Friday, May 6, 2011

Home again, Home again, Jiggity Jig.

It's been nine days since we landed in the States. And today, I am emotional.

I've been looking through the thousands (literally) of pictures and videos we have, and sometimes I just get teary-eyed. I miss Africa. I miss those kiddos we got to hang out with. I miss Sopo and his incredible choir. I miss Brenda picking on Taylor. I miss playing cards every night by lantern when there's no electricity, and I miss that annoying little kitty.

I want to walk everywhere. I want to eat fish and bugali. I want to speak in Swahili. I want to tell all my middle school girls that those tiny shorts they are wearing are inappropriate, and they need to wear long skirts to school.

I do love to be home though. I got to spend some awesome time with my family this last week. I have missed them so much. My nephew is walking and starting to talk! One of my best friends cut all of her hair off. My husband has a bromance with our neighbor. My mom is still hilarious. I really have missed being home and being able to hug and love on my friends and family.

I'm so happy to be home. But I so much miss being in Africa. I want both things. I want to be home,  I want to be in Africa. My heart is so full now that I'm home, and I think I will always love Congo and the people there.

People keep asking me about the trip. What on earth do I even tell them? It was incredible, life-changing, amazing, heart breaking, wonderful... the trip of a lifetime. There's so much to tell! I feel like I'm boring people with how much I talk about it. "In Africa, they do this... When we were in Congo... That reminds me of Africa..." It's constant. I apologize to the people who are around me all the time and have to put up with it. But I can't stop. Word vomit. You're all just going to have to deal with it for a bit.

So, now what? Good question. School, work, paying off student loans... we're just going to continue to figure out life and what God has planned for us. Maybe we'll go back to Congo someday, maybe not. We're still processing. We have a lot going for us here right now, so I think God wants us here. At least right now. Maybe in the future we'll get to go back, even if its just to visit. Who knows. Well, God, of course... but we don't.

My thoughts are all over the place. I'm glad I decided to write though. I'm a little less emotional now. Phew.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tutaonana, Africa!

Today is the day we fly out of Kigali, Rwanda and head home. And let me tell you, these last few days have not been easy.

Saturday was a super busy day for us. We started early by meeting Sopo to go to one final choir practice. We sang a few songs with them, took a few pictures and said our goodbyes to most of them. We love that choir so much, so that was a hard goodbye.
We got home from choir practice, ate breakfast, then we walked down to a tailor who was making some stuff for us. We asked her to fix a shirt, and I asked if she would make me an apron.  She agreed and we told her we’d be back later that day. We walked home to get going on our packing (we procrastinated, who would’ve guessed?) and a little bit later Mazambi came to visit. Mazambi is Ed and Brenda’s day guard, but this month is his vacation month, so we haven’t seen him. Taylor and Mazambi were good buddies that first month, so it was nice of him to bring his wife and come say goodbye. We sat with him for a little bit, doing our best to communicate, took some pictures, and then he had to leave. We had to walk up to the Clinic where Henri works to pick up some medicine we need, so we walked him part of the way. We got to the clinic, but didn’t find Henri, so we went home and changed to go play volleyball. Our English speaking friends were playing volleyball in someone’s yard at 3:00, and it was about 2:30. When we got inside, I realized we hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Whoops. I was SO excited to play volleyball, that I scarfed some food, thinking Taylor would do the same. He didn’t. He wasn’t in as much of a hurry, I guess. When he was finished, we left again. We told the tailor who was fixing our clothes we would be back around three to pick them up, so we had to make a detour on our way to play. The clothes were perfect, so we paid her and went on our way. Turns out, I didn’t need to feel so rushed; this is Africa. Even Americans are on African time. We were the first few there at 3:30, and we didn’t even start playing until about 4:30.

Oh volleyball. Even in Africa, it’s just as fun. We stepped out on the court, split up into teams, then had a blast. Taylor was crazy, of course, which made it even more fun. Liz and I were the only two who have actually played serious volleyball, so it wasn’t a super competitive game, just a fun one. Once it started getting dark and we started getting tired, we called it quits. Michelle invited us over for dinner a little later, so we went to Liz’s house to shower and get ready and then Joel took us over to Michelle’s. Liz and Lewis were heading off to someone else’s house so they weren’t able to join us. We had a delicious pasta dinner, with baked potatoes and salad. After dinner we played Rummikub, then had to go home because the next day would be an early Easter Sunday.
Of course, when we got home, we didn’t go straight to bed. We had been putting off packing all day, and we wouldn’t get much time on Sunday to do it. So, we had to stay up and pack more. We happened to have water and electricity when we got back, so I was able to do some laundry as well. We made a dent in our packing, then after our laundry load was done in the wash, we were able to go to bed. It was about 1 am. Phew. Long day.

And then came Sunday.
He is Risen! Happy Easter, everyone! Taylor and I got to wear our new African outfits to church, which look awesome. We headed out to Mudaka for church, the same place where the Clinic is we visited at the beginning of the trip. It’s a beautiful drive out there around the lake, so we were able to stop and take a few pictures. The Bairds came with us, so I was able to get quick family pictures of everyone. 

We made it to church with two minutes to spare. Africa said goodbye to us by having a four hour and twenty minute church service. They said at the beginning that it was going to be a short one today because the “missionaries were in a hurry” (really, we just told them they didn’t need to serve us lunch today because we were having an Easter lunch all together).  So much for it being short. There were five or six choirs, each sang two or three songs each. Dawn was keeping track of choir time just at the beginning of the service—50 minutes of choirs. Phew. After the offering, one choir sang a fifteen minute song. And I’m not exaggerating.

