Sunday, June 24, 2012

At Home and About in Kinshasa

Always nice to know that the UN is here to keep things under control.
Oh wait, the fighting is in the EASTERN part of the DRC!
But, as you can see, we have a lonely sentry on duty in case of attack.
This is the turn off of Trente Juin Blvd. that we take to go to Church.
On the day of the explosions, they had THREE armed men squeezed in each of the three sentry boxes.
Boy!  That really made us feel safer!
Walking in front of the UN barracks, this woman has a beautiful dress.
It is made with a lovely shiny material and ornate gold trim.
And, alongside the UN,  we have a nice looking man with... a pink shirt.

And another man in... another pink shirt.  What else?

Forgive my obsession, but I admit to being fascinated at how many pink shirts we see.
AND, It's a very effective distraction to be busy taking pictures on the daily commute.
(Keeps me from dwelling on how many times we narrowly escape mayhem or death.)

There are some increased tensions to the east right now.  Rwanda is joining Congolese rebels.
When things get that way, you see more army men in a truck or convoy.
But this picture is particularly interesting because there is ONE guy in the truck wearing...

a pink shirt! :)
Mostly orange and blue shirts here (Go Florida!), but do you see what is happening in this picture?
SO many things in the Congo, that would normally be done with machines, are done manually.
These guys have formed a human vertical conveyor belt (or crane) to physically hand rebar up to the top.
Occasionally, you see someone in Muslim clothing.
Some of our "Congolese-Can -Sleep-Anywhere" pictures have been innocent and funny.
This may not fall into that category because the guy was inches away from crazy, speeding traffic.
But, THIS is funny!  We often see men in what can only be described as pajamas.
Watch out!
The sign warns all that this is a student driver who might actually OBEY rules & cause an accident.
This highway to Masina is being constructed by the Chinese, who seem to actually want to finish it.
An October international conference meeting in Kinshasa may be the primary motivator.
There is political pressure from the government for many improvements to be done before then.
We may have found the place where they breed blue plastic chairs... a ubiquitous Congo sight.
Meet Tito.
He is a returned missionary and comes to the Mission Office almost every day on his bicycle.
He arrives in his nice clothes and then changes for his work.
He helps in menial tasks, when needed, and mostly keeps all the Mission Office vehicles clean.
He is not well-educated and is probably the most child-like person I know.
Over the past four months, I'd noticed something that he would do every day.
We have pictures of all the missionaries on a board in the hall, which he would stare at endlessly.
One day last week, he saw me holding the new assignment sheet.
I began to re-arrange the 140 missionaries in their new areas after the every-6-weeks transfer.
Suddenly, he shyly asked, "Can I do?"  With some degree of shock, I handed him the sheet.
He did the job with intense concentration... perfectly and neatly... and was SO proud!
I'm proud of him, too.
Last week, you saw George's "Shrimp & Cashew/Corn" dinner at the end of the meal.
Even without the cashews, he still enjoyed the dish so much he ordered it again.
I thought some of you might like this...
With all the problems we had at that restaurant, give them credit for "presentation".
Another picture of some beautiful women in their beautiful dresses.
Unfortunately, my little camera does NOT capture the details of design& the sheen of fabric.
For instance, the dress of the sister in the middle had a beautiful copper & red glow.
Can you tell that these palms are flat?
They are the national symbol of Madagascar, but are found here, too.
They are called "Traveler's Palm"
For safety reasons, I will not divulge the location of these locks.
But they are on a brand new "high security" vault-door.
Sheques turned Street Sweepers...
An idea that resulted in a civic award for the woman who thought of it.
I guess in this case it kept the delinquents ON the streets.
This is how eggs are sold in the store.
It's up to you to figure out how to get them safely transported home.
I call this the "Happy Bus".  It is a Chinese TATA, which  is popular here.
It stands out because 1) It is NEW 2)  It is BRIGHT 3) It is CLEAN and 4) It is UNDAMAGED.
Names are sometimes interesting.
If it's completed, can it still be "future"?
Sometimes, the PEOPLE themselves name a structure..
This is "The Tower With No Purpose"
It's actually a communication tower.
This is how my permanent press clothes came out with my little washer/dryer combo.
(Well, that is, the ones that even SURVIVED.)
Can you see why I'm so excited to have a new dryer?
My favorite African purchase so far.
It's a miniature set and I only wish there was room in the baggage for a big one.
I can only identify about maybe 3/4 of the fruits or vegetables.
But, you CAN spot the deadly red pepper which you do NOT want to bite in real life.
A small problem here...
On the plaza traffic circle outside our apartment, this truck's wheel fell off.
Several hours later, at rush hour, they were finally able to get a tire and fix it.
Have we shown you the alternative to a CGO (Congo) license?
I'd think even prisoners could do better than this.
Every night, we kneel here for Family Prayer.
Then as George gets in bed to read the scriptures aloud, I go over to the far side.
After climbing into bed, I pull the mosquito net snug around us.
But to be honest, we have the A/C blowing so much cold air on us,
no self-respecting mosquito would come within a mile.
Caution!  Beware of pride!
I bought this after "bargaining" with a street vendor outside of NiceCream
and was so proud of my ability to get him down to a good price.
Funny... it LOOKED straight when he was holding it?
Elder and Sister Billings are going to have the graduation
for their  first class of Construction Training students this week.
She asked us if we could each bake 3 dozen cookies.
My cookie-making attempt a couple weeks ago looked like this,
with only the 2nd two dozen turning out.
 It must have been the humidity!
Pay attention boys and girls.  This is what you use to plug in your American products.
Unless you like to eat fried appliances.
George is the official contact with the U.S. Embassy for our Mission.
He has to take part in a weekly "radio check".
In cases of emergency, they will warn us to stay in our apartments.
They did this following the Sunday March 4th Brazzaville explosions,
after which we ignored them and went to Church.
A Congolese version of "The Happy Bus".
You do what you CAN with what you've GOT.
The Catholic Church/School clock tower and the U.N. Administration Bldg.,
bristling w/ all kinds of roof-top communications paraphernalia.
 This view is from our wrap-around roof.
Can't remember if I've posted my one and only (so far) African painting.
I got it on the first trip to Thieve's Market and love it.
It reminds me of the jungle at the Bonobo Primate Preserve.
The statue out front of the Kinshasa Water Department.
On most days, the water from the faucet doesn't work.
Now, here's a man who is not afraid to go against the trend.
No pink shirt, he!

