Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Gift of Water

We arrived at the front yard of the property's owner, and after shaking everyone's hand, we sat down on the other side of the well, facing the dignitaries.  An opening prayer was given, then the dignitaries were recognized.  L-R The LDS Bishop of the ward for that area, DeDe our translator and organizer of the program, the Mayor (speaking), and the elected Water Committee on the front row.  The tribal chief was also present and spoke during the ceremony (no, he was in dress pants and shirt!) 

Here is the Bishop cutting one of the ribbons and being closely observed by a portion of the children who had crept ever closer to watch from the sidelines.
As the "MC" kept up a fairly loud and constant commentary, a young woman brought two glasses on a tray and everyone waited with anticipation for the young man who was manning the pump to bring forth water.

When the water began to gush out, all the people clapped and shouted for joy.
Then they all roared with approval when the mayor took the first sip and continued to show their enthusiasm with each person who followed.

 I loved seeing how attentive, excited and engaged in the ceremony the children were (with the possible exception of one).
How in the world could anyone help but fall in love with these sweet children?

It is common to see brothers and sisters holding, tugging & pulling along younger siblings or otherwise taking care of each other.
The Binghams, legally representing the Church, are signing over full ownership of the well to the community, to take care of it henceforth, under the direction of their elected Water Committee.

This serious little girl with the blonde in her hair seemed to be hanging around me for a long time so she managed to get in several pictures.  I kept smiling at her and finally got her to smile later!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Congo Contrasts

 Sister and Elder Stagg, Perpetual Education Fund Missionaries; Chris, a BYU student serving an internship at the U.S. Embassy; and Russell (who is a Bishop in one of the wards in the stake and also works with the Church Employment Services)

Elder Smith got way ahead of me,but I wanted to get a picture of this lovely chapel in Ngalieama.  It is high up on a bluff with many trees and flowers and a beautiful view. 

He's still ahead of me, but I'm gaining on him! 
 Elder Stagg introduced us to an example of "This is how they do it in the Congo".  Here is the Church Cultural Hall. Congolese are used to those inexpensive solid plastic chairs that stack into each other.  When they got their new chapel and all the furnishings, they just naturally put the chairs up the way they are used to doing it.  Apparently, no one can get them to do it differently.

 I love the way that all the meetinghouse buildings are designed with at least one central courtyard, usually with a beautiful delicate palm in the middle.
 The chapel was the setting for the graduation ceremony.  The program teaches and trains individuals how to strengthen and grow their business.  It also teaches them the importance of strengthening the Family and the Community, as well.  So it is a balanced approach to helping someone have a better life.  It's worked very well in other poor countries and is just beginning here. 
Prior to the graduation, we met Stake President who conducted the ceremony. Here he is explaining how the three-fold training program overlaps...   (family/business/community)       The next day, after the terrible ammo dump explosions, I saw him at our chapel in Kasa Vubu and asked him how the people got local news.  He smiled and pointed to his mouth and then to his ear! 

This beautiful young woman captured my attention with her radiant smile and her lovely Congolese gown. 
There were male graduates, too. But the women outnumbered them.  From what I'm told, the men have a tendency to spend their profits, but the women do better because they re-invest.  The Church is trying to help the men understand that concept.
 This is the view from the parking area overlooking the distant Congo River.  This location is apparently in consideration as a possible site for the new Kinshasa temple.

A pretty typical scene.  One of the points in the program teaches the advantages of having a clean, pleasant environment for your family, business and community.
What this picture doesn't adequately show is what we could see ahead... a log-jam of cars facing every direction irregardless of what lane they were in, as well as motorcycles weaving in and out, and the ever present jay-walking Congolese.

I got this picture (and an even closer, but less clear one, too) despite Elder Bingham's warning that these groups are sometimes rough, gang types who can get very angry at having their picture taken.
 Chris is house-sitting for a U.S. Embassy couple who have been gone for a couple months.  Walking into this back yard was quite a contrast to what we see every day. 