Taylor got a bit restless during the service and got really hyper. He starting messing around with the camera, taking all sorts of pictures. He kept making me laugh, doing crazy, subtle things. He was the entertainment for us for probably two hours. It’s really hard sitting through a four hour service and not knowing what anyone is saying.
Bob preached, and I think it was good, but I don’t know Swahili. It was received well, so I think he did okay. Taylor was asked to pray for the offering, and as he left he did a little jig down the stairs back to his seat. Like I said, he was hyper.
At the end of the service, the preacher called us up onto stage to give us a farewell. He read out of Thessalonians, and held Taylor’s hand up in the air, saying they were brothers. He said that when we came, they didn’t see color, they just saw a brotherhood in Christ. He prayed for us, then we took our seats again.
When church was over, they asked us to go stand at the back and greet people as they were leaving. All the wazungu stood in a line and everyone stopped to shake our hands. When everyone went through, we went down to use the squatty potty, then piled back into the truck and headed to the Baird’s for Easter lunch.
We had a ham and cheese and potato casserole, two types of salad, and deviled eggs. Delicious. After a quick lunch, we had to head back home to get ready for Sunday night English church at the Buell’s. There was a big crowd that night and Ed did a good message about the resurrection. We sang How Deep the Father’s Love, which is such a good song for Easter. “Why should I gain from his reward? I cannot give an answer. But this I know with all my heart, his wounds have paid my ransom.” It’s a powerful song, especially when your focus is on the cross and all that Jesus did for us.
After church we all just sort of hung around for a while. We said our goodbyes to people as they were leaving, which was sad to do. At one point in the night, Sopo showed up to the house with four members of the choir. They stayed outside until almost everyone left. When they came in, we all pulled up chairs, ate some cake and drank some Kool-Aid. Sopo talked to Ed in Swahili while Ed translated for us. He told us that we were members of his choir, not just visitors. He said the choir was going to keep working on the things we taught them, and then teach them to other choirs around the area. He said they are so sad to see us leave, almost to the point of tears, and they are praying that God brings us back here one day. That was it for me. He started praying and I started crying. Like I said, we just love that choir. They might be the people we miss most when we’re home. After the prayer they read us a letter they had written us, then gave us each a gift. Taylor got a button down shirt, and I got a skirt and shirt to match. They are sweet. I can’t wait to wear them. We hugged them goodbye and they drove off. Taylor and I stood outside for a bit when they left. We were sad to see them go.
The rest of that night was spent packing. We still had so much to do. We are PROcrastinators. Holler. We stayed up extra late doing laundry and finding a place for all of our stuff. We ended up falling asleep, then waking up again later to finish the rest of the laundry. Brenda was so kind to move things around for us while we slept for a bit. We finally finished and ended up getting a few hours of sleep before we had to be up the next morning. We were up by six getting ready for the long bus ride. JP came to the Buell’s house to get us around seven. We took more pictures of us and the Buell’s, said goodbye to Brenda and piled into the car. It was sad saying bye to Brenda. It’s hard when you live with someone for nine weeks to have to say goodbye to them. Their house is going to be a whole lot quieter, but I think they’ll be lonely without us. We’re going to miss them terribly.
We made the six hour trip to Kigali, made it here by three, and we were SUPER hungry. We checked into our guest house then went on a walk to find a restaurant. We found one, but it didn’t open until 6:30, and we couldn’t wait. So we walked a little further and found the New Happy Restaurant. That looked promising. We went in a found a seat, the waiter came and asked us what we wanted to eat. We asked for menus, but there were none. He just told us what they had: fish, chicken, rice, bananas, beans, and fries. I got fish and fries, Taylor got chicken and rice, JP got chicken and fries. Everything came out in less than five minutes. All the meat was drowned in the same tomatoey sauce and the fries were cold. Oh well. We were hungry. So we chowed.
After dinner, we went back to the guest house and JP went to his sister-in-law’s house. We had a nice, relaxing evening, which was completely different from the last two nights we’ve had. Taylor and I watched some French TV until we couldn’t stand it anymore, played cards for a while, and then watched Monk on our computer until we fell asleep. Easy and relaxing, just what we needed before we travelled.
We slept in as late as we could, trying to ignore the noises from the busy Rwandan streets. When we couldn’t stand it any longer, we got up and showered and got ready to go. JP came to get us at 10. We drove to the airport, ate a small lunch, and now, here we sit, waiting for our plane in the Kigali Airport.

I’m past the part where I’m sad about leaving. I mean, I know I’ll miss it, but I’m so excited to be home. I can’t wait to squeeze my family and hang out with my friends. I’m excited to eat ice cream and take showers with water pressure. We are both ready to add some variety back into our diets. We’re ready to actually understand the church services we sit through, and excited that they won’t be four hours long. We excited to be able to turn on a light switch and not have to worry if the power will be there or not.
We aren’t excited to leave the people we have grown to love so much. I’m not excited to start driving everywhere again; I’ve really enjoyed everything being sort of within walking distance. I’m not excited for the pounds I’m going to put back on from eating processed food again. I’m going to miss having avocadoes with everything, and drinking soda out of glass bottles. But our time here is over for now. We have a lot of things to look forward to in the states. And who knows, maybe God will bring us back here someday, even if it’s just for a visit.

Bonding: Day 4

It’s a few days late, but here’s how our final day went with our family.
Started the day in the bus again, but this time we got to sit in the front seat! We had to wait for a bit before we left, so a guy came up to our window and just started talking to us. He told us straight up that he was a pagan. Taylor asked him if he knew who Jesus was, and the man said he did, but Jesus is for the white man because he’s white. Taylor talked to him for a little bit, he asked a lot of questions, then he had to run off somewhere. Pray for this man. Pray that SOMETHING Taylor said got through to him, and that he might see a glimpse of God and his love.

