Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Photo 2006

This is not your traditional Christmas pic, at least not mine. I thought it really typified the holidays in Congo: Me, a Chistmas Tree, and a fan. Classic.

Christmas in Congo

Well, apparently the holidays went pretty well for me considering I haven’t had a chance to blog for so long! Sorry to all of you who are waiting for emails from me…don’t take it personally, I’ve ignored all my friends, not just you! :o) I’m switching to the new blogger version, so hope it doesn’t throw any of us off too much.

Let’s see, where to begin…Guess I’ll tell you a bit about my holiday activities. It will come in several installments 'cause I've been busy...

On Saturday the 23rd we had a big party together at Dave and Teresa Bill’s house. The gathering was basically composed of SIL (Wycliffe) and CMA missionaries. Bet none of you were playing volleyball and badminton at your Christmas parties!
I basically ate food for 5 hours straight, keeping the great American tradition of putting on a few seasonal pounds. The best part about this is that Africans tell you if you’ve gotten fatter. I just smile and say “Yes, I know.” :o)
Anywho, we did a white elephant gift exchange and I got a Batman DVD out of the deal, so that was cool. The best part was that earlier in the day a med student from the States named Carol arrived and we’ve been partying together ever since. Today she’s on her way up to Impfondo to work in a mission hospital for a week.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Party time

Many of you have asked about my December 1st birthday here, a few assuming that it would be a sad day far away from home. Well, turns out, it was one of my best birthdays ever! I took the day off of work--it was on a Friday, so it turned into a nice 3-day weekend. I woke up to a dining room festively decorated by my flat mate Sabine. There was a gift on the table from Elizabeth, balloons hung around, a candle burning, and a gift certificate for a free dinner at the restaurant of my choice. What a lovely surprise!

My British colleague Gabrielle and I started off the day with pastries and espresso at "The Mandarin", a favorite restaurant just down the street. We stopped at the French Cultural Center to get the month’s program of events. Then we headed for the market where I bought some cute new shoes and Gabs shopped the used clothing section where we saw a lovely assortment of 80's American clothes. At one point Elizabeth called me from Nkayi and sang the happy birthday song, so I started dancing in the aisle and all the market ladies really liked it :o)

In the afternoon I took some cloth to my tailor to have a new outfit made. This is one of my favorite African activities, so I enjoyed that. I'll have to post a photo of the outfit 'cause it's my most classic African styled one yet. The Congolese men basically fall at my feet in adoration when I where it :o)

Last but certainly not least, I had a great party in the evening hosted by my dear colleagues. A big thanks to my teammate Byron who did most of the planning! We got schwarmas (kebab sandwiches) from the Lebanese restaurant down the street and several people brought salads and cakes. There were about 20 of us there, all SIL or CMA missionaries.

I made a haul in the gift department! My mom and sister had sent packages from the US (I’m still waiting for a few packages other people sent that haven’t gotten here yet!). I got seasons 1 and 2 of Arrested Development and DVDs of Babbet’s Feast and Elizabethtown, just to name a few. My favorite was getting photos of my niece and nephew and a note from Hiller—he’s learned to write since I’ve been here! Byron and Annette had “Supersize Me” sent here, so we watched it with the projector after dinner. No one else had seen it before and I think it made a big impression!

Overall, it was just a fun day and I felt very loved. Thank you to all who have sent me emails and notes!!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

This is not a joke

Oh my gosh, I am barely able to type this, I'm so excited! This is absolutely hilarious, my blogging friends. Oh man, this is good. OK, so there's this site with all these weird Congo t-shirts. Things like "I'd rather be in Congo" and "Happiness is being in Brazzaville." You can even get thong underwear with the Congolese flag on them! But this logo about made me wet my pants:

Can we say xmas presents anyone? :o) They mix in the Democratic Republic of Congo ones, though, so be careful of that.

Here's the link to the site (the rockstar shirt and some other good ones are on page 3). Search for your favorite country and I'm sure you'll find some gems:

OK, friends, I hope you are laughing as hard as I am right now. Phew, that was a good one.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Officially a Rock Star

Voilà, the long awaited concert report:

I did in fact sing in a concert on November 25th and it went very well!! I sent a prayer update just beforehand, worried about the fact that I got a cold and was all stuffed up and had a sore throat! And I was having people pray for weeks about me getting nervous because I was afraid of my voice being weak and wobbly. Well, the night of the concert I felt fine and I was totally relaxed! Praise the Lord! Thanks for praying!

The concert was held in a room we rented at the Russian Cultural Center. There were about 100 people in attendance, maybe 30 of whom were fellow expats. The musicians included the leader, Byas and 3 back up singers including myself, Brigitte, and William. Louz sang and played electric guitar. There were two drummers. Eric played bass guitar, Press played the acoustic lead, and Teddy was on piano. All these guys seem to have known each other forever and I think all are a part of the Evangelical Church of Congo, many of them having parents who are pastors or evangelists. They’ve all been doing music since they were little, some having received formal music education as well.

