Wednesday, March 22, 2006

About a week ago I hosted a smoothie party at my place. Smoothies are fun in Congo because of all the nice tropical fruit! FYI, passion fruit juice has an amazing amount of flavor! (If you have the patience to strain out all the seeds!)

Everyone filled their cups with fruit from the dining room table and then took them into the kitchen to blend it with yogurt, honey, and juice.

The smoothies were highly enjoyable! This is the SIL Congo country director's wife, Cami, in my living room.

Transported by a Tune

It’s amazing the emotions a song can evoke. I was sitting in this great café, The Exotic Palace, here in Brazzaville this morning, enjoying the air-conditioning, eyeing the case of baked delicacies, and marveling at the size of the pot of coffee placed before me, when the sound of James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” started playing. It struck my spirit with tender force, practically bringing me to tears.

My introduction to this song was driving along the highway at night with my sister and her son after just getting back from 8 months in Switzerland. The song came on and my sister instinctively turned up the volume. My heart was pierced as my 4-year-old nephew’s sweet voice from the back seat chimed in on the chorus “You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful. It’s true.” He knows most of the other words too, but I haven’t heard it that many times to be able to remember them. James Blunt is one of those amazing singers, though, who makes a song carry strong feelings of sentimentality even if it’s the first time you’ve heard it. So between this innate nostalgia and the memory this brought to mind, I was very touched today in that great café here in Brazzaville, Congo of all places.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Muddy Tale

I’m feeling the need to write something tonight. Haven’t done enough writing since I got here in Africa. Well, I did write 5 songs last week, so I’m getting out my creative energy, but I haven’t recorded enough about my experiences and observations. It’s important to write those things down because with each passing day everything that’s different here is becoming commonplace and pretty soon I won’t even notice it anymore.

On Thursday I had an interesting excursion. My German friend Lydia wanted to go to my tailor and she is a very busy person so we went as scheduled even though it had been raining for quite some time. Our African colleague Lidi tried to tell us that there would be a lot of mud, but we just put on our plastic sandals and said Oh, that won’t bother us. When we arrived in Lidi’s neighborhood we got out of the taxi and saw that the road would be difficult to traverse. Locals were carefully picking their way through the soggy mess. We decided to take a back road which ended up being worse than if we’d just gone straight there. We found ourselves zigzagging across the flooded areas, trying to find solid ground wherever we could. Somehow Lidi managed to not get a speck on her. Meanwhile I had the first-time experience of having my shoes suction to the ground. I kept having to slip out of them and dig them out because I couldn’t pull up on them with my feet!

For me this was just a funny little adventure. I haven’t really reflected on what those living conditions would be like. Some people’s houses were flooded all around the outside. I’m not even sure how they were getting in and out. It wasn’t raining at the time we were walking, so lots of people were milling around outside. It couldn’t be healthy or sanitary. The mud was accented with all the garbage around, creating a sort of chunky sludge. That’s one thing I’m sure I’ll stop noticing soon—the trash that decorates all the streets. Plastic bags are plentiful. Empty bottles and cartons are everywhere. It’s not uncommon to see a lone sandal melded into the dirt. I saw a man raking the street the other day and noted the irony that the leaves were more attention than the litter that is strewn all about.

One thing that has been a suprise is that I feel quite safe here. My biggest fear is falling off the road...All the streets are lined with ditches where the abundant rain can flow. They're generally full of garbage and nasty standing water. It would not be hard to fall into one, but it would make for a very grumpy day! But hey, if falling in a ditch is the biggest threat, I think I'm doing pretty well.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Just wanted to post a new pic for my blogger profile

Here's a praying mantis that hung out in my bathroom for a day.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it! For the first 5 weeks I was in Africa my ears were plugged up. No, not from the plane ride--from just plain earwax. Gross I know. But check out the cool remedies I got to try! This is an "ear candle." You can buy them at health food stores. It didn't work for me, though. I finally had a doctor wash out my ears and then I was shocked at how loud everything was! The birds and bugs were amazing!

This is some fish and plantains I ate at a hotel in Cameroon. Just thought you'd like to know. It was good.

This is the cat who lives in my appartment. His name is Fiver. Don't be tricked by his cuteness. He's really the devil. Luckily he's moving out in a couple of months. I'm sure I'll miss him then because he provides a lot of entertainment, but...see next photo.

These are the sorts of things the cat does every day. This was yesterday. Today he bit through the cord of my headphones. I'm a little grumpy about it.

Friday, March 10, 2006

One of the coolest things I did on my trip to Cameroon was go canoeing through the rain forest. We checked out 2 canoes owned by the international school and set off for a few hours down the river and back, stopping for a picnic along the way.

It was absolutely beautiful.

Slash and burn?

During my trip to Cameroon 2 of my colleagues (a Swiss and an American) got married. Katherine, the bride, asked me to take pictures while she got ready in the morning. It was fascinating to watch the hairdresser quickly braid up her hair and then proceed to sow on other hair! She looked fab.

I would describe it as an "African flavored American wedding." They did all the normal American stuff, but it was spiced up with the clapping, yelling, and dancing of the Cameroonians.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Back in the Land of the Blogging

Greetings, Oh Patient Ones!

Sorry, I went to Cameroon for 3 weeks and didn't use the Internet while I was there. But I'm back in Brazza and will be your faithful Blogger once again. I'm trying to post some pics, but I'm getting some error messages, so we'll see.

It's nice to have another African country to compare Congo to. Boy am I glad I live here! The people are so much more laid back, the traffic isn't as crazy, and it's just generally better. I don't know, something about getting marriage proposals every time I went to the market just really turned me off of Yaounde :o)

Here's some of my colleagues who work in Central Africa. They are Swiss, German, Canadian, and American. Many of us are wearing the "wedding pagne," the cloth Katherine picked out for the guests to wear.

After the wedding we of course partied with lots of African food and dancing. It was fun!