Moving right along, we made it to Wasso’s house and sat down for breakfast. We had grits, sweet tasting donut things, and tea. After we ate, we went outside to hang out. There were hardly any kids around yet, so we sat around with Odette. Then a few kids showed up, and Taylor started asking where Gulaine (I asked on how to spell her name!) was. Two girls went to go get her, and when she came back she came right into the yard and sat right between Taylor and I. We had some fun taking some pictures, then I was asked to go into the kitchen. And actually, I’m still not really sure why, because they never asked me to help out with anything. I just sat there watching Taylor play with the kids. He really got them going, and it seemed like the kids multiplied, too! It was loud and crazy. He played for a long time, all the way up until lunch. For lunch we ate fish, chicken, rice, bugali and beans. Super good. After a bit we went back outside to hang out. A lot of the kids went home while we went inside to eat lunch, including Gulaine. Taylor was asking where she was, and finally he just decided to go to her house to get her. Of course, he didn’t go alone. The whole crowd of kids followed him there. When he got there, he didn’t find Gulaine, just her dad and a few other people. They made it seem like Gulaine was inside so he just hung out outside. Turns out, she wasn’t inside. She showed up after a few minutes, then a few minutes more, I showed up. The dad invited us inside and introduced us to two other daughters. We took a few pictures, told him we loved his daughter, and then we left. On our way out we met Gulaine’s school principal. He invited us into the school (which is right next door to her house) and we got to chat a little bit and walked around to look at the classrooms. It’s a pretty run down school, but they seem to be doing okay.
We went back to Wasso’s house and played with the kids more. Gulaine wanted to challenge Taylor again in the jumping game, so Taylor stood up and was ready for it. As soon as Gulaine jumped, he grabbed her and started tickling her. She was laughing but also saying “Pardon! Pardon!” and trying to get away. She looked like she started crying, so Taylor let her go. Then she started laughing again, so Taylor went after her again, then she really started crying and ran outside the gate. She was hardly making eye contact with Taylor. She eventually came back inside, and Taylor turned into a softy and was really gentle with her. He went over and held her hand and apologized. Taylor thinks maybe she was just embarrassed. It didn’t take her long to come back and sit right next to Taylor and start bossing people around again. Gulaine was on one side of Taylor, Odette on the other. Both hanging all over him. It was very sweet. They started singing more songs and playing more games and making more noise. I ventured my way into the crowd after a bit and sat next to Odette. I didn’t last long though. Those kids were crowding in on the hairy muzungu, just trying to get a look or something. It was a bit claustrophobic. But those kids are so sweet, and they all just want some attention, to be touched, or tickled, or hugged or something. Taylor eventually stood up and started chasing kids around. When he would turn his back one way, kids would sneak up behind him and hit his butt or his legs or something then run away when he turned around. Every once in a while he’d take a kid down and tickle him, let him go then go for his next victim. They just loved all the attention. After a while of playing, it was time to go. Mama Wasso asked us to come inside and she presented us with some food for our trip. Peanuts, sweet bread that looked like waffles, and some guavas from their tree. They told us what a blessing it was to have us, and that they will pray the Lord brings us back someday. They prayed for us and then we got to say a few things. We told them we loved their family, and we know what a hard time it is for them with her husband dying and all the visitors around. We thanked them for taking us in, and we gave them an old digital camera of ours. They thought it was just great. Before we left we wanted some pictures of us with the family. Taylor set up the tripod and we all stood in a group and took some pictures. Actually, a TON of pictures. We just kept snapping. After putting it off long enough, we really did need to leave. We were sad to go. Wasso and Teddy walked us out, with a few little girls following. Odette was on one of Taylor’s hands while Gulaine was on the other. I had a little girl named Irene on mine. They walked us all the way up the hill, then Wasso said they had to go back. So we each took a few final pictures with them, squeezed them hard, and had to tell them goodbye. As we were walking away, Taylor told me that Gulaine asked if he would take her back to America. He really wanted to tell her yes, but for obvious reasons he didn’t. We’re going to miss those kiddos tremendously. I’m glad we took a zillion pictures and videos. I don’t think we’ll ever forget them. It’s sad to think that if we ever see them again, they will be so different. I hope and pray they turn out to be Godly women. I know they’ll be able to hold their own in life; they’ve got some spunk. I just hope they use that spunk in the right ways.

It was a sad goodbye, but it was inevitable. It also wasn’t the only goodbye we’ve had to make, but I’ll save that for a later date.
We are currently in Kigali, awaiting tomorrow when we fly out and head home. I’ll try and write again tomorrow with an update on our last few days in Congo.

Until then…

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bonding: Day 3

I get to write first this time (Taylor). We grabbed a taxi because we were on African time feeling the pinch of American time. Got there and waited for Wasso, he arrived and we again packed into one of those sweet buses. Now I gotta describe the bus for those people who won’t get to see the videos we have. The outside of all these busses are decorated for the driver. Many of them remind one of the Scooby-Doo bus. However, the inside is prolly not as shag and comfortable as the cartoon favorite. There are three places in front. Right behind the driver there are four seats. The row behind that has four seats as well, but the one closest to the sliding door folds up to allow easier access to the rear. The seat behind that is the same, then there is the back seat. The back seat is the same style bench seat, but it extends all the way to the wall because there are no seats behind it. I have to let you know that a seat for 4 people, doesn’t in the least mean that only four people can be on it. Usually there were on average of 5 people per bench, not including large baggage or very small children.