Anybody have advice about how to post a video to my blog?

I had a lot of fun performing. It felt a little weird being all dressed up à la congolaise and trying to move to their rhythms, at the same time wanting to look at ease and trying to be myself. The musicians were obviously taking great pleasure in the event, which was fun for me to be a part of. My solos went reasonably well and I managed to spit out all the words to all the songs that were in languages I don’t even understand.

Life after the concert has been a little disappointing. As soon as it was over I just went home and basically went straight to bed. I haven’t hardly heard from anyone in the group since then. After having so many rehearsals together, always having some place to go and getting a lot of interaction with these new friends, I’m feeling somewhat abandoned. And now it’s looking like I’ll be traveling a lot this spring and going home for the summer, so we may not get another opportunity to work together in the coming year!

My life as a rock star was short lived.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Swiss Husband saga continues...

Wasn't I surprised this morning to read our branch newsletter (sent to around 50 members) and find this amazing advertisement for my Swiss man! Our personnel advisor Katherine is hilarious and I always enjoy her newsletters, but this was the ultimate. She also happens to be an American married to a Swiss, so maybe the subject was just so near and dear to her heart that she couldn't resist.

As CAG's P.A., I certainly do care.
In need of forms, counsel or prayer? I'm there!
It came to my attention, what I'll now share.
This is serious. Scout's honor. I swear.

To serve in Africa, it was first nécessaire
For our dear Jessica to learn French, in a land bright and fair.
The cheese and chocolate made her heart sing.
But she was simply taken with the yodeling. :-)

French study complete, Jess was Africa bound.
But oh, so hard it was to leave this oasis she'd found.
She thought and thought - and finally - a plan...
To remain linked to Switzerland, marry a Swiss man!

Here are the criteria for this lucky bloke:
Christian. German-speaking. Alp horn player. (No joke.)
Desire to live in Africa is also key;
For the other qualifications, you can email me.

Attached is a photo to send to your friends.
If we all work together, maybe by year's end,
Our dear Jessica will have found her mate.
And CAG can help plan the wedding - July 4, 2008.

My request ends here - I've got to take flight.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. :-)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Random Cat Pics

 Self portrait with Freckie. I love my cat.
 Look at this furball. She's just so scrumptious. I just watched March of the Penguins and we decided she looks like a fuzzy little baby penguin, which is funny 'cause I remember my sister and I thinking her cat looked like a seagull. Go figure. Posted by Picasa


 I celebrated Thanksgiving last week with my teammates Byron and Annette and colleagues Elizabeth and Gabrielle.
 Thanks to Elizabeth's family's visit in September, we actually had canned pumpkind, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and decorations! All we lacked was the turkey, but I made some very tasty chicken if I do say so myself!
 This looks pretty traditional don't you think?! It was amazing to pull it off in Congo! The holiday felt rather artificial, though, since everyone else was at work and it was hot outside.
 British Gabrielle and Swiss Sabine said it was the best pumpkin pie they'd ever had! I thought it was very pretty. We even got some whipping cream at the supermarket! Posted by Picasa
 Yum yum!
 Afterwards we were delighted to have Gabs read Winnie-the-Pooh to us. There's no way I can describe to you how delightful her British accent is and how well she does all the voices of the animals. Too cute and hilariously funny!
 This picture tells me it was a proper Thanksgiving gorging :o) I told Gabs that one of the traditions is to overeat, and I think we were faithful to uphold our wonderful American culture. I was thankful for friends to celebrate with and for great food. The only time that I was really sad about missing the celebration at home was when I called my family (at 5am my time!) and they were all talking about my baby niece Everly. I forgot how much a baby changes family gatherings! So I was sad to miss that, but otherwise it was a good day. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 24, 2006

It's rough being a rockstar

I'm gearing up for my concert tomorrow night! Please pray that I won't be sick! I'm all snuffly and tired :o(

We had our last rehearsal last night. It was in a recording studio where we're renting our instruments and microphones and everything from. I had an identity crisis. It's already weird enough to live in Africa and to be the only white person in this group and to sit there while they speak languages I don't understand and to be wearing African clothes. But then you add the element of being a singer in a music group rehearsing with microphones in a studio and it gets to be too weird! I'm like "Who am I?" "How did I get here?!!" It was a blast, but at the same time it felt kind of lonely. It's just such an obscure part of me, yet it's the only part of me those people know. Living overseas definitely puts you in positions you never imagined yourself in and brings out sides of you nobody knew existed.

