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.


  1. I'm often reminded of a talk Sheri Dew gave where she was reflecting on a visit to Africa. She talked about the poverty and the starvation all around, but also talked about a people who smiled and were happy. She said something to the effect of "They have nothing but happiness, we (as Americans) have everything but happiness", Your stories make me feel as you do, How can we complain about our "hard" lives. It's amazing how much your mission is changing me ;)

  2. Thanks for sharing that, Janice. I really love Sheri Dew and have read a lot of her books, but I don't remember that quote. I was asked to teach the Gospel Doctrine for English speakers yesterday & we spoke of some of the things which keep us from enjoying the full blessings of the Atonement. One was getting our priorities out of order and another was materialism. Both of those things become more of a problem as we grow in prosperity. The Africans have some cultural & tribal traditions to overcome, but as President Hinckley said, the Spirit of the Lord has long been brooding over Africa and He has prepared them for this time.

  3. I know how they can save some money there in Africa. Why waste time even painting lines on the roads if nobody obeys them? Seems like that may save them some time and money!

  4. Not to mention stop signs and one-way street signs that absolutely no one heeds. When you are driving in Kinshasa, you have to throw out EVERY assumption about driving rules you ever had. In fact, the only thing you can predict is that every driver will be unpredictable.

  5. I was looking for the "like" button on your comment. To much facebook!