The only opening windows are those up in the very front with the driver and those immediately behind him. The distance between the seats is a semi tight fit for most. But for me, it is literally impossible. The distance between the seat at your back and the back of the seat in front of you is shorter than the thigh part of my leg. I could make it work if I just turned my legs a little bit sideways, but then this made an even tighter fit for anyone next to you. I am happy to say all the busses we have taken haven’t been in great shape. Why is that a good thing? Well, the folding seats, allowing passage to the rear, were missing their backs. So I just sat in the very back on this aisle side. It didn’t make for a luxurious space by any means, especially when considering half of my leg space is taken by the wheel well, but I could fit, so it was good.

Well, we met Wasso and got up there. We had tea and milk and sugar and bread for breakfast. I don’t usually like tea, or coffee for that matter, but with enough milk and sugar, any drink can be good I guess. But the tea alone was pretty good, it was a very clear and light tea. Once that was over, I was told to change into shorts so that I could go to work. So I did. Wasso took me to the right side of the house where the bathroom is, and he told me of our task. We were going to be weeding. But really it was just eliminating all plant life, except the few potatoes and lenga lenga plants, and tilling the ground. It wasn’t bad as there were three of us and this whole country seems to be composed of soft rich top soil. There was a lil mupanga (machete) work, which I was happy to do as it is a blast.

We got everything up out of the ground, killed a spider (spelled that spyder the first time), and cleared the area around the fence.  While I was doing the latter bit of work there was lots of foliage around me. This didn’t worry me, but after a few moments I heard “Pay attention!” from Wasso and his cousin Teddy. They then explained there were poisonous snakes around and I needed to be wary. No sooner had they finished telling me this then a snake slithered up my pant leg. Wasso caught a glimpse of it immediately and told me not to move, but it was far too late for that as I had felt it immediately and began to move away. But not quick enough, the snake bit me in the leg. I now have a bit of a wound on my leg and a horrible pain moving up my leg towards my heart. We will see what happens. OK, I hope you know where the story stopped being true. And if you don’t, it’s when he told me about the snakes. After which I soon left that area until we had cleared it out. We talked about a lot of interesting things while we did this job, one being the “bride price” I paid for Bonnie.

Here, when a dude wants to marry a chick, he goes to her father, brings a case of soda or beer, and negotiates a bride price. The price usually starts at five cows and usually drops to about two, and includes anywhere from two to five goats standard. This totals about $1,000, which is what Baba Wasso’s daughters went for.  They don’t see women as property and this practice isn’t derogatory.  After some quick calculating, I figured Bonnie’s ‘bride price’ was around $40,000 because of student loans and interest on those loans. So I told them the price and they were very amazed. Perhaps, they understood a part of the value I place on my wife, but still not close to the real thing.

With that task complete, Wasso had a family meeting he had to go to and it was kid time again.  I have mastered counting and learned a couple of songs in Swahili. But most of all, I have made two good friends. One of which I held hands with the whole way back up to the bus. Their names are Odette and Gilena (I’m not 100% sure of her name because she is always smiling and won’t slow down). They are both eight or nine year old girls who at once glance will take your heart. As stupid as it sounds, as girly as it sounds, I think leaving these two girls is going to be the hardest. They are seriously awesome.

Odette with Bonnie

Now I have to tell you a little bit more about Gilena. With so much time because of Wasso’s meeting, I decided to host a little tournament. There’s a game that the students play here, mostly girls, where they jump up in the air, and when they land, they stomp one of their feet forward. At the same, they are keeping a clapping rhythm with the way they jump and stomp. They start off with one foot and alternate feet throughout the game. Two different ways you can play it: Play until someone gets tired, or play until someone messes up. I’ve seen all these kids run around and play all day without a drop of sweat, so I wanted to see if they could. That, and it was a blast. So I started pitting people against each other and starting the matches. None lasted too long because someone would always just give up. I faced a few kids and beat them, but I could see clearly who the main challenger would be. Gilena. She had beaten everyone thus far, and then a little boy came and challenged her. And this turned out to be a three to five minute match. Before you say, “oh that’s not that long,” I want you to do something. Stand up where you’re at, jump up in the air decently high, but not as high as you can. Then as soon as you hit the ground, shoot your right foot forward and stomp. Do this again, but this time stomp your left foot forward. Do this and see how long it takes for you to feel the burn. Guarantee it won’t be more than a minute. Anyway, so she ended up finally beating the boy because he was slacking so bad in his jumping. But still, no one was sweating. A few more matches happened, but it was clear who the championship round would be between. Gilena stood up, and pointed alternatingly between her and me and clapped twice fast (which is the way they signal to start the game). So, we started. But before we started, I noticed something. She was sweating! She had sweat coming back down behind her ears and in front of her ears. But what is any good championship without a prize. I told her “ngoja” (wait), (and everyone thought I was going to rest, so they laughed) I ran inside, grabbed a water bottle full of water, and said it was for the winner. The match began. We went on for probably a minute and a half, two minutes. I could tell that we were both getting tired. So I picked up the pace and started jumping really high. Amazingly enough, this little girl matched with cheers. Long repeating story short: Gilena won with a great uproar from the sea of children. She downed the whole water bottle in about two minutes. Along with her very exaggerated facial expressions, apparently her tear ducts acts as sweat glands as well because she was smiling and laughing and had tears coming from her eyes because she worked so hard. She was happy for the whole of the prize: the water, and especially the water bottle (which apparently they use for games and toys). As I said, it’s going to be rough. Leaving them, and likely not returning until a time they are much different.

It again was going to rain, so we headed home. We got out of there just in time, for on the hot bus ride home, they rolled up the windows because of the rain, while the muzungus in the back cooked. It was great. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Peace.

Bonnie’s turn.