OK, I'm going to go lay down for my second 2 hour nap today and try to sleep off this cold!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hike to Bachtel

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 During my visit with my colleagues the Phillips family in Switzerland, we hiked up Mount Bachtel.
 Chantal, the cutest Swiss Miss ever :o)
 My German friend Andrea who I knew during my time in French school last year came to visit me, which was great fun.
 The view from this tower was fabulous Posted by Picasa
 I'm sure no one has ever had so much fun on this toy as we did that day.
 ...even if we didn't even fit into it! Don't worry, I was able to extract myself before the fire department got called in :o)
 Yeah, it's pretty much the coolest toy I've ever seen. We were laughing so hard and got really dizzy...I'm sure we caused quite the scene. My friend Andrea and I have a tendancy to do that when we get together! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My Life as a Rock Star

Tonight was hilarious. In my search for a way to get the word out about the concert I’m singing in next weekend, I stumbled upon the “American Corner” at the UN, which happens to be one block from my house. Apparently every Thursday night about 200 aspiring English speakers gather for a talk given by mildly important people, such as tonight’s jazz singer guest. I was allowed to get up in front of everyone and give an announcement. I thought this was really nice of them since my concert really has nothing to do with the American Embassy, except for the fact that I’m American.

Anywho, I get up there and charm them with my little speech about how I’ll be singing with some Congolese musicians. It won’t be in English but I’ll be singing in French, Lingala, and Laari. The monitor guy (a Congolese) was like “So you speak Lingala?” He had some little kid come up and told him to ask me a question. Thankfully (!!!) I understood it and answered correctly. Phew!

But then he was like “And you speak Laari too?” “No, I only sing it.” “Oh! OK, sing us something.” Yikes! I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to sing an entire refrain acappella in a language I don’t speak in front of 200 people! And it actually sounded good! This was a lot of fun and they totally freaked out about it. I’m super encouraged ‘cause I’ve been super afraid of what my solos will sound like the night of the concert because my voice gets really weak when I’m nervous. But if I can pull that gig off tonight, the concert should be no problem :o)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Photos from Chasseral

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Midnight Climb

My friend Lionel has fun ideas. By "fun" I mean ideas for adventures which no one in their right mind would take him up on. Luckily for him, I live in the Congo, so I'm obviously not in my right mind and I'm always up for a new adventure.

His idea for a fun adventure during my stay in Switzerland was to climb Chasseral, the highest peak in the Jura Mountains of Western Switzerland. This in itself isn’t a very shocking thought. It’s fairly simple day hike. The real goal was not the climb itself…it was to see the sunrise from Chasseral! The plan: Leave as soon as he got off work at 11pm on Saturday night, take the bikes to the funiculaire at Chaumont (tram that takes you up the side of a mountain) for the last trip of the night, ride the bikes for a number of miles to the base of Chasseral (think dark road through the woods, across pastures, down rocky hills, etc.), climb Chasseral, arrive at the peak around 3am, get a few hours of sleep, be up in time to see the sunrise, book it on down the mountain, pick up the bikes, ride like the wind all the way back home in time for the harvest festival Sunday morning at church. Yeehaw!

When we took off on the bikes I was winded after about 5 pedals. Bikes to me is something kids ride around the block. This was perhaps an over ambitious first cycling trip, but I survived. My butt hurt though.

The climb was not so bad either. It wasn’t even cold! Plus Lionel was carrying almost all the stuff :o) The only crisis of faith was when we started talking about how much we love cereal. We almost had to turn around just to go get a bowl. But we pressed on. We tried turning off our headlamps to see how it would go. After a few steps we turned them back on and were shocked to find we were already off the trail!

We arrived at the top earlier than anticipated and set up camp in a charming little carport :o) I don’t think I’ve ever had as good of tea as was in our thermos that night. We chowed down on apples, bread, and cheese and zipped up our sleeping bags as cozy as we could. One hour later… “Are you cold?” “Yesssss!” Out came the giant refrigerator size plastic bags which instantly blocked the chilling wind out of our beds.

Got up in the morning and it was FREEZING cold! This was the only point when my attitude may have faltered a bit. Staying positive was my #1 goal for the trek. Making it to the top alive was only secondary. I bundled up as best I could and sat down on the hillside. “Are you sure this is east? Where is the sun? Why is it already light out?” Yeah, who knows why, but for some reason we never saw the sun that morning. Too many clouds I guess. Disappointment!

Making it down the mtn was fine. Until we reached the bikes. For anyone out there who is as ignorant as I am about cycling I do not recommend, I repeat DO NOT recommend riding downhill on gravel roads. These were my thoughts: “This is the most miserable experience of my life. I’m getting the snot beat out of me.” At this moment I hit a large hole and the snot literally did fly out of my nose. This was too much. Lionel, speedster that he is, was long gone. But I had to press on. And I did.

We did make it back to Neuchatel. I’m sure I looked 100% ridiculous zooming down the streets with Lionel in front of me carrying ALL of the stuff, even my little backpack. He looked the part. I looked...ridiculous. But again we did make it back. All of 15 minutes before the harvest service. I’m sure that was the fastest recovery anyone ever made from such a trek. Moments later I was back on the bike and then sauntering into church looking as lovely as ever.
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