Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas in Congo Pics

Here are some photos of my Christmas festivities in Congo this year. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Congo's health care system

Here's a recent article about the disastrous state of health care here in Congo-Brazzaville. This is why you're praying I don't get sick :o) Pray for my friends. I know people who have recently been in the hospitals mentioned in this article. I've been in the hospitals and can assure you, it's as bad as this article says.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Money may not grow on trees...but mangoes do!

Waiting for choir practice to start tonight, I was sitting at the church looking out into the courtyard when a huge wind blew up. Mangoes started falling out of the massive tree in the middle of the yard and several people scurried around to pick them up, pleased with their find. It was cute.

I got home after choir rehearsal and heard a rustling above my head as I walked up our driveway. A mango came crashing through the branches of the tree and fell a few feet from me. "Oh, a mango!" I picked it up, took it home, cut it up, and ate it. It was yummy.

My new treat is buying a mango already cut up at the bus stop. They put it in a bag with some salt and I eat it piece by piece on the way home. I enjoy throwing the peel out the window and I think the other passengers enjoy watching the white lady savoring her tasty mango-to-go.

We always talk about Adam and Eve eating the "apple" but I think if it was so tempting it must have been a mango :o)

Monday, December 10, 2007

My Cat Monkey Biz

Here are some photos of the kutest kat in kongo
We had a blast singing at the French Cultural Center again Saturday night. With each concert, our friends seem to open up more and more (or maybe we're the ones getting more and more comfortable). Theresa and I have a little expression..."Once you go black, you never go back." :o)

Today we saw my good friend Louz and he said "Theresa, you really danced good at the concert!" And he kept going on about it while I just stood there, so I said "Hey! I'm jealous!" He looked at me and was like "What? You're already Congolese. She's still white." So then I was happy :o)


Here are my Thanksgiving pics...finally (thank you, Poopernet)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Birthday Bash in Brazza

Birthdays in Brazzaville are a great thing, at least judging by the last 2 years. I decided to carry on a couple of traditions from last year, so first thing Saturday morning I went down to the Mandarine for espresso and pastries with Theresa, Dana, and Heather. Then we headed to Total market to shop for shoes and clothes (we normally buy groceries there and don’t ever take time to look around and see what else there is). This year I found a nice skirt and a really cute dress in the “friperie” (Congolese equivalent of Goodwill).

Before noon Theresa and I needed to head back home to get ready for our concert. We spent all afternoon waiting for the concert to start—it was even later than normal since it poured down rain for half an hour. But it was great fun hanging around with our choir friends, especially since we were in a silly mood for my birthday. The concert was an AIDS awareness event promoting the fact that to get tested for HIV/AIDS is free and everyone should get it done. December 1st is International AIDS Awareness Day, or something like that.

Several different groups performed. Our presentation was pretty disappointing. I didn’t feel prepared at all and unfortunately I had 2 solos! The first one I totally botched and sang in the wrong pitch. The next two soloists’ microphones weren’t working and then I did my second solo which went OK. I spent the rest of the performance wishing I weren’t on stage and wondering how I was ever going to show my face in public again after all my friends had just witnessed my idiocy. Fortunately some people didn’t even notice and those who did were gracious. The choir still really wanted me to sing with them at a church service the next morning, so I guess life goes on.

After the concert it was time to party at Dana and Heather’s place. My friends are so cool and they planned a big get together for me. Lydia brought her amazing sauerkraut which she had started making on Thursday. Barb brought her tasty salsa and Theresa made an adorable cake (in the morning she’d even given me a miniature one with a candle!). D and H provided drinks, bread, mashed potatoes, etc, not to mention letting us completely trash their house! My friends Geritte and Espérance were there, along with Marvin, a friend of Espé’s. My friend Patricia from Kenya came and one of our Congolese colleagues Kevin was there too. It was an interesting blend of friends, but it came together really nice! Oh, Monkey Business was there too.