Oh, hello. My day was a whole lot more uneventful than Taylor’s. In fact, I have very little to talk about. I helped in the kitchen again. I am really becoming a master at cutting those onions without a cutting board. I grated some tomatoes, which was disgusting. Anyone who knows me will know that I did not enjoy that. Then I added it to the goat meat we fried up, along with some onions, water and oil. I helped stir the bugali when it was ready, and helped make the lenge lenge. Every now and then I would stick my head out of the kitchen and get the camera to record whatever chaos Taylor was causing. We ate a delicious lunch, then came back out and rested for a bit. Most of the kids left over the lunch hour, but came back shortly after. I got to play a little with the kids and sit and talk with some of the older kids (such as Wasso and Teddy). Then Wasso’s older sisters took the camera from us and starting taking all sorts of pictures. They wanted picture of themselves, pictures of us with them, pictures of them with each other. It was probably a good two hours of taking pictures. We had a good time. Teddy has given us his flash drive so he can have the pictures that were taken. 

I just have to say, those two little girls we told you about, really are the sweetest little things ever. They have so much personality and are so so sweet. Odette really seems to cling to me when I sit down to hang out. When she gets really excited about something, she just jumps straight up in the air over and over again. Not squealing like a little girl, she just jumps. It’s so cute. Her and Gilena seem to be the “leaders” of the kids around the area. They kick people out of the yard who aren’t supposed to be there, shove people out of the way when it’s their turn to do something; they are ALWAYS the center of attention. Which is probably why Taylor and I like them so much.

It breaks my heart to see how much Taylor adores these two. Especially Gilena. He has formed a bond with them that I haven’t seen him form with anyone else. I keep seeing him become sad at the thought of saying goodbye to these girls tomorrow, which is a whole new thing, because he isn’t really the type of person to miss anyone. I mean, there are a certain few, but I know he’s really going to miss these little girls. There have been many times he tells me how bad he wants to kidnap them. It’s a side of Taylor I have never seen, and I know how sad it will be tomorrow when we have to say goodbye to the family. It’s giving me a glimpse of how good of a Daddy he will be to our kids, someday.

Anyway, enough of that. It was a good day, with a lot of laughs and fun. Today we had a Youth Conference that we were asked to teach for, so we didn’t get to go be with the family. We each taught a short lesson, then talked a little about how things are done for the Youth in the states. I didn’t feel good for the last part of it, so I stepped out to get some fresh air, but Taylor stayed in and answered the challenging questions they were asking. He also taught them a fun game of Gorilla, Hunter, Ninja. Basically like Rock, Paper, Scissors, except your whole body is involved. Gorilla beats Ninja, Ninja beats Hunter, Hunter beats Gorilla. They seemed to enjoy it. I think it is the plan tomorrow to teach the kids that game. Assuming we can communicate it with them. Today was easy because Ed translated for us. Tomorrow will be a bit harder.

That’s all we have for now. We’ll (try to) update again tomorrow on how our final bonding day went.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bonding: Day 2

Today started early, then ended early. We were down at the market at 6:30 am, ready to meet Wasso so he could take us up there. He found us after a little bit and then we got into a taxi bus and headed up the road. This time we were stuck in the back of the bus. We found out that Taylor doesn’t fit in the seats. I’m not saying it’s uncomfortable for him; his legs are literally too long to fit between the seats. So he had to get in the very back seat with his feet in the “aisle” where other seats without backs to them fold down. It was hot and crowded, but it’s the Congolese way, and this week, we are Congolese.

When we got to the house, we were welcomed inside for some breakfast. We had grits and rolls. I guess grits is a bit of a specialty, because you have to put sugar in it, and sugar is not cheap. This meal is not one they have every day; it was a treat. After breakfast, they put us to work.

I went into the kitchen again to help cook. This time the kitchen was moved to a little hut next to the house. It had one small window and an open door, so there wasn’t much light, but there was enough for what we were doing. One of the ladies asked me to cut up an onion. And really, it’s an easy chore in the states, but here in Africa, they don’t use cutting boards. They showed me how to hold the onion, and cut it in my hands. My second day of doing this, I did alright. I still have all of my fingers, and I cut it to their satisfaction, I think. But I don’t speak Swahili. And actually, I speak enough to understand that I did okay.

After a bit of cooking and cutting and sorting, a young girl and an older woman told me I was going to “Soko ya Kadutu” (Kadutu Market) with them. We grab our basket and off we go, on a hike up the mountain, then back down the mountain. It was a long walk, too. I was winded. The old lady did it like it was no problem. Our first stop was right outside the market to buy macala (coal). We chose the best bag of coal, which was HUGE, paid for it, then this old lady came over to bring it to the house for us. I’m not talking about a small bag of charcoal like you get in the states either. It was about as tall as me. And heavier. And ONE little lady was going to put it on her back and make the hike to our house. They work so hard, it really amazes me.

After buying the macala, we went into the busy part of the market. We stopped first in the fresh meat section. And I mean FRESH. There was meat just lying on the tables, bloody. Pig heads were hanging above some merchants, a cow carcass was laying behind another, and it reeked! But we picked out the meat we wanted and went through the clothes and perfume and shoes and whatever else non perishable you can think of, and went to more of a produce area. We bought some tomatoes and onions, then stopped to a talk to a lady about buying chickens. Live chickens. They just handle them like they aren’t living either. Haha. They picked them up by their feet felt their legs, chest, butt, everything, just checking to see how much meat was on them. We bought two, shoved them in the basket then turned to go on our way. At that point, I was done carrying the basket. So the girl I was with put them on top of her head and we started back up the hill. A few minutes later, one of the chickens pooped. Whoops. All over her shoulder. At least it wasn’t all over her face. Gross. After we started on the hike back, we stopped to buy lenge lenge, a crop similar to sombe, only it tastes better.

