Monday, December 31, 2012

Post-Christmas & "Bonne Année" from the Congo!

"If we are only willing to open our hearts and minds to the spirit of Christmas, we will recognize wonderful things happening around us that will direct or redirect our attention to the sublime. It is usually something small—we read a verse of scripture; we hear a sacred carol and really listen, perhaps for the first time, to its words; or we witness a sincere expression of love. In one way or another, the Spirit touches our hearts, and we see that Christmas, in its essence, is much more sturdy and enduring than the many minor things of life we too often use to adorn it."
--President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Of Curtains, Contentment, and Christmas", 2011 First Presidency Devotional
We found this statement to be so true for Christmas 2012...
Probably our simplest and quietest Christmas ever.
The Jameson's Christmas tree & one of her many African nativities.
They invited all of the couples to come and enjoy an early dinner,
afterward they read a Christmas program interspersed with all
of us singing the appropriate Christmas carol after each narration.
Then we returned home early to receive Skype calls from family.
President Jameson taught French for 27 yrs at Arizona University.
He always required his students to read "The Little Prince"
(which features a Baobob tree). When they saw this in on a trip
to S. Africa, they just had to get it.
Right now it's got African beaded ornaments on it for Christmas.

A beaded wintry Christmas scene.  These were made in S. Africa.
The residents there almost went crazy in August (their winter)
when Johannesburg enjoyed their first snow since 1981.
I know how they feel. I remember seeing snow for the 1st time
as a young child in Florida on Feb. 2, 1951 (newspaper account).
It was a magical experience... never to be forgotten!
What little Christmas wrapping paper can be found here
is not very pretty & horrendously expensive.
So, George & I used the only solid color plastic bags
we had on hand, which happened to be black.
Our white "ribbons".. 1) a remnant from a newly purchased
mattress and 2) a mesh ribbon that holds mosquito nets.
The other two gifts were wrapped in tin foil and copy paper,
(on which George valiantly attempted to draw Christmas trees).
We couldn't put the gifts UNDER our pretty beaded tree,
since it is so small.. but we put them all around it.

When our gifts to each other, as well as from others were opened,
it probably represented the most humble, sweet and eclectic
group of gifts either of us has ever given or received.
My gifts to George (& to me) were 2 Cantiques (Hymns
en Francais) since we can't read the tiny pocket-sized ones we have,
 a set of garments, and a hand-drawn picture of shearling slippers,
(which I set up to be delivered by Mac Coleman next week).
George gave me the nativity set & a surprise beautiful ebony & silver
bracelet which I'd admired in Johannesburg (left).
He also took time to find, download & print
a "binder full" of crossword puzzles for me,
since those I brought ran out long ago.
The Jamesons gave the tree, zebra towel, blue flower pin,
special seasoning, chili peppers & zip lock bags
(the latter are hard-to-find items in Kinshasa).  A crocheted bookmark
came from Sister Whitesides in Yaounde and
African paper beads sent up from Jo'burg by Sister Robinson.
These sweet and simple gifts were so appreciated.
After we came home from the Jamesons, we heard a lot of music
on the Plaza and checked it out.  The crowd seemed to consist of
nothing but families... with children running in every direction,
or lining up to walk to the ledge of the monument and jump off,
throwing firecrackers & sparklers willy-nilly and not a SIGN
of anyone getting harmed in all of this joyful and wild activity.
In America, there would have been hundreds of mothers saying,
"Don't do that!  You'll get hurt!"... and the kids would STILL
have managed to injure themselves.
Even as we watched, the crowds on both the left & right sides
of the Plaza began to grow thicker. Children or youth
would meet someone they knew, as they ran here & there,
and would just spontaneously begin dancing to the music.
And, it continued at an even greater pace as the sun set.
It was loud and boisterous, but an absolute joy to watch.
Before it was over, there were a couple thousand people
just having the most uninhibited and wonderful time.
Did we mention that shipping to Africa is expensive?
Here is the cost for two postcards that apparently didn't meet
the size requirements to come by just-postage "pouch" mail.
In case you can't read it, the total was $37.76
Apparently the four southbound lanes on Trente Juin
weren't enough for this truck.  And, this silly man in the blue car
came out thinking he had no traffic in his lane. (He made it)
Speaking of bad drivers...  how about bad parkers?
Someone, whose name I will never divulge under pain of death
(George) backed into the large pot that previously held these
two plants.  I am sure he will offer to buy a replacement...
Besides the large lit-up tree on the Plaza, we also were delighted
to see these tree outlines go up across the way.  It may seem odd
to be so excited about these minimal decorations...
But, when you don't have much, a little means a lot.
A FIRST...seeing "pajamas" on a female!
For some reason, it's always been men wearing them.
George said, "You've GOT to get a picture of this truck!"
Come on, car guys.... How old do you think it is?
However, just to balance this, we DID see a new 4-door
 Porsche a few days ago... beau coup dollars!!
One of my favorites... Tres jolie, Madame!
On Avenue de Justice, you can see just about anything for sale.
If Pascal had been with us, I'd have had him bargain for it.
(I am an excellent bargainer, but he can do it faster in traffic).
I took this picture for several reasons.  The dress is pretty,
her husband is actually holding her hand & helping her cross,
in the far distance, you can see the best policeman in Kinshasa.
He is so nice that a UN guy leaving to return to the USA
gave him his car.
Workers are often transported in this kind of rig.
I'm not sure if they were workers or a Church group of some kind.
But they were singing Christmas carols at the top of their lungs.
(And, believe me.. Congolese lungs are pretty impressive!)
Right behind came a UN truck.  I wondered if some of the "cargo"
was men & supplies from the eastern part of the DR Congo,
who had been pulled out recently.  The contingent of UN in the
DRC is the largest and the longest assignment in the world.
No one here seems to believe they have done any good at all.
I could only snap part of this man, but he gets my vote...
The pajamas are impressive, but the hat settles it.
Labor is so cheap that it's cost-effective to use one man on each
floor to hand up one large and heavy concrete block at a time.
If it slips & hits someone on the head, there is no workman's comp. 
Would you expect to see cactus in the Congo?  Me neither.
But, here's proof.  Right behind St. Anne's Catholic Church
(which is next door to us) is the "motel" where someone can
stay for just $70 a night.  This is where Chelsey & Larry Itejere
stayed while waiting for adoption papers to be finished.
She finally got to return to NC w/ Leyna yesterday...
one week later than they had planned.
How excited we were to see this group performing in front of
Hasson-Frere supermarket, just a block from our apartment.
We stopped the car while I took pictures.
There were several other men in the background, singing and
dancing and playing instruments.  But the girls were the stars.
Hopefully, the video below can be seen by you ..
Did you think only Polynesians could dance like this?

Always seeing surprises in creative designs.
Any other week, this man would have won the pajama award,
but he didn't have a hat!
It was love at first sight with this dress & turban.  Lovely!
Two good friend, holding hands.
Never a lack of color & style to admire.
Just have to give this guy some credit.
Most of the countless street sweepers appear to be lethargic
and unmotivated to move more than an inch in any direction
as they sweep a tiny portion of the sandy boulevard.
But, THIS guy was getting into it