Friday, March 28, 2014

DR Congo-Kinshasa's Ups and Downs

(This is the post I was preparing while still in Africa.  
We returned to the USA on Nov. 5, 2013 after 21 months, 
due to a health emergency)

KINSHASA HAS CHANGED A LOT IN 20 MONTHS.
THERE ARE PRACTICAL & COSMETIC DIFFERENCES 
AND A GOOD ARGUMENT COULD BE MADE FOR
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE LATTER 
AS WELL AS FOR THE FORMER.  
UNFORTUNATELY, MANY OF THE ON-GOING 
POLITICAL, CULTURAL & COMMERCIAL TRADITIONS
PREVENT THE DR CONGO & IT'S PEOPLE
FROM REACHING FULL POTENTIAL.
WE KNOW THAT THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST WILL 
MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR THE CONGOLESE TO PROSPER.

video8
This is close to the location of our Church meetinghouse.
You can hear the bystanders yelling, in Lingala, 
for the people in the shaking building to "Get out!".
It is a dramatic example of the inferior, sub-standard construction
which prevails here.  There were deaths & injuries.

One of our best missionaries.  A great example to his family,
fellow missionaries and all he met. (Click on above for URL)



A small portion of the whole Kinshasa missionary group listening
to Elder David A. Bednar who spoke to us the day before
George & I began our 66 hour flight back to Salt Lake City.
On the front row, the Gates are in the middle,
Elder Smith #2 (l) and Sister Sneddon (r) appear to be dozing off. :)
the Moons are way back left. George & I are way back middle.

Elder Bednar both asked and received questions from everyone,
and discussed the worth of ALL of Heavenly Father's children.
He said that both the man & the woman are equal before God,
but different in their gifts & contributions.
Several times he returned to a theme directed at the men
for the time when they returned from their missions & got married.
"LISTEN TO YOUR WIVES!"
Needless to say, all of the Senior Sisters  have reminded
 our husbands frequently of that counsel.


Our Gombé (G.B.) Ward meetinghouse with
the Seminary & Institute building to the right.
This view overlooks the future site of the Kinshasa temple,
which will bless all the people in the DR Congo
and several surrounding countries.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Congo Living


THIS IS TRENTE JUIN BLVD. IN 2009, BEFORE IT WAS PAVED
.  IN THE PAST 2 OR 3 YEARS, THEY'VE MADE LARGE SIDEWALKS
ON EACH SIDE, EIGHT LANES & A DIVIDING MEDIAN IN BETWEEN.
SO, NOW YOU DON'T OFTEN SEE A CAR COMING AT YOU FROM
 THE WRONG DIRECTION... (KEY PHRASE, "OFTEN")
THINGS ARE IMPROVING, BUT IT IS STILL THE CONGO.

DID SOMEONE COMPLAIN THAT THEY HAVE A ROUGH COMMUTE??
The good thing about frequent stops is that we get to see more 
of the creative Congolese dresses.

One early evening, we were approaching this multi-storied bank building,
when I pointed out to George that someone was using a cutting torch near the top
and large chunks of hot metal were falling all the way down to the street.
Both parked cars and pedestrians were at risk, but this is the Congo!


This was the sum total of George's third or fourth gardening effort.
The plants start out wonderfully, but then just suddenly wither before
anything much can be produced.
The driver in this accident was hurt and lying on his back in the car.
We are astounded that we do not see more accidents, considering the crazy traffic,
but we do often hear of people being killed on this busy road.
These are the new signal lights, made by the Chinese.  They are only rarely functional & very counter-intuitive.
The large GREEN number would SEEM to be directing you to GO... but the only thing that counts are the tiny arrows.
In this picture, cars must STOP if going forward (see small red forward arrow), but may turn to the left or right.
Of course, practically no one obeys the lights anyway, so you take your chances, no matter what!
(and you don't stop 1/2 an inch over the white line or you'll have a policeman at your window, PRONTO!)
I can't always catch the men in colorful suits, but this is one that didn't get away.
(I thought his friend also coordinated nicely)


This is the intersection that we enter just feet outside the apartment.
The short video doesn't do it justice, but if you can count how many 
directions the cars are going, you get the idea.