When we made it back, I was a bit tired, so they grabbed a chair for me and I sat in the shade with Taylor and the kids. A few of the kids were pounding sombe, and one lady was cutting up onions to put in it, so I got to watch how that was done, and I got to interact with the kiddos.
Lunchtime came shortly after. We had rice, beans, sombe, fish, and goat intestine! I got everything except the goat, and Taylor got everything except the fish. I guess the intestine of the goat is quite a delicacy here, but I couldn’t bring myself to try it. Taylor only got a little piece of it, but he ate it! We sat and talked for a little bit over lunch, then we went back outside. I went back into the kitchen and Taylor went to play with the kids and cause fujo (chaos).
I ended up helping pull the leaves off of the lenge lenge we bought, and after a bit, they told me I could go outside because it was hot in the kitchen. So I went out and played with the kids a little bit. After a while, it was time to go because the rain was coming. It was
about 2:30 when we got home, which is really early for us to be sent back, but Wasso knows best.

Both days so far I have come straight home and wanted a shower. Today, of course, there was no water. So I had to wait a little bit. Brenda told me I have a slight case of culture shock. I don’t doubt it. I just felt dirty from walking through the super crowded market and sweating all day. I am Congolese this week, but the American need to shower still comes out. I will proudly admit it. Hi, my name is Bonnie, and I have culture shock. No problem.
Alright, you heard my side, now here is Bwana Fujo with his experience of day 2.
Our second day started with some nice grits (yes I like em a lot). This isn’t customary breakfast, but we assume they served it because we were there (really wish their hospitality wasn’t so good, It is normally a treat for them to have this). After eating I changed into shorts. This way I had a little cooler dress while we repaired the fence surrounding their house. The fence wasn’t chain link or anything. It was an awesome stick fence. It was made from sticks, none bigger than my wrist and most a little larger than a broom stick. The larger sticks were pounded in the ground and used as the main anchor points for the rest. Horizontal cross beams (still sticks) were fastened to them using wire (thanks to muh brother for my Leatherman) and then the smaller broom sticks were fastened to these and pounded into the ground. Only a few of the sticks were any significant depth in the ground, so when rain would come, and people would lean/touch them, the fence would lean. On the left of their house (when you are facing it coming in the gate) a 15 foot section had collapsed. The sticks were leaning in towards their house and many were gone. We repaired that side and the front side in a few hours.

After we did this, there was time enough for a game of Congolese checkers, which I horribly lost at. But I got my honor back by beating him in American checkers (but I didn’t dominate him the way he did me). At lunch I tried some goat intestine, and I didn’t even taste it. The beans were fantastic, but my mind didn’t like the idea of what I ate (I worked myself up too much).  After lunch it was language time. I was promptly tested by Rachelle on my numbers, I passed, ish. (I have come to learn that the way I say their number eight, I am actually saying Fat Lady, so it gives them a nice laugh when I count).  I then learned and recorded a sweet song about Swallihi. I will hopefully retain this and will sing it upon request when we return. It was great to be surrounded by kids and rejoice and have a good time with them.

It was even better to glance over and see the whole of Wasso’s family laughing at the crazy muzungo.
Because they live in a valley, when it rains it is not only dangerous for people there, but it is near impossible to leave. So it being the rainy season here, it rains every day. Sadly it seems our days are going to be cut short due to rain. We had to leave about 2 ish. I really love African culture, though I do love American culture (the one I create lol) as well.  Home is a little on my mind, but Africa is on my heart AND mind… lol. 

Pray for us as God continues to guide and bless us. Thanks.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bonding: Day 1

It’s 7:47 pm and I am ready to crash. What a day.

Taylor and I woke up at 6ish because the oldest son of the family we'll be staying with for our "bonding week," and a family friend, were coming to meet with us at 7. They got there at about 8:00, talked with Ed for a little bit, just about what to expect for the week and such, and then we were on our way. We packed a backpack of a change of clothes, clean water, and toilet paper (in case we have to use the squatty potty!). We walked up to the main road where the taxis are, and instead of taking a taxi car, we took a taxi BUS. Something I’ve learned in Congo: Congolese people are not claustrophobic. Seriously, they shove people into those busses like it’s a clown car. Luckily, there wasn’t anyone in there when we got in. We picked up a few on the way, but they didn’t have to pack people in. I was a little nervous about the bus, just for that reason, but our first taxi bus experience was a good one.

We got to where we were being let out, walked down the road a ways, and were finally at Wasso’s house. (Yes, Wasso passed away, but it is a family name. His wife is still Mama Wasso, and his oldest son now goes by the name Wasso.)  As we were walking to the house, we got a lot of “muzungu!” calls, and a lot of “goot… morning…”.

We got into the yard and were greeted by the family. They brought us inside and gave us a Fanta Orange and we sat and chatted for a bit. There was a man named Herman there who spoke fluent English. He was Baba Wasso’s brother’s father-in-law (understand?). He talked to us for a few, then got us started. He led me out to an area I would call a kitchen, but I don’t think that’s what it actually was. It was more of an area next to the house that was covered with tarp for shade. It had a coal stove that sat on the ground, and a small fire pit with big rocks around it to put pots on. That’s where we made lunch, while Taylor went to play games. That’s the Congolese way, I guess. Women do the work, men play the games.

They started by getting me a kikwimbe. Basically, just a big piece of cloth that ties around your waist like a towel, and it pretty much served as an apron. It was there to keep my clothes clean. They sat me down in a chair and handed me a bowl of tiny dried up fish. My job was to pull the heads off of them. Lovely. But I did it. I had little girls surrounding me watching me the whole time, close enough to be daring, but not close enough to where I could reach them. They were pretty scared of me at first; like they weren’t sure if I was real or not. Yes, my skin is really white, and no, it won’t rub off on you. One of the older of the girls came over and took a fish body from the bowl I was putting them in and gestured to me that I should try it. I said that she should first, and she did. The whole thing, right in her mouth. So of course, I did, too. Not great. Ever had fish jerky, bones still included? I have. It’s all about the experience.