I shared from Isaiah 35, my chapter for the year and we ate some snacks. Then it was time for the real food and then some German techno music! Getting this group of random people to dance together was a trick, but then Espé suggested we choreograph a dance and it was awesome! Wish I could show you the video! Of course the neighbors wondered what was going on up there :o) We ate the cake and I got lots of gifts, which was so nice of my friends, but I’m still waiting for my packages from home to get here.

The party was a great success, so I felt better after my singing fiasco, and overall it was a really full day with lots of good memories.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Monkey B comes for a visit

Yesterday I went to visit Monkey Business and informed the store keeper that I'd like to take him home on Saturday since it's my birthday. As I was playing with him, the guy was like "Why don't you just take him now?" Sucker for cute animals that I am, I did take him home with me, but only for an hourlong visit during which he got stuck behind the oven, got acquainted with the dog, and fell asleep on my lap.

Yes, I know I have the most ridiculously cute kitten ever. I was surprised and happy that, scared though he was, he drank some milk out of a saucer. Classic.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

First Concert with Karisma

Hey! My roomie and I sang in our first Karisma Gospel choir concert--2 concerts in fact! On Sunday we sang at an outdoor venue, dressed like beautiful Congolese women. Then tonight we sang at the French Cultural Center. We placed second in the gospel section of a jazz competition. I'll see about posting video sometime, although I doubt our connection will allow me to upload such a thing. We'll see. Anywho, it was tons of fun. We love getting to be friends with the other singers and performing with such a popular group is a thrill.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Meet my friends

Having Congolese friends has been one of my biggest goals, but it's also one of my biggest challenges. First it's hard to find the ones with whom you have a lot in common. Then you have to find ways of building up the relationship and you have to learn to communicate in their language and in each other's ways of expressing friendship. Some things are universal, but other things are not, or are at least expressed differently.

I have to choose to not be offended when people ask me for things or when they show up late, because I know that they are not being rude, they're just acting in ways that are normal for them. Sometimes I wonder how many ways I'm seeming rude to them too and don't realize it because I'm just doing what's normal for me as an American. For example, I don't often think to ask about their families or about their health, which are basic ways of being polite and expressing friendship here. When I think of how much grace and patience it takes for us to navigate a cross-cultural relationship, I'm amazed that I have so many friends here! Thanks God! Please help us!

This is Geritte and Esperance. They are 2 of my favorite friends. We laugh a lot together and have good discussions about God and our spiritual lives. We all enjoy music and singing and learning new languages.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Meet the new love of my life

I'm back in Congo but sadly I don't have a cat anymore. My cat from last year, Frecky, was only on loan and her family is back in the country to take care of her now.

Yesterday I went to the Mauritanian mini mart across the street and saw that they had a pretty decent looking orange cat. Cats around here tend to look pretty mangy, so when you see a nice one it's of note. I told the young clerk that he should tell me if ever his cat has kittens. "She has kittens!" he exclaimed. "Where? At home?" "No, here." "Really?! Where?!" "Behind the notebooks." Sure enough, on a shelf behind the notebooks the kittens were snuggled away.

I went to see them again today and informed the clerk that when they are 6 weeks old I will take a boy cat. I think they're about one week at this point. I'll be lucky if they hold on to them until 6 weeks; I'm sure by 4 they'll be wanting to get rid of them, but that's not really old enough in my opinion.

Anyways, this is Monkey Business, hopefully my future cat. Depends on if he's really a boy or if he turns out to be a girl--kinda hard to tell when they're so small and furry :o) We hope he will be friendly and affectionate. He's already got the cute factor going for him.
This is my new roommate Theresa from Germany with our cat, Monkey Business.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Internet is not my friend

I take back anything good I ever said about our connection here. I've been trying to send my newsletter all week and it won't leave my outbox! I'll load a webpage and by the time I click on something else I've already lost the connection. OK, just venting and letting ya'll know why you never hear from me. Well, that's partly why...the other part is I haven't figured out where emailing fits into my schedule yet. Sorry! I'll talk to you someday...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Uncle Bob 1937-2007