Can you read this about 2/3 of the way down?
I'm so glad that we have these warnings 'cause I sure would have played with the first monkey I saw!
By the way, President Jameson has encouraged George & me to take a few days
 and go on a Safari sometime next year during the "dry season".
But, he did warn us that the monkeys will jump up and down on the tent roof each night.
I guess they think it is a trampoline.
This is me... or the top of my head... which is all I can see in the bathroom cabinet mirror.
Why are these things always built by seven foot giants?
This was featured in last week's blog... I can now tell you that this is a steal at $850 USD.
George's grandson, Henry, is serving a two-year mission in the Nebraska Omaha Mission.
Last week, in his letter home, he mentioned that their washing machine had broken.
George wanted him to see what the young missionaries wash their clothes in here in the Congo.
It hardly ever breaks.


  1. That blue bucket right there is reason #4654 why I could never live there!

  2. Let me clarify... When I speak of "missionaries", it refers to the young Elders and Sisters and virtually every one of them are now in living conditions 100% better than anything they've ever known. In fact, that is a mixed blessing. It shows them that there IS a better standard of living, but it may also keep them from wanting to return to their villages and work to improve conditions there. That said, the Senior Couples are NOT washing clothes in a bucket. Trust me on this one. :)

  3. African clothing is substantially cooler than American clothing! Pink shirts and all. :-)

  4. I agree, Jennifer... of course, there is a difference in the "city" clothes and those we see if we go to outlying villages, but much of what we see here makes American clothes look boring. Have you designed your Congo dress yet? I recommend setting up some sort of white board that you can use to create your dress by parts.. start w/ the neckline, the length & type of sleeves, decorative features, waist, skirt. Do you want cut-outs, eyelets appliques, beading, braids, flounces, ruffles, slits, flares, puffs, pleats... there's no limit to the variation. Start now. <3