Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Gift of Clean Water

Not sure if the full stunning effect of the yellow-green outfit shows 
But, I always have lots of chances to get a shot of a purple or pink shirt 
Some government-directed change in procedure caused all
public workers to "register" at the banks before getting paid.
This was just a portion of the long lines at many banks.
It took huge amounts of time per person and many found,
when they finally got to the desk, that they were under-paid.
Even worse were those for whom no record was found..
and so they got NO pay.
On our way to the well-closing with the Binghams, we passed
 the huge bakery called "Pain Victoire".
George recently found out that almost all the bread
 sold on the street is made here.
Each day, the women buy the bread at the same price it sells for.
 (.20 for a small baguette) & then walk miles to sell it.
Once a month, they receive 25% of all they sold.
More bread-sellers leaving the bakery.
The construction on Lumumba Blvd. (road to Masina)
has been a nightmare for so long.
Just a partial view as we were driving on it to the well.
People on the far left (unseen) with streams of
south-bound traffic, more people, north-bound traffic
and finally.. more people to the far right.
The reason there are so many people walking is because
 the taxis won't deliver folks any further out on this road,
Because they don't make money being stuck
 in the time-consuming traffic jams.
So these poor people are dropped off miles and miles
 from their homes or destinations.
We stopped at the Kimbanseke Stake Center
 to wait for Fils, our translator.
Outside the gate, the guard took the opportunity to sit.
Take a close look at what he is sitting on. Ouch!
As we turned down the sandy road that took us to the well
we immediately noticed a truck far ahead,
stuck in the sand.
Then, another...
And another..This poor driver was doing what he could
 to dig himself out.
We got through these stretches of deep, deep sand
 only because we had four-wheel drive.
The program was to begin at 10am, but because of the terrible traffic
we were late and arrived at 10:20am.
When we got to the site for the ceremony
 (a Catholic school/ playground)
the VIP chairs were all set up under a canopy
tho' the only people seated there
were some village leaders and the water committee.
There were a couple hundred empty chairs for guests.
But, the children were out in full force.
I loved looking at the different personalities...
the shy & cautious, the outgoing & friendly, but all curious.
George usually spots the shy, quiet child & makes friends.
Some adults, passing by, stopped to watch.

This little stinker in red was putting on quite a show
of dance moves for our entertainment.

The closest thing you will find for a "uniform" in the Congo
with bare feet instead of shoes.
And you should have seen the ragged ball they used.
But, it didn't matter... they were having a great time
and we watched with amazement as they moved that ball.
A sad sight... a darling little boy,
being taken care of by his big brother
and both of them showing signs of severe malnutrition.
A typical Congolese may eat only once a day,
and yet we have almost never seen malnutrition
such as this.

If you owned a ball, you were king.

11:00 o'clock and all is well
We are sitting prim and proper in the VIP seats,
along with the other "dignitaries"... waiting to start.
This is typical Congo-Time.
Big brothers, as well as big sisters, take care of their siblings.

Playing a game with a group on the other side of the chairs.
It appeared to be pretty simple...
Sort of a "Red Rover, Red Rover" type of thing.
But, it may have been even simpler..
"Who's brave enough to run across in front of
 all the Mundeles and VIPs?"
Notice the angel faces and the precious little boy
on his brother's back.
Talk about an action picture... some catching, some throwing,
some running, some dancing!  Playing with deflated balls,
but all having fun.
I was so taken by the expression of this serious little girl.
I never saw her smile and thought about the responsibility
 that she has at such a young age.
With all our experiences of seeing hundreds of children,
this was the first time I saw any hint of a confrontation.
It didn't get physical & was soon forgotten.
That is so typically Congolese.
One of my favorites.. As I looked at this little boy
taking such good care of his very little brother,
I thought, "How close they will be as they get older!"
And I thought of the scripture about raising children...
Mosiah 4:15
But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness;
ye will 
teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.

It was time to go home, so off they went... I was sad to see them go. 

Sometimes you have to scoot that little back-rider up!
This was the sand all the kids were playing in...
Soft, deep, fine and dirty.
These are very poor children.  Their clothes may have started as a donation
far away in America and handed down again and again.

Again, the condition of their toys is "throw away" back in the USA 

Soccer is the overwhelming favorite sport and they
look better playing than most adult teams I've seen.
Tired of standing?  Just plop down on this dirty sand.
11:15am... The guest chairs are still mostly empty.
11:30am... This little girl just flopped full body unto the sand and even rolled over in it.
Some of the village leaders had been waiting patiently as long as we had.
And then, we heard the sound of drums from far away
and the sound of cheers and shouts and singing.
It grew louder and closer, until appeared hundreds of children and some adults
who were skipping and dancing their way to the tent.
They were led by a man with a large drum and child with a small one.
Our children ran to greet them all.
As they got close, I realized I'd seen the drummer (in red center-back)
off to the side of the street on our way to the ceremony.
The reason I remembered him is because 1) he was all in red and
2) he was wearing a red feather boa, which stood out a bit
since it was about 85 degrees.
When he reached the end of the parade, he did pull up his pants!
This gives new meaning to "stuffing the ball".
Three little boys decided that scrambling up the tree
and sitting up high would give them the best view.
They climbed up very fast, like little monkeys.
This and another video seem to have uploaded 
along with the still pictures... not sure if it will play or not.