My uncle Bob died Sunday after a courageous battle with cancer. My mom was able to be with him and her sister Jo for the past week. I’ve been praying for them here in Congo, so he was covered with transcontinental prayers :o) I will remember Bob for his kindness to children and his devotion to his wife. We had a good visit with them this summer while he was still feeling well and even got to celebrate his 70th birthday with him. We will always remember that as a special time. Let’s pray for my aunt Jo during this time of immense loss, that she will be comforted in her grief and be able to make a new start. I love you, Jo and Bob!!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

some summer pics

Hey! I'm pretty pleased with how well the Internet has been working on our center since I came back. I'm sitting in my apartment using the wireless connection. It's not fast or really that consistent, but hey, look at all the photos I'm uploading!

This is an album of photos from August when I went to Sacramento and Dallas and celebrated Everly's 1st birthday. Enjoy

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A few new pics of Congo

From left to right: Heather my new teammate, John James BBC journalist, Me, Mike who is doing a construction project on our center, Dana my other new teammate, Theresa my new flat mate.

This is where I go running in the morning, down by the Congo River, looking across to Kinshasa. Some miracle has occurred and I actually get up early in the morning to exercise :o) People yell to me "C'est bon le sport!" "It's good to do sports!"

We saw these crazy long horned cows on our way out to swim at Papa Gabriel's on Saturday (a favorite place to spend the day outside of Brazza). They were herded by some muslim men. I think it was the first time I've seen a cow in Congo (besides the one laying on the butcher's table at the market, of course)

As usual, the scenery on the drive to and from Papa Gabriel's (along the north road out of Brazza) was beautiful. It's a nice contrast to the concrete jungle that I live in.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Greetings from Brazzaville

Hey everybody! Just a little note to let you know...I'm here! Haven't been doing much emailing the past couple weeks, so it may seem like I've fallen off the planet. Nope, but I am in Congo!

It's been really good to be back. I'm so thankful for the joy that God has given me in being here. Thanks to all who prayed for my bags--they arrived on time with me and I didn't even have to go through customs!

I had moved out of my apartment and put all my stuff in storage. I'm back in the same room now, trying to get settled in again. My stuff got pretty musty/moldy, so that's been a challenge airing everything out and doing a lot of laundry. I can't fully move in because I ordered new furniture for the living room and it's not here yet. When I get all set up I'll be sure and post a few pics for you.

One development is that I'm sharing my apartment with a new person. Theresa is 19 and from Germany. She's here to tutor one of the missionary kids. She is full of life and is a lot of fun to be around. She's planning on joining a gospel choir with me and is ready for a lot of new experiences.

I also have 2 new teammates, Dana and Heather, who just arrived about a month ago. They're getting oriented and are enjoying themselves. We went to the market today, and 3 young white women together seems to make quite the impression ("Hey, look at the white people!!!"), so being a team here should be interesting.

Alright, I better post this before I lose my Internet connection. Have a good day!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

more Facebook photos

A few pics from the last month

More pictures of Congo on Facebook

Ouesso trip with Mom

First 2 months in Ouesso

Off to the land I love...

Hey I'm in the Portland airport! In about 40 hours I'll be in the Brazzaville airport! :o)

"We are tragically uncool compared to these people." --Matt Gerber, said while watching a video of my Congolese musician friends

Friday, September 28, 2007

Amber's wedding pics

Here are some more pics on Facebook...

Amber's Wedding

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Urgent: cheap digital cameras needed

Hi! Yes, I'm due for a real blog post, but first I have a question...

Anybody out there got a used digital camera to sell? I'm looking for 2 cameras at about $40 each to purchase on behalf of 2 Congolese colleagues. Let me know asap if you do 'cause I leave in just 2 weeks!