I ended up cooking the fish, making a tomato sauce to put them in, pulling rocks out of rice, stirring the sombe, cutting onions, sorting beans, and observing in the making of bugali. These ladies work HARD. And they do some things I could never imagine (aside from eating fish jerky). While I was stirring the sombe, she came over to check it and told me it was finished. So I put the spoon down, and she just grabs the skillet with her bare hands and sets it aside! BARE HANDS. Who needs oven mitts? Then after she moved it, she reached down and pulled out some pieces of charcoal, no problem. The same charcoal I was just cooking the sombe on. Unbelievable.

The food we made turned out to be edible, and we had lunch. Taylor didn’t touch the fish, but he had rice and sombe with some fresh Cayenne pepper cut into chunks. I ended up eating the fish, which wasn’t horrible, but not really something I’d choose to eat. 

After lunch it was time for me to go. Taylor was able to stay, but I was supposed to go back home to meet women from Tracy’s Heart. Today was the day we got to give them clothes for their kids and blankets to keep them warm at night. Wasso (the son) and I start making our way back to get a taxi. Instead of taking me back up the road we came down that morning, he took me behind the house and we hiked up the mountain through people’s yards. It was quite the hike. He was very concerned the whole time that I was too tired, but I made it. It actually was a nice hike. We finally got up to the main road and we start walking toward the taxis. He stops and talks to one taxi driver, telling him where we need to go, and finally tells him no. We walk a little further and stop at another taxi. But no, not a normal taxi. Oh yes, a taxi bus, completely full. So of course, we got in. “This is Congo,” Wasso kept telling me. Yes it is. After being stopped in Congolese traffic for thirty minutes, hitting my shins HARD on the seat in front of me, and sweating like a man, the clown car finally got me to where I needed to be. Phew.

I got to the building where we were going to be handing out clothes and found Brenda and Elizabeth there with a lady already inside. Five women came today to get clothes for their kiddos, and we could hardly help the last few. We had hardly any little boy’s clothes to give them at all, but we were able to get blankets and clothes for the girls a little older. We gave them dolls for their youngest girls and toy cars for their boys, they each got a little purse that Elizabeth had made in the states, and they each got a little bit of jewelry. They left happy and can’t wait to come back again next month when we have more for them for choose from. I’m just sad I have to miss that time. We went home after we finished with the ladies and I felt so filthy. I immediately jumped in the shower, and when I got out, I found the Bairds had come over for dinner. We had a nice evening with them, and as soon as they left, I got into bed and started writing this. And now my turn is up.  I shared my side of day one, and I’m not sure I’d be able to do Taylor’s story justice. I’m just going to let him tell you.  Here he goes!

Ahh, today.  Started off early, finally got to jam into one of those crowded busses, though we were blessed enough not to be crowded in. We got up the “thief circle,” as I will call it, and walked down the windy road to Wasso’s house, Bonnie getting checked out, and me staring people down for checking Bonnie out. But, it was a pretty good start to the day.

Well, it started off with the customary greeting with a Fanta in the living room. Herman took Bonnie out to go cooking, and I sat there in the house alone for a little bit. Then Wasso came in and said “We have a new job out here, come see.” He took me around the left side of the house and started naming things. This new task was very important for our communication, but was not at all what I was expecting.  After naming a few things and talking as much as we could, he said he had a game he wanted to show me. 

So we went and played Checkers. Or so I thought. Until during the middle of the game, the Congolese rules were introduced to me. Like, you can jump backwards, as well as forwards when you are not “kinged” (which really does throw off your strategy if you’ve ever played any serious checkers). And when you are “kinged”, not only can you move diagonally all the way across the board, but you can jump any person at any point along the way, and a “kinged” checker piece can only be taken by another “kinged” checker piece. As one might guess, this was slightly frustrating for the under-competitive spirit that I have. Haha. Then we play some American style checkers and I showed him who is boss, but we both got bored with that, so the next few hours were spent language learning. 

Learning numbers 1-10 in another language is not as easy as it sounds, especially when that language is fundamentally phonetically different. But it was not only me language learning, for some reason there was a desire to learn Spanish. 1-5 successfully slaughtered today. To keep it interesting, not only for me, but for all the gracious participants, lots of children (amazed at a muzungu), some women (doing hair the WHOLE day), and one man (being very patient), we mixed in some games. I would say their numbers and they would repeat after me correcting me as we go, starting small and eventually after about two hours, we worked up to ten.  After a couple repetitions through the numbers that I knew, I would teach them the Spanish numbers, they would play a schoolyard game, and also sang a song about how Swahili is the language of Africa, which I will get on video.

It was lunchtime and Wasso and Bonnie left.  After a little more time with the hair ladies, I went over to the kitchen and smashed sombe. It’s like taking spinach, lightly cooking it for just a moment, not even to the point where it wilts, and them smashing it, added some garlic, some chive type stuff, and lots more smashing. They were adding wood to the fire to try to get more fire going so they could cook the meat, and it was not successful, so I went over, and using my cub scout skills, I got a nice little blaze going. They cheered and laughed and did so even harder when I stood up and declared myself “Bwana Moto”, which means “Lord of Fire”! (Up to this point, I have had others (including my wife) refer to me as “Bwana Fujo”, which means “Lord of Chaos”.)

