Friday, April 17, 2009

Me on Mando

Some of you have been asking how the mandolin playing is coming along. Well, it's coming...Here's what I can do after 3 months. It's pretty rough, but hey, I'm getting better. Here's my last entry using a high speed connection. Figured I might as well upload a big video!

Sorry, it's not embedding. Here's the YouTube link

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Packing Time

I was excited at the beginning of this week because I could finally pull out the suitcases and actually start packing my bags. And I'm pretty happy with how it's going so far because it looks like I'll have room for everything and even for some of the extras I didn't think I'd have room for (like cheese and chocolate when I pass through Germany!)

People often ask what kind of things I take back with me, or what I can get here that I can't get in Congo. Here's a little rundown of some of what is going to accompany me:

--The Carryon. This will include my computer and camera and purse, etc., and also the mandolin I've started to play the past few months.

--Clothes. This wouldn't be such a big deal this time except that when I left Congo I had not one pair of pants that still fit me. So I've done quite a bit of shopping, which was aided by some fabulous Nordstrom gift cards from the past two Christmases. I also like to stock up on new underwear and shoes, which are quite important.

--Gifts. Gift-giving is an important part of relationships in Africa, so I go back well supplied with shirts and jewelry and other things for my closest friends. Oooh, my favorite this time is a little black baby doll for my goddaughter.

--Things for other people: This time it includes 3 digital cameras, a pair of jeans, a DVD, 2 battery chargers, a book, etc. There are innumberable other items that have been requested of me, but at some point I have to say no or I won't be able to pack any of my own stuff! I only get 2 bags after all.

--Toiletries: New face products, cream, hair stuff, etc. You can get generic stuff there, but it's nice to come equipped with some of the nicer essential items.

--Kitchen supplies: I'm getting better and better equipped in the kitchen with each trip. This time I'm bringing a garlic press, a small non-stick skillet, some more tupperware, more flatware, ziplock bags, etc.

--Entertainment: DVDs and new music to get me through the next year or so. I'm taking about 10 movies with me and loaded probably a dozen more CDs onto my computer. Plus a few books.

--Food: Besides the muesli and cheese and chocolate I plan to pick up in Germany, I've got a can of Kraft Parmesan, a can of cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, and some spray on olive oil which I will use for making pita chips.

That probably covers about 90% of what's in my bags. The other miscellaneous 10%? Things like a mandolin book, tealight candles, a bath towel, cilantro and flower seeds, a new USB flash drive, etc.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Leaving home and going home

Yikes! Less than two weeks until I leave to go back to Congo (via Germany for a few days). A common question I get is "What do you miss while you're in Congo?" or "What can you get here that you can't get in Congo?" Here are a few things off the top of my head:

#1 is obviously time with my family and friends. This is really the only thing that could possibly bring feelings of regret. I'll never say "Gee, I wish I hadn't spent all those years in Congo when I could have been back in the US with high speed Internet and lattes everyday." But the time spent away from special people is time that can't necessarily be made up for later. Plus, giving up luxeries and conveniences is a personal sacrfice, whereas familytime is something I force others to give up as well.

That said, high speed Internet and lattes are probably one of the first things that come to mind when I think of what I have to go without in Congo. That Internet connection over there is going to be pretty painful after these last few months.

The variety of restaurants and cuisine from around the world will also be missed. No Thai or Indian in Brazzaville. But I've pretty much had my fill and will enjoy visiting my favorite places back in Congo once again.

Listening to the radio, especially Christian stations, in the car is something I really love too. The excellent tradeoff, however, is that in Congo I get to attend lots of live concerts, mostly either Christian or jazz.

Wearing socks and regular shoes and jackets and layers has been fun the past few months. Not sweating is definitely a highlight of being back in the States as well. Although I am looking forward to the warmth of Congo (especially once the really hot season is over in a month or two).

OK, gotta run pick up my Indian take out!!