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Living and loving the African life

People ask me all the time if living in Africa is hard. It does have its downsides, most notably the fact that it’s located thousands of miles from my family. The public restrooms are atrocious, and I’m not free to express myself in my mother tongue. Other than that, it’s really not too hard to live there. In fact, I feel that living in Africa facilitates a lot of good things in my life. Here are a few that come to mind:

1) I have easier access to solitude. Because I have a limited network of relationships and because not much happens after 9pm there and because I have my own place and because I don’t have a television, I seem to find more evenings to spend in prayer or doing a creative endeavor or just reading.

2) I am more generous. The Congolese obligate generosity. There are just so many needs and they tell you about them and ask for your help. To be a real friend you have to be giving.

3) I am less of a consumer/garbage generator. There’s just not a whole lot to buy. Things don’t come with as much packaging. I don’t get junk mail. I can give stuff away that I don’t need anymore, including empty jars or plastic bottles.

4) I am constantly improving myself. You just can’t get away with a lot of junk in your life; it comes out ugly under the stress. I am always surrounded by seasoned missionaries who voluntarily mentor me and help me grow. The challenges that I face force me to become a better person.

So yeah, it can be hard. But I wouldn’t trade the benefits for anything. I’m happy to be going back in 4 weeks. In spite of the distance. And the toilets.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Saturday, September 01, 2007

My Congolese Self in America: #2 Church

OK, it must be time to talk about Congo some more. Unfortunately my biggest disappointment in coming back to the States has been church. I just haven’t found the fellowship and worship I was looking forward to. The first Wednesday I was home I went to the evening service at my home church and didn’t know anyone! I went back to the youth group and didn’t know anyone there either! So I ended up leaving early simply because I didn’t have anyone to sit next to. So where does Congo enter in? Well, I’ve been shocked at how many services and different churches I can go to without ever being introduced! (Although there have been exceptions!) I was so used to Congo where when a person comes back from a trip or when a minister visits from out of town, they get a minute to give a report or they are at least greeted from the pulpit. It’s a really big deal for Congolese and I’m used to getting acknowledged quite a bit in church over there. On the other hand, there’s something nice about being able to go to church here and NOT be noticed! :o)

It’s also odd going to church here because it doesn’t feel natural to me anymore. I’ve been to a lot of different churches this summer, but everywhere I see all the cultural traditions we have, rather than just joining in like I used to. I feel like more of an observer than a participant in our huge concert-like services. I notice how nice our buildings are and what elaborate sound systems we have. This is disappointing because I was looking forward to being back home where I wouldn’t have to be distracted by cultural issues in church!

I hesitate to write this entry because I really love a lot of churches here and believe they are doing just what God has called them to. I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing the American church. I’m not, I’m just saying how I see it through my Congolese eyes. I think this is a pretty common experience for missionaries who come home.

I guess if I were really Congolese I’d have a few other things to say—like “People! Get up and move when you sing!” :o) The Congolese would love to hear our beautiful worship songs, but ultimately I think they’d prefer their own music. If I were Congolese I think I’d be very jealous of all the wealth that the church here enjoys and I’d probably ask if they could spare something for the church in Africa! All of the churches I’ve visited are VERY giving, yet I don’t think a Congolese would see that when it’s obvious that those churches still enjoy a great amount of money for themselves. Our wealth and living standards are just so foreign to them.

So I’m left with knowing that even if no single service or church building is going to completely make me feel at home, I’m on the road to my heavenly home and I can get a taste of it no matter where I am when I’m in Jesus’ presence and with His people.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Joys of Roadtripping

Cathie Jo having way too much fun.
My impersonation of Cathie Jo

Hiller depicting just how hungry we were for In 'n Out Burger

At last!!

Cutest baby In 'n Out's ever seen

Off to Texas

Howdy from PDX. I'm off to Dallas this afternoon with my dear friend Cortney. Came back Monday night from a roadtrip to Sacramento with my mom, sister and sister's kids. Pics to come, my battery is going to die.

PS: Best quote from the roadtrip: Oh no! We forgot the dictionary. How are we going to understand what Mom is saying?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

My Congolese Self in America: #1 Transport, Time, Etc.