On Avenue de Justice (filled with hazards of deep potholes & the common
sight of fast-moving cars coming toward you in your lane as they avoid them),
they are cutting back or cutting down huge old trees that have been there
since the Belgian Colonization.  Hopefully, this is just necessary to widen 
 this popular alternate to Trente Juin & it will be beautified w/ new trees.
In the distance, you can see the Mission Office/Mission Home building. 


This pretty, full-length, sleeveless sun dress is not the usual fashion.

Always fun to see our UN forces in full riot gear.
No one has much hope that these guys would protect us
in case of revolution or invasion.

On Lubumba Blvd. (the road to Masina, Kimbanseke & the Airport)
The pous-pous guys carry the most cumbersome & sometimes
incredibly heavy loads.  You almost groan in sympathy with them
 when they're trying to go uphill.


Avenue de Justice if FULL of street vendors who offer a wide variety of items.
Here, we see a hand-polished, wood-base lamp and, rather illogically, dog leashes.
Further down the road, you can usually see a man holding one or two puppies.
Here again, with no logical  product placement, we have a child's swing
and several briefcases.
Need a shirt & hat?  Congolese men love to wear hats, and occasionally,
you do see a cowboy hat being worn.
This truck was partially unloaded and STILL had more weight in it than it could bear.
For those who have served in the DR Congo Kinshasa Mission, previously..
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
"ONE-BELT-MAN" STILL has only one belt to sell (one at a time, at least).
How about a wall clock ?  "Clock Man" has them...
made by Chinese and guaranteed to work till you get it home.


"Flag Man" has lots of countries.  DRC is most popular, followed by USA & Israel.


"Shoe Man" has some pretty, new high heels (comma placement important there)


Sunglass Man
Had to take a quick shot, so couldn't capture the gored lower part.  Very feminine.
These folks should have walked together, they were so well coordinated.
Pink AND flowered.  But, I actually liked this flamboyant shirt.


Some of the taxi-vans have distinctive looks.  This is one that I've seen
time and "AGAIN"... even twenty miles out of Kinshasa proper.
Ruffled neckline and sleeves make this a pretty dress


Not sure what would  help these pajamas.
Colorful and cute.
Commerce Street Marché, just a couple blocks off Trente Juin,
 is the largest & busiest market.
Wares are found in the stores and many vendors set up on the street,
which forces the pedestrian traffic into the street.
Besides walkers, a driver has to watch for other obstacles,
such a a huge pile of rock dumped on the street.  One might say, "Porquoi?",
but there is no reasonable explanation that we can determine.
We park outside (with a "helper" who then expects a tip)
and wend our way through people, motorcycles, cars, bumps, puddles, etc.
Once inside, we go straight up to the 2nd floor where the drapery material is located.
We are choosing drapery material for a brand-new Senior Couples apartment
in our building, which is all the way on the top floor.
Since it has LOTS of large sliding doors & windows, we purchased almost 100 yds.
A previous choice for another of the new apartments is the taupe w/ flowers behind.
These two women were interested in the material we were choosing.
Not a lot of selections that matched American taste.  Africans like gold,
sparkly materials and there aren't many subtle patterns.
I asked our helper if I could take his picture to record his shirt.
If you look closely, you can see that there are elephants portrayed on the yellow
and cut outs in the lower area of the dark section.  Quite a different African style.
After measuring and cutting, the man takes it all downstairs where there are
three rooms full from floor to ceiling with fabric and the store has wailing, loud
music playing from large amplifiers.  The checkout is a bustling place
with customers three & four deep waiting to pay for their goods.
I have time to take some pictures and note that the man they hire to dance
and generally gyrate to the music is not there today.  Guess he only entertains
days when there's a SALE!
Afterward, as we crossed the street to get into our truck,
Pascal said, "Sister Smith.  Did you see this?"
We had a good laugh!
Pascal also made me realize that the loud shouting next to our car
was NOT the usual Africans just speaking the very angry-sounding Lingala.
It was a police raid on the sidewalk vendors who did not have a license.
If they don't PAY the policemen, their wares are confiscated until they
come to claim (and pay for) them or they are arrested.
At least one man (in light green) was handcuffed & marched away.
And, then, on to the next vendor...
These people just ahead of us were pushing a pous-pous full of wares,
to which the police would periodically pile more.
As we passed, the most obvious booty was piled-up purses.
Nearby, in a large park-like roundabout, sits a fire truck with some
of the men relaxing on the roof.
Every day they fill up the tank of this old truck...
And, by the evening, all the water has drained out...
So they start the whole process again the next day.
You  just have to hope that, if you have a fire, it's early in the day!
I thought this was a great example of three Congolese women's style.
From nice looking casual pants, to full-length Congolese type dress,
to a cool, cute looking sun dress.
Without going into to much detail, this truck rides around town advertising
a method of birth-control.
This is "Tupperware Man" and some of his containers.
A good looking African shirt.
And.. the ever  present pajamas.


