends had inextricably changed me yet again.

Back on the road, we drove into northern Jersey and had all kinds of fun at a culture change event Candice from Parker Homes (an awesome woman and longtime iN2L customer) had helped arrange with Denise. Francis and Rosie were in full regalia and his story of battling oppression was the perfect closing session to a phenomenal squadron of caregivers doing their own magnificent, humble work one elder at a time. A side bonus was a chance to see Karen Stobbe and her perfect daughter Gracie, who were setting up the event. Karen and I have accumulated dozens of war stories over the years that we can pull up spontaneously. We cherish the chance to gather in a corner and raucously share memories.

As our event wound down late in the afternoon, I invited Karen and Gracie to join me and the Cameroonian Gang on our next escapade. We were off to the Big Apple for a night of fun and frolic! Carry on and watch out!