I had to take a picture of this little boy.
 I assume he had no shirt to wear and so he wore his padded jacket...
but it was just too hot to keep it on.
At last... people came and the ceremony began.  
This man was introduced as a  Police Commander.
He was very stern looking, but I was determined
to make friends with him.
Most of the speakers were local tribal or village leaders.
But, Stake President Lono was one of the speakers, also.
As he spoke to the people, and talked about the positive effects
they would have because of  the well (up to 1,000 people)
and how this would change their lives, the Police Commander
nodded in agreement several times.
In fact, he seemed to be pondering President Lono's words intently.
I carefully took this picture of him while pretending to aim beyond.
Afterward, as everyone was invited to walk about 300 yds to the actual well site,
 I  said, in my very best French."You are a Commander?"  He answered that he was.
 I said, "You are very young to be a Commander."
He laughed and walked beside me to the well, clearing the way for me
when the crowd was packed tight around the well.
George and I have really changed our opinion of the police.
We know there are certainly many bad ones and corrupt ones,
but many are just trying to eke out a living on very low pay.
Even when they want a bribe, it is just a way to feed their family.
While it may be true that they target whites, it's for the same reason
that Willie Sutton gave when he was asked "Why do you rob banks?"
He replied, "Because that's where the money is."
As the Commander and I walked to the well,
I noticed two things...
First, the two men ahead holding hands.  We see this fairly often
and personally, I love to see unabashed friendship between men.
I also noticed the attractive woman to the left.  We ended up
walking back together and had a nice French/English combo chat.
Freddy and Teddy, our Church Site Managers in green
begin the ribbon cutting with the dignitaries.
The Binghams take a symbolic sip from the glass
as the Commander waits for his.
I could be wrong, but I think Sister Bingham had
a tear in her eye.  This was just the week before they left
and she knew it would be their last well-closing.
The Commander is looking carefully at his glass of water
and probably very aware of the significance of this well.
Some local "body builder" types had been keeping the children at bay.
When George saw a little boy he'd befriended
 being shoo-ed out of a chair, he got up & walked over to him,
took his hand & led him up to the seat beside him w/ the VIPs.
(It was the Commander's, but he hadn't returned from the well yet)
He was shy & not sure what had happened to
make him be so prominent.  But his friends were impressed!
When the Commander came, George put the boy on his
(George's) lap... and introduced him.
The Commander hesitated, then smiled & shook his hand.
This little girl's play outfit looks just like a night gown
my girls had when they were young.
It made me sad to think that was all she had to play in.
Wish this was on video... the DJ started playing
and several of these kids started really rocking..
especially the boy with the horn on his hand!
This woman had a beautiful dress & turban, but she seemed
to be angry about something..
It's hard to tell because Lingala is such an angry-sounding language
that you think two people are arguing when they are not.

On the way back, a variation of a pink shirt.
And another pink dress... now that I've said they are rare,
I see them everywhere.
Blue pajamas and the advertisement for a school
on what WAS a pedestrian overpass before it collapsed.
The colors match, but if you look carefully,
the pants are plaid... nevertheless, it's colorful.
A man in the ankle length Congolese (Muslim?) outfit.
Despite the dirt, trash and general squalor,
you can still see children & adults formally dressed.
This little girl was in satin and tulle.
It's only an arm, but I SO loved the print & colors
of this woman's dress.
I suppose you can rent a preacher here?
But, many marriages are held in the "community center".
Here is a groom and his bride w/ her bridesmaid.
They were obviously stranded due to not having taxis.
We saw them asking strangers for a ride and eventually they did get one.
Another variation of colorful Congolese shirt
The men use  parasols as much or more than
the women.  
I thought this was kinda cute...
Mom has the baby and daughter has the middle child.

This woman was more beautiful than this picture shows
and I loved the cut-out feature on her gorgeous dress.
Streams of people... no, RIVERS of people... walking and walking!
It is always touching to see someone taking care of another.
Here a man & his wife or girlfriend helping
 a person (brother?) who is mentally handicapped.
And, we fuss about the condition of school buses in the USA.
This woman is carrying a heavy TV on her head.
Just had to get the woman with the silver wig.
You almost never see a Congolese woman's natural hair.
It is usually covered by a full or partial wig
or lots of extensions, if not in a turban
Another view of the crush of people
mixed in with the traffic.
They bob & weave, scoot and slip through
and sometimes barely miss being crushed.
We don't know if women who are very pregnant stay home
but we do not see as many as the
population would indicate.
These blocks of cement are SUPPOSED to keep the
traffic and  people separated.  It doesn't work.
At least he has a red flag on all this rebar.
We have seen some even longer loads without.
Car breakdowns are a dozen a day
but when a broken truck blocks things, it makes traffic even more miserable

Rain or shine, workers are transported like this
and packed like sardines.
The huge government building with a vast
and almost entirely wasted parking lot.
Next to the Stadium of Martyrs they are building a hundred
vendor stands for the upcoming African Francophone Conference,
which is why the city is being cleaned up so vigorously.
Of course, the President of the DRC doesn't realize that
he is REALLY cleaning it up for Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
and other Church leaders who are also coming in October.
To end on a pretty note, another beautiful, unique and colorful
Congolese dress.  Perhaps, as the younger generation
comes along, they will not be seen.
So, we are thankful to be here while they are.

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