So people keep asking me questions like “So has anything changed since you came back?” “What’s it like to be home after living in Congo?” Some days I think that nothing has changed at all (after all, it was only a year and a half that I was gone) and other days I feel like I’m on a foreign planet. It’s my perception of things that has changed more than any real change here in Oregon. I want to write about it and describe what I see to you, but I think I’ll have to do it in several installments. Here’s installment #1. Pardon me if I ramble.

It’s funny the things you notice when you come home from a country like Congo. You notice things you never noticed before. Our neighborhood streets are REALLY wide. And they’re paved! Having a car gives you a lot of freedom, which makes life a lot more complicated because there are so many people you can zip over to see and so many things you can zip around to do. In Brazzaville the bus only stops at so many locations, you know? But we still never seem to be able to get where we’re going fast enough. In America being in a hurry and being busy are quite virtuous.

I’ve found that I have a bit more of a cushion of time now. A few minutes doesn’t make a difference to me anymore, so sitting a little longer in traffic or being stuck behind a slow truck doesn’t stress me. Being 10 minutes late is no big deal at all, whether I’m the one who is late (which I usually am) or whether I’m the one waiting for someone else. It stresses me out that for people around me those things are big deals. I’m like, How can you expect someone to be on time right down to the minute? In Congo you make appointments by the hour. If you arrive at 10:59, it’s still 10 o’clock!

I wear a button on my purse that says “I (heart) Congo.” I think it gives me a sense of identity and unity within myself. Like I can drive around this frenetic town and still be the girl who lives in Congo. When I feel like I come from a different planet, I can just point to the pin and be like, “Yeah, I know I’m weird; I just got home from Congo,” and that seems to make sense to me and everybody else.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Wedding of the Century

A blog about Amber’s 7/7/07 wedding is long overdue! The word to capture the essence of this wedding event is “extravagant.” I doubt if any of the Oregonians present had ever seen anything like it! We relished every moment. It was held at the Resort at the Mountain at Mount Hood in Welches, OR. It was a full 4 days, so I’ll just mention the highlights. Hopefully the photos and my words can do it some sort of justice. I'll post more photos later too.

The bridal party kicked off the weekend on Thursday with a white water rafting trip. Tremendously fun, or “double super gnar gnar” as our rafting guide put it. Yes, everyone thought we were absolutely insane to attempt such a feat just days before the sacred ceremony, but we managed to sustain only very minor injuries.

Thursday night was the rehearsal, followed by a formal dinner overlooking the golf course. Amber presented each of the bridesmaids with a heart necklace from Tiffany’s to wear in the wedding. Amber’s been my friend for 20 years, so I’m thrilled to have this little token that I’ll still be wearing 20 years from now to remember her special day and our dear friendship by.

Friday more of the guests arrived, including my parents, and we had a buffet dinner. In the afternoon we got manicures and pedicures. My person said I had African feet :o) My toes are the darkest part of me!

Saturday we began our beauty treatments bright and early, including professionally done hair and makeup. Not sure any of us have ever looked that good before! Amber was resplendent. It was her best day!
The weather fully cooperated for the outdoor ceremony. One might think that having a whole wedding weekend might detract from the focal point of the ceremony, but not so. It was delightfully done. Our former band director’s husband officiated and he did a great job. It was special to hear him read what Amber and Glenn had written about why they wanted to marry each other. I read a poem called “Indian Wedding Blessing,” the last line of which Amber and Glenn had engraved on their rings: The adventure has just begun. I was thrilled they liked the reading so much!

After the ceremony we had a cocktail hour while the family took pictures with the happy couple. Then the party began. The reception was in a tent which had been transformed into one of the prettiest rooms I’ve ever seen. The food was great, but the highlight was the music and dancing. A FABULOUS band from Portland played, and they were so good you had to see if it was them or a CD playing. The DJ apparently spins for Phil Knight’s (CEO Nike’s) personal parties. Both the band and the DJ played very danceable music like jazz and funk and oldies. All I can say is “wow”!!! SO MUCH FUN!!!!