A real living room, with lovely furnishings... sigh!
 I've always been partial to arches and thought the placement of this series of closed and open arches was quite beautiful.

Just another view of our tax dollars at work.
This painting was in the home.  It is so true to what you see along every street and I just LOVED it!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

No Rest For the Weary

 First day at work.  We actually looked bright-eyed & bushy-tailed!  Hard to believe we'd gotten to bed late the night before after our 30 hr flight to Kinshasa.

 The second day at work was happily interrupted by a "Sister's Conference" and luncheon for all the young sister missionaries.  These are beautiful young women with beautiful spirits.  They were so happy to be with each other and with all of us and they loved taking pictures.

Everyone helped, whether it was with preparing the food, serving, re-stocking, cleaning up, teaching (or, in my case, being official photographer) 
L-R: Sister Judy Bingham (Humanitarian), me, Sister Lorraine Jameson (Mission President's wife), Sister Suzanne Staggs (Perpetual Education Fund), Sister Ruth Renland (wife of our Area Seventy), Jackie (our Congolese "Girl Friday"), Sister Dixie Hatch (for her bitter-sweet last day in the Congo).

First Sunday..The hibiscuses that we are wearing in this picture were shyly given to us by the cute little adopted daughters (Victoria & Carla) of our new friend at Church, Cecile D'Agostino.  She is from Geneva, Switzerland and has been sweet enough to volunteer as a translator for us in Sacrament Mtg.

The Binghams invited us to go for a quick tour of some sights after Church and then to drive with them to check up on a water project in Luntendele.  We also picked up Chris, a young BYU student who is interning here at the U.S. Embassy and likes to go on these excursions.  We went down Embassy row and he was very nervous about my taking pictures of this large tile mosaic on the front of the Iranian Embassy.  Certain entities in the Congo do NOT want you to take pictures  of their facilities and will come after you if you are spotted.  I suspect that Iran might be one of those.

This is just a small example of the car, truck, motorcycle & pedestrian jams

This was the entrance to the grand and guarded home of President Kabila's brother.  When one of our Congolese office assistants was asked what this man had done to amass such wealth and have such a nice home, he looked amused at the question and said, "He's the President's brother!"
This is just a lovely view on our ride to Luntendele.

We stopped to visit with this woman (center) who the Binghams have been working with relative to the placing of a well on her property for the area.   The daughter (left) has been attending "college", which is the equivalent of 8th grade here, and spoke English.  The woman behind was very friendly, but camera shy.  The woman with the bananas insisted on giving us half a dozen of them, which took two weeks to ripen, but  were delicious when we were finally able to eat them.

The well in Lutendele has provided clean water for many hundreds in the area and attracted many more to come there.

Everywhere we stopped, the kids would yell, "Mundele!", which is the Lingala word for "white person".  They were all friendly with the exception of this one little girl who looked at me as if I were a ghostly apparition and then burst out screaming at the top of her lungs.

Children gather quickly when the "mundele" come and George always attracts kids anyway.  My skeptical little baby girl is not yet convinced that she wants anything to do with us.

The woman had been washing her clothes here.  The man had stripped down to his skivvies and was washing himself AND his motorcycle right where we needed to cross, so he hurried to move.

When I said, "Bonjour!  Comment ca va?" (basically, Hello.  How are you doing?) to this woman, she answered, "Un peu ca va" (Not doing very well.) and told me (in French) that she has Malaria and something else which I couldn't understand. She and her husband, a preacher, had given permission for a well to be built on their property.  It was almost finished and the closing ceremony (where the Church basically turns over the ownership and oversight to a village-elected Water Committee) was scheduled to take place two weeks later.  Again, we have an apprehensive little one who is not used to seeing such pale-skinned people.

Other Churches and groups are in evidence and some really try to make a difference for the people.  This was a Catholic Church we saw on the road.

