Sunday, April 15, 2012

Monkey Business

Today is our 4th Anniversary.  Who would ever have guessed that we would someday serve a mission in Africa!
This area used to be a tourist attraction for people stopping at the nearby Belge train depot, presumably like us, on their way to see the Bonobos.

Elder Billings' assignment is to teach and train construction skills to help make the trainees more employable.  Naturally, he was interested in these locally made bricks.
The spring that the Church 's Humanitarian program, through the Binghams, will "capture" and cause to come out of a protected  pipe so that it can be free of dirt and germs.

Here is the hopscotch-type game that two children played at once.  They got a big kick out of Elder Billings trying his hand at it without success.  Unfortunately, I was around the corner & didn't get a picture of his good-natured attempt.
The mounds of sand have been brought by hand from the river below because the river has washed the sand clean.  They are piled to a certain height, after which the pail-packed "top" shows they are ready to be used for cement.
Just one of the areas of very neat and tidy gardens we observed.  The thatched cover was for the eggplants.
This was the first & only rock-crushing operation we have seen with machines.  You often see individuals crushing  rocks by hand.
A pile of locally made bricks ready for pick up.
Our first view of the Bonobo Primate Preserve and our first foray into REAL jungle.
Approaching the pavilion where guided tours were offered... in French! 
I loved the very tall and beautiful bamboos.
Our initial glimpse of some Bonobo babies in a special area.  You can barely see one baby in the middle way back.  After a long walk to the separate area where the adults are, we ended up where these people are standing.

A "small" termite hill.
It's blurry, but essentially explains how close the Bonobos were to extinction before they were shipped to this preserve.
Just a regular cat... but a rare sight!  Congolese don't keep house pets.
The same thick, waxy and very beautiful flowers I'd bought just a couple days before.  Before I bought them from the vendor, I actually had to touch to verify they were real.
Information on the eating habits of the Bonobo.
For those who are particularly interested in animals, I made this larger so it could be read

And a final bit of information.
More of the beautiful jungle scenes.
The sign SAYS Bonobo Beach... but, as beautiful as this scene is, I wouldn't want to swim in that murky water.

 And here comes the Army... ants that is.
They marched along in amazingly disciplined formation.
Does anyone else share my love for this beauty.
Every step seemed to present a new view that captured my attention.
Perhaps the best shot of all... Sister Bingham is discussing something with Elder Smith because Sister Smith has been lagging behind taking pictures every few seconds.
THIS termite hill made the other one look like nothing... It is taller than 6'4" Elder Bingham.
An abandoned, broken down Belge machine now covered with vines.
This was a VERY common sight on this trip... women carrying baskets FULL of chickens.  They were alive, but barely.
I took this picture of boys playing in and above the river just as George told me that at least some of them were naked as jay-birds... which leads me to ask, "Just how naked IS a jay-bird?  And why does it matter?"
As always, using resources at hand to provide the shade for these crops.
Another rare sight... a dog!  Rare to see them because they ARE sometimes eaten.
Over-exposed, but another example of the half- dead chickens.  We weren't sure if they were taking them somewhere to sell, presumably to people who were planning to kill and eat them right away anyway.
We always marvel at the size and weight of things people put on their heads.
Here's that narrow-gauge railway near the old Belge depot.
Looking over the hills can be quite a pretty scene.  But, those are not nice houses & mansions on the hill. 
Just scenic.
A very large truck approached us further down this narrow road with ditches on each side.  Sometimes, I would "front seat drive", but was usually only able to utter mono-syllabic words in quick staccato rhythm... "Large hole! Large hole!" 
Terraced gardening.
Sometimes you see things like this out in the middle of nowhere.  Who knows how old this Belge structure is.
The road runs right along these trenches on either side.  They are deep and you don't want to be pushed off the  narrow road by someone coming at you too close.
This is the mansion of "The President''s Brother" cited in a previous posting.
The entrance to the home of the current President's father, who was  assassinated there.  Every year, on that anniversary, it is opened to the public for a tour.  We plan to go next February.
We passed two or three chapels on the trip... neat and nice-looking.
Sister Bingham had a very nice designer purse she had purchased here.  Maybe  I'll try it someday.
Most people don't have electricity in their homes, but they may have a cell-phone.  Charging phones in places like this or even roadside stands is a very popular business in the Congo.
Another LDS chapel we passed.
A better view of the trenches that scare me to death when we are trying to squeeze through narrow traffic jams.
The owner of the bakery.
After I'd taken one picture, he motioned that he wanted me to take one of him proudly holding the bread.  It comes out with a dense texture and white-wheat looking color.  We think it is made with cassava flour.
You can see some of the village people who were already waiting to buy bread when we arrived.  Our group ordered several dozen, but rejected the owner's repeated offer to give us ours first.  We hung around to take some pictures and then did some trekking while the bread was baking.
The young man is putting some rolls into the multi-layered oven.  It is tremendously hot even as far back as we were. 
Several minutes after we left the bakery, Sister Bingham pointed to a fence along the highway & said, "Do you  see anything familiar about that fence?"  I did!  Portions of that large-scale corrugated fence had apparently been confiscated to serve as baking pans for the bakery.
This young man never stopped working, but it seems as if his friend had time to chat.
He's cutting a slice at the top of each roll.  Also, part of his job was to open the oven door & throw water inside periodically.  We are not sure if that was to control the heat or provide steam for moisture or what?
I think this was our group's order.  George & I were having 13 for dinner the following night, so we bought  2 dozen and froze what we didn't use.
We were standing far back from this burning log and this pile of hot embers and still felt uncomfortable.
But, imagine how HE felt stoking that fire in the oven with bare legs and flip flops.