Sunday morning we closed the event with a buffet brunch. Never seen such a breakfast spread! Have you ever eaten chocolate mousse in the morning? Highly recommended. So that’s about it. It was great to get together with old friends, get all dressed up, and celebrate with Amber and Glenn. I can’t think of a better way to begin a life together. May God bless your union forever!!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Napoleon Sighting

Sweet! I finally feel justified in my claim to fame as coming from the same home town and high school as Jon Heder (aka Napoleon Dynamite). My sister, nephew, neice and I were driving to the Salem Art Fair. As we passed my old high school I noticed 4 cool looking dudes walking down the street with cameras around their necks. I said, "Hey, one of those guys looked like Napoleon Dynamite!" We couldn't find parking so we came back around the block and drove right by the men again. Cathie Jo was like, "Get a good look this time!" She slowed slightly and as I stared out the window, Nappy D himself turned and looked at me. It was a beautiful moment. I have no idea why, but we were very excited about it the rest of the day. Yeah, I know I'm cool.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Mindy's wedding

I'm so glad I was able to be back for my friend Mindy's wedding! It was a delight to be with her on her special day. I'm so happy for Mindy and Lucas--they both waited for God to bring them the right person and purity is a beautiful thing.

I love the blue of the dresses, but this pic already looks outdated to me 'cause I have new glasses! Yeah, when I finally get a new camera (going on 7 months since mine broke) I'll let ya see what they look like. Maybe I'll go for laser surgery next furlough, but for now I'm enjoying my new look.

While Mindy and Lucas went off on their honeymoon, a bunch of us had a blast at a reunion of old church friends. Watch out for the beave!

Home Again Jiggedy Jig

Greetings from beautiful Oregon!

Time has flown by these past 2 weeks in the States. I was the Maid of Honor in a wedding 5 days after I got home, and I'll be a bridesmaid in another wedding this coming weekend, so that has kept be quite busy, but it's been a great opportunity to see lots of old friends.

I was greeted at the airport by my family and friend Carrie, complete with big posters and balloons. It was great.

I'll have to start blogging about all the things I've noticed since coming back before they become commonplace again. I was commenting to my mom today about how ridiculous our very wide paved roads seem to me now. It's awesome being able to drink tap water again. I pretty much only want to listen to Congolese music. I miss the solitude/alone time that I had in Africa, which is funny 'cause that was one of the things that was hardest for me to get used to there. Shopping is pure bliss here.

More later.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


I'm off today for a branch conference. We'll be out at a retreat center until Monday the 11th, so I will be without Internet access until then. I didn't get around to sending out a prayer update, but if you think of me, please be in prayer for this week of important business meetings and for the 3 days of spiritual retreat at the end. I am in charge of planning and coordinating the fun activities for the week, so you can pray that what I have worked on will truly be fun, helping a lot of stressed people to relax and bringing us closer together as a group.

When I return I will have just a week left in Congo to pack up my stuff, tie up all the loose ends, and say my goodbyes before I arrive in Portland on the 18th.

What Congo Has Taught Me #3

People are not interruptions. If you’re working away and someone comes along to talk to you, how to you respond? For an African, this person is more important than the work they were doing. Moreover, the fact that this person crossed your path means that they are God’s will for you in that moment!

I am learning that my relationships with people are actually my most important work here. Even more importantly, I’m realizing that my interactions with people are almost the only thing that counts in God’s eyes. Without those same people who “interrupt” me, it’s impossible to practice love, which is the most important commandment and the only way of making God real amongst us.

In the West we isolate ourselves. We build castles and put hedges around those castles and we close ourselves up inside. If we want to see someone, we let down the drawbridge and extend an invitation. This is known as hospitality.

In Congo you don’t close your door. Anyone could walk through at any moment. A surprise visitor will be offered whatever is available; if you have enough for one, you have enough for two. There’s always time or food or a bed. This is African hospitality.