Wild & Crazy... but in Africa, it works!
Prior to the Stake Relief Society Women's Conference,
I got a picture of one of the RS counselors in her pretty purple.
The Stake Relief Society president is in red.
The theme was "Strength Through Unity" & the blue painting is
of several African women and hangs in my apartment.
This class was about health issues and the woman speaking
is telling the other sisters in the room how she attended a similar
RS workshop previously.  It motivated her to go for a medical check-up
and they found a cancer that was operable, but wouldn't have been
detected soon enough if she hadn't gone in then.
The instructor, a nurse, talked about several health issues, including AIDS.
Our wonderful Bishop, speaking with some of the members after Church.
He pays loving attention to "William", the young albino boy,
who responds by staying close to Aimé when he can.
I missed getting this picture the first Sunday we saw it.
So, the next Sunday, my thoughtful husband remembered
and went out of the way to see if it was still where we'd seen it.  It was!
If you can't read the word written on the windshield, it's "AMEN"
Back to the Women's Conference... the sisters paired off,
picked the colors of yarn they wanted and went to work on the frames.
Above left is one of the twins in our stake who are quite well-known.
Their family is huge and among the most stalwart.

This sister is a member of the large Kalonji family who are also
very well respected and loved.
She was having a bit of fun after she finished...
The first week or so we were here, I took her picture
She was about to get married and now she has a brand-new little baby.
Two of the best  missionaries in the DR Congo Kinshasa Mission..
Sister Kwizera  (was thrown out by her family when she joined the Church
and then adopted by the Malabi family in Burundi).
Sister Fantenantenasoa, from Madagascar, who has finished her mission now.


Two more good Sister Missionaries... Sister Mujinga & Sister Flagbo (from Togo)
In between is my adopted daughter "Getou" who is flamboyant & fun!
Actually, pretty much ALL of our Sister Missionaries are great!
This is a new missionary, Sister Ilunga, with Sister Kabie.
Sort of a "patchwork dress" for fun.
This is a TINY little older sister who is the other counselor in the stake RS.
She's more attractive than this picture indicates, but I wanted to catch  her doing
her loud, African celebratory"trill" as each companionship finished their project.
At one point, we met this little one in the hall.
She wasn't entirely sure about these "Mundeles"


I never got a good shot of this precious boy, but he just kept walking
around and checking everything out in a very serious manner.
I sent this picture to my daughter for her birthday.
She loves children and I knew this darling little girl would capture her heart.
This is Patience.  Her  husband is Yves and they are good people.
Their house & almost everything in it burned down while they were working
as few months ago.  But, they have born strong testimonies of gratitude
to Heavenly Father for their family's safety & the help they were given.
She is the Primary president in our ward.
That same little girl from above did not make it through the long day.
The Senior Sister Missionaries were asked to provide decorations.
Behind, another of our paintings of African women working together,
 the cloth dolls in various situations of home & family and the beautiful flowers.
The Stake RS president explaining the rules for a "get acquainted"game
 for which there was to be a prize.  Since it was in French, Sis Bybee & I watched.
When the game began, the Cultural Hall erupted in the noise of excited voices
and was so loud that Sister Bybee & I had to shout to hear each other.
Everyone had a good time.
Another part of the decorations were the numerous quotes that Sister Moon
and Sister Gates researched and posted relating to the theme of "Strength Through Unity"
But, trying to SAVE them, after the event was over, I was having a hard time
getting the masking tape to come off the recycled file folders when this sister came over.
She is the stake Public Affairs director and, as we worked diligently and painstakingly,
I  (thinking of what she was doing for ME) said, "Thank you so much for helping."
She looked up at me with the most angelic smile and simply answered,
"It is for our Father."
AND SO IT IS...