If you look VERY carefully,, you can see several little chicks who would run in quickly after mama hen scratched in the dirt.  It was fun to watch.
You have to use your imagination on this one.  George smiled at this shy little girl as her siblings tried to get her to come out toward us.  She strongly resisted their efforts.  But George's charm won her over and she slowly came to him.

Look at how clean and neat this garden is.

Almost mathematical precision in the rows.
Everything was coming up and the garden was thriving.
What gardener wouldn't take pride in this layout?
This is the source of the spring which will be "captured" to provide a better, cleaner water for the villagers.
George took this picture because he thought that this car was carrying Vermont plates. It wasn't.
We were told that this is the equivalent of a "Starter Home" for a family in the Congo.  It consists of corrugated tin sides and a roof held down by bricks.

We hiked up a steep, rain-gutted path to reach this old Catholic school where the Church has begun a latrine project. The chalkboard is ancient, but better than the black paint on concrete which we saw at the orphanage.
Again, everything in this school was incredibly old, but it was neat and organized.
Though our group got there well ahead of the  guided tour group, thick jungle (out of the picture to the right) and an electrified fence with the French word for "Enclosure" let us know we had arrived.  I tried making "monkey sounds" to lure the bonobos out of the jungle, but had no luck.  Then the guides arrived and THEIR calls brought instant, very loud "replies" from the dense brush & trees. Suddenly, you began to see some of the Bonobos swinging through and down from the tops of the very high trees and then, in an instant, they had run from the jungle and were within inches of us on the other side of that fence.
These two sat casually eating the food that the guides had tossed over for them, with the one on the right looking much like a wizened old man in "The Thinker" position much of the time.  As George snapped this picture, I had just received a phone call (amazing that the coverage reached this far-out place) and had turned off my camera, when the younger Bonobo apparently infringed on the older, dominant one's "personal space".  The latter LEAPED up and began loudly attacking and chasing the former, who was spry and quick enough to escape into the bushes.  Later, they came back and resumed their original positions as if nothing had happened.

Shortly after we left this area, the young adult Congolese, who were laughing and taking pictures of themselves up next to the fence with the Bonobos in the background, apparently had quite a scare from a "close encounter".  We suddenly heard frantic screams and turned to see several young women scrambling (scared, but laughing) as they ran in our direction..      

He doesn't have his chin in his hand so my camera didn't quite capture this guy in his "The Thinker" pose, but it is on video.

These two young Bonobos were just like little children who like to be held and cuddled.

This guy was definitely a little more independent and quite a prankster.  More than once, he positioned himself  inside & at the edge of the pool, then purposely splashed all of us...afterward giving us a "Now, what are you gonna do about it?" look.

Another LDS chapel.  They are always well-built and maintained, so they stand out in the surroundings as a great example.  One prominent business man came to our Mission Office recently and said it was because he had observed so many of our chapels being built in the last ten years in the Kinshasa area and saw how nice they were.  He said, "I think that God is orderly and clean and therefore I think your Church is of God."


  1. Beautiful pictures of your jungle excursion. My first comment is of the picture of the one live chicken run!!! The jungle pictures are wonderful. I'm sure it looks even better in person. It's also interesting the one picture with the woman outside the gate with the bonobo's yet there is a women sitting inside the gate looking quite comfortable. It also looks like this schoolhouse was in much better shape than the previous one. The bakery must have some good business out there in the middle of nowhere. He sure had a lot of bread to bake. Oh and before I forget and I don't know if it will help you but I have a hard time loading videos to facebook too but I found if you load them to youtube then you can link them to your blog. It seems to work much better and then you can create a youtube page that all you videos will be on. Well I've got to work on taxes honor of your anniversary. I bet you had the most memorable anniversary yet! Enjoy! Love, Juli

  2. I finished my taxes!! That's all!! Juli

  3. Chickens run loose in all these villages. We aren't sure how people keep track of them OR who claims eggs laid in diverse places. You are right, the jungle is even more beautiful than any picture can show. The woman inside is sort of a "baby sitter". The bakery had about 20 people waiting when we arrived. We ordered 2 dozen & so did the Binghams, so they were really pumping them out. The owner wanted to give us ours first, but we didn't want to butt in front, so insisted that the others get their orders while we went to see the spring and hiked up to the Catholic school. They have a heavy texture, but are very tasty. We are pretty sure they are made with cassava flour, the staple of the Congo.