I have a long way to go before I will value people the way they should be valued.

Friday, June 01, 2007

What Congo Has Taught Me #2

There’s no need to be self-conscious about expressing yourself. I love the way Africans seem able to just sing and dance at just about any old time, whether or not anyone else is participating. You can walk down the street singing at the top of your voice. If you’re talking to someone and a song comes to mind, just sing it out! If you are happy, why not do a little dance?

I think I’m making some progress in this area, mostly because I’ve been persistent in pushing past my comfort zone and have continued to get involved in music here. It’s no longer very difficult to sing for people who want to just hear what my voice sounds like, or to try out a solo part in front of a group of outstanding vocalists. But I’ve still got a long way to go before I’ll be the kind of performer they are! They do everything with their whole heart, no self-consciousness at all.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

What Congo Has Taught Me #1

I’ve been realizing lately that I’ve learned a lot of important lessons in the past year. Many good things have come clear to me on account of the stark contrast between the Congolese culture and my own. Overseas living is good for that; you stay in your own culture and you think everything is normal, when in reality there are things about it that aren’t good. Here’s what Congo (mostly the Congolese people themselves) has taught me:

#1 There’s no need to be embarrassed about your body. People here will be like “Hey, you’ve got pimples on your forehead. What’s causing that?” I’m like “Excuse me? Just leave me alone!” But for them it’s not something I need to be embarrassed about. If you’re short they have no problem making fun of it, or you will even make fun of it yourself. If you’re fat it’s just a plain fact everybody can comment on. Some of the things they say about people I find quite insulting, but on the other hand just to be open and honest about bodies is rather refreshing. They simply aren’t embarrassed of their bodies. Here’s a passage from “The Poisonwood Bible” that I really enjoy:

“The lady in the little house that’s pretty close to ours is Mama Mwanza. One time her roof caught on fire and fell on her and brunt up her legs but not the rest of her…Mama says that was the poor woman’s bad luck, because now she has got to go right on tending after her husband and her seven or eight children. They don’t care one bit about her not having any legs to speak of. To them she’s just their mama and where’s dinner? To all the other Congo people, too.

“Used to be Adah was the only one of us in our family with something wrong with her. But here nobody stares at Adah except just a little because she’s white. Nobody cares that she’s bad on one whole side because they’ve all got their own handicap children or a mama with no feet, or their eye put out. When you take a look out the door, why, there goes somebody with something missing off of them and not even embarrassed of it. They’ll wave a stump at you if they’ve got one, in a friendly way.

“Father said, ‘They are living in darkness. Broken in body and soul, and don’t even see how they could be healed.’ Mama said, ‘Well, maybe they take a different view of their bodies.’ Father says the body is the temple. But Mama said to him, ‘Well, here in Africa that temple has to do a hateful lot of work in a day.’ She said, ‘Why, Nathan, here they have to use their bodies like we use things at home—like your clothes or your garden tools or something. Where you’d be wearing out the knees of your trousers, sir, they just have to go ahead and wear out their knees!’”

The Countdown is ON

Hi y'all!

Sorry there hasn't been too much blogage going on these days. I've just been having too much fun in Congo to spend time in front of my computer getting angry at our unreliable and sluggishly slow Internet connection!

Somehow a lot of things have really come together for me the last few months. I'm so much more at ease here than I've ever been, both in my work and with my Congolese friends. Others have remarked on my growth. For about a year everyone (especially myself) have been wondering how in the heck I'll handle being team leader when I come back in October and find myself with two new ladies to work with. But seriously all of a sudden a lot of things have come together for me. I have ideas, I'm asking the right kinds of questions, I feel more confident, I have a positive outlook on the coming year. So I praise the Lord that He knows our needs and does all things well!