UNICEF has sponsored projects such as this one, which promotes the concept of latrines and helps the people learn how to make them.  This is also something which the Church has done in Africa.

Laundry day... but who needs a dryer?

To get into the entrance to our apartment building (right), we have to go around a large traffic circle which surrounds the Plaza (left).  After a long day, this was a welcome sight.  It may not be pretty, but it is HOME!  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

In this case we'll start with the ugly.  This building is on our "30 Juin Blvd" that we use to commute to the Mission Office every weekday, go shopping on Saturday and to Church on Sunday.  It is supposed to be a post office.  But there is just one problem... there is NO delivery mail system in the Congo, mostly because there are no ADDRESSES. (Whoops... I just realized this is NOT the post office, which is a huge building further down and is STILL a joke because, as I said, there is no mail delivery).  This picture is just a VERY grimy, ugly building right on what is supposed to be the "showcase" eight-lane boulevard of the city.

This is the view of a new building from one side of our roof  (we think it will be both business and residential).  It's being built by the Chinese, who do a lot of business in Kinshasa.  The manual labor is done by the Congolese with very primitive methods and few modern tools or machines.  The Chinese mostly "supervise".

The "Grand Hotel" is near Embassy Row and LOOKS nice from the outside, but all adjectives are relative in the Congo.  We have heard it's not so "grand" once inside.

The following pictures were taken on March 3rd from the 9th floor roof.  This shows the wharf area just a block away.  This is also where you can rent space on an ancient, cramped boat with a motor which may or may NOT get you across to Brazzaville without conking out.  If the worst happens and you begin to drift down the river to "The Falls", you pray very hard and hope that someone comes to your rescue in time. 

This is a view across the Congo River which shows Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo... not to be confused with our city, Kinshasa, which is the capital of the DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC of the CONGO... This was taken the evening before the half-dozen ammo dump explosions the next morning and, when I heard that a Catholic church had been flattened, I hoped it wasn't the lovely looking church with the steeple next to the large building.  (It wasn't)

Nothing special here.. just a view of the Congo & buildings to northeast of us.

The taller brown building is nicknamed "New York, New York" by all of us.  The short brown building is the Jewish "Super Marche", which DOES sell pork, as opposed to the Lebanese-Christian grocery store a couple blocks away that DOESN'T.  The blue building is right next to us and was Election Headquarters during the unrest last Nov-Dec.  It was also the site for some rioting and demonstrations, along with tanks in the street and the location of at least one assassination.  The U.S. Embassy is just a block or so to the right.  All of this is why, when the explosions began the very next day after hearing these stories, I thought they were either in our building or right next door.  Since we are right on the Congo River and the amount of ammunition was so huge, the sound and impact of the blasts came across the water powerfully and made it all sound and feel very close.

The view northeast of us of an area called Masina.

I just like this view of the Congo with the little islands out in the river.

Here is a somewhat fun situation captured with the camera.  The "transit" system could probably be considered a minor miracle.  When I visited my daughter, Joanne, in NYC in 2002, they stated that Manhatten had 14 M people and on any given day 7 M used the transit system, which included well-equipped trains, subways, ferries, buses & taxis.  Here, we have the same number of population and it's all moved from one place to another with old, battered buses & half-dead taxis.  These persistent would-be passengers were chasing the bus to try and squeeze in after he took off.  they sometime stand on the bumper and hang on to the roof! The one guy you see was successful.

This picture does almost nothing to SHOW you what I saw, but I will tell you the story.  A man came from the far left, crossed the street to our side and moved rapidly across my field of vision on the sidewalk toward the taxi area to our right.  What made this scene so unusual and heart-breaking was that the man had no legs, but used his arms to swing his body forward toward his destination.  When he reached the white van, he SOMEHOW lifted himself up without anyone's help.  I took the picture, even though you can barely see his disappearing back, to remind me of the many things in our lives which are taken for granted and not appreciated.