It was back to the hair ladies for a little more counting practice, and Wasso returned. Wasso escorted Bonnie home, then came back, so it was quite a long time. By the time he returned, he looked at the sky and told me it was going to rain, and told me I had to go. So he escorted me up to a bus (which I was very wary of), and didn’t want to buckle up in case I had to tuck and roll.

Then I went to a soccer game, which are every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at five. Before the game there was a downpour and even a heavy rain from a clear blue sky. It was crazy.  I got to score a goal, but we still lost 2-1. I made another friend named Patrick, who actually lives just up the road from us, and invited me over for a Coke.  I met his whole family, but graciously denied the Coke as I needed to be home in time for dinner. Turns out he goes to church next door to us and he escorted me home.

It’s the end of the day now, and I’m going to bed. Goodnight, and God continue to bless.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Jambo rafiki (hello friends)!

Thank you thank you thank you for praying when Taylor asked you to! It made a difference! Florence got out of the hospital yesterday! Our prayers were answered! She’s starting to walk a little better which means she is slowly getting her strength back. Turns out she had Malaria and she let it go on for too long before getting treated. She is staying on the medicine for a little longer and still needs help around the house, but she is on a healing path. God is good and powerful. Thanks so much for praying for her!

Yesterday we went out to visit Wasso’s family. Taylor and I bought them a goat, and Ed and Brenda brought them a big box of food. We sat and chatted for a little while with them and then they fed us. Taylor went with Kasavubu to get the goat before Ed, Brenda, and I came, so he got there early. He got to play some games with the kids, and I guess he had a blast. They really took a liking to him. They also kept asking when we were coming over to do our bonding. Ed and Brenda talked to the Mama (I’m not sure what her name is..) and it turns out we are still going there next week. The oldest son is coming over to talk with us about the week tomorrow afternoon (as he is now the Patriarch of the family). We’ll get things squared away. I’m excited for it. I think God has gotten me over whatever I was scared of about the bonding. Except for the GIANT spiders they have in the trees right in front of the house. I’m still scared of those. And not just one or two, there’s a zillion. Literally. One zillion. I counted. But really, if that’s my only worry, God has worked wonders. I was not looking forward to the bonding, but now I am. I think it’s because this family is hurting, and I think Taylor and I will be able to help them out around the house and be with the kids and things. I keep praying that God will help us to minister to the family while we’re there.

I got to sit in with Brenda the other day at a meeting she had at Tracy’s Heart. That was an emotionally heavy time. We sat with each of the ladies as they told us their stories and we figured out what they needed. Please pray for these hurting women. A lot of their stories are similar, but all SO awful. They were happy in their homes with gardens, their husbands, and their kids, and then it was all taken away when soldiers came. If their husband wasn’t killed, he left. Then the ladies are raped by soldiers, often multiple soldiers. Sometimes in front of their kids, sometimes they are taken out to the jungle for a while. It’s just awful. Especially to meet these women and see the hurt as they tell their stories. Just to see them have to relive it all over again in their mind would break anyone’s heart. 
After they told their stories, we talked to them to see what was most important for them at this time, whether it be to pay the rent on their houses, to help get their kids in school, or to train them to start their own small business. After we figured out that one lady needed help finding a place for her and her kids, she told us what she really needed right away was a change of clothes for her kids and some blankets. Her kids get so cold at night, and they only have each other to keep warm. I can’t even imagine. Monday the ladies are coming here to get clothes and blankets. We have some in storage for that very purpose. Please, please pray for all of these women. They are so wounded and broken. I love it when Brenda tells them what can done for them, and watching their eyes fill up with tears and their faces just light up at the small amount of hope that they get. God is at work here and it is such an encouragement to see it.
Blowing bubbles with the orphanage kids

We went to the orphanage on Tuesday. That was awesome. I loved it so much. It was a three hour drive there, which was really, really rough. The road was a typical Congolese dirt road the whole way. We went way up into the mountains; it was a beautiful drive. We stopped a few times to take pictures. We stopped on the way to get bananas for the kids, which I guess is something Holly does every time she goes. They just expect it now. We got there and gave all the kids a banana each, then Dwayne (a potential daddy to one of those kiddos) gave each of them a toy car. They just LOVED those. We got to play with them with their new cars for a little while, then we all went outside to play. Taylor got to play soccer with some of the kids with a new kabumbu (ball). They enjoyed that for a while. Then we just got to love on them. They don’t hardly get touched or held, so we made sure to hug them and hold them a lot. I also spent a lot of time in the baby room. Ugh. I loved them. They were just so sweet. And they all needed some lovin’. All of the kids had bad scabies and some of them had ring worm on their heads. So sad. We had to come home and shower right away and wash our clothes. Holly brought some medicine for the mamas at the orphanage and told them how to use it on the kids. It was a lot of fun, but sad at the same time. I really want those kids to find loving families to be with, and not just be forgotten orphans.
Sweet baby

The youth conference that was supposed to be held today has been postponed. It has been moved to next Friday, because the people who are coming to it and running it have already taken off too many days this week for Wasso’s funeral and the three days following. Just goes to show you how great of a man Wasso was.

Things to pray for:
- Continue to keep Wasso’s family in your prayers. It was such a great loss for them.
- The women at Tracy’s Heart. Pray for complete healing and that they get their lives back together.
- I have come down with a cold. I’m doing everything I can to take care of it, but it would really be a pain to have it next week. The last thing those 12 kids need is for a muzungu to bring a cold with her to spread around. If I am still sick when the time comes, I don’t want to risk the chance for spreading it, and probably won’t go. Please pray for healing.
- Our internship is coming to an end. Pray that God can still use us these last two weeks, and pray that we stay focused on his work, rather than focusing too much on going back home.

Thank you so much for all the prayers you have had on our behalf this far. They really have made a difference.
Taylor playing "football"with the kids at the orphanage