Although this new progress makes leaving a bit harder, I'm so so thankful that I can go home looking forward to coming back. I leave in 2 1/2 weeks! I will be in the US (mostly in Oregon) for 3 1/2 months. I'm looking forward to wearing closed-toed shoes, eating cereal with real milk, driving, shopping, and blending into the crowd. Of course the biggest deal will be seeing my family and I am praying that this summer I can be a blessing in the lives of my friends. (See you soon!)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Double cause to celebrate

Hello! Did you know that today is a holiday? Two in fact! First of all, it is Ascension Day. I found out the hard way that it is a holiday...I'm up in my house working away on my computer and I went down for coffee break to find that it hadn't been served. A little annoyed and wondering why the woman who puts the break stuff out didn't show up for work, I wandered over to the office. "Hmmm, that's weird. Why are the gates shut?" I go in and everything is all locked up and no one is there! "Uh, is it a holiday?" I go over to the director's house to find him and his wife and another couple chatting away drinking coffee together. "What?!! Nobody told me! I've been working!" :o)

Read this post from two years ago to find out about today's holiday.

What's the 2nd cause to celebrate? Well, a few days ago Brent and Brock, the director's two kids, were like "May 17th is Miss Jessica Day. We have to respect you all day long." Wow! We joked about it again yesterday and then this morning I heard a little tap at my door. Brent and Brock were there with a plate of steaming hot cinnamon rolls. Mmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!! Brent said, "Even though we tease you a lot we just wanted you to know that we really love you." Wow again! So precious. Pretty thoughtful for 6 and 8 year old boys, doncha think?
I felt kind of bad that I put "Miss Jessica Day" on my calendar when it turned out to be the Ascension! Sorry Jesus! :o) Can you tell from these mischievious photos that a whole day of respect is a big deal? :o)

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Guinea Fowl and the Lion

Lion and Guinea Fowl had been friends for many years. One day, Lion was chosen to be king of the animals. Lion sent one of his children to share the good news with his friend Guinea Fowl. Lion also sent word that he needed to wear a crown decorated with guinea fowl feathers. And so Guinea Fowl was asked to give all his feathers for the king’s crown.
Guinea Fowl was embarrassed and frightened by the request. But what else could he do? He couldn’t refuse. So, with the help of his wife he plucked out all of his feathers and brought them to the king.
As a result, Guinea Fowl was very sick for a long time afterwards, and his family wondered if he might even die. But, little by little, his feathers grew back and he recovered. Over the years Lion and Guinea Fowl remained close friends. One day, Guinea Fowl’s son became very ill, and the only thing that could cure him was a lion’s pelt. But where in the world could he find a lion’s pelt? All of a sudden he remembered his friend Lion, the king.
So Guinea Fowl sent word to Lion to see if he would help them. Poor Lion was embarrassed and frightened by this request, but how could he refuse someone who had demonstrated such close friendship in the past. So Lion began to skin himself... and died in the process.
This story shows us that we should never ask something of a friend that might cost them their life.

My colleague Trista got this story from her French tutor (who was also my Lingala teacher) and after a half hour of discussion with him, she concluded that the message of the story in a Congolese man's eyes is that it's good to ask your friends for things, but you shouldn't ask too much. This is a very good thing for us to know because people are ALWAYS asking for things and it can be really annoying. But if we understand that to them it's acceptable and appropriate, we won't be so offended about it. So far no one has asked me for the skin off my back (although I have been asked for my hair!) so I guess we're doing OK.

Things people ask for include: taking them to the States, helping them find an education program (abroad or by correspondence), food, money, medicine, English lessons, phone credits, something you're wearing that they like, bus or taxi fare, etc. The person asking could be your best friend or someone on the street. I generally don't give anything to people I don't know (families are big here, they should be asking their relatives if they're really in need) but managing friends' requests is a little harder. If I follow my African colleagues' example, I will help people in need whenever I have the ability to do so. I am like a big sister to all my jobless musician friends so it's my role to help them out.

But it's not always easy to accept. Imagine if your good friends started coming to you all the time asking for things! You would get mad or feel used. It's the same for me except I have to tell myself to interpret it differently. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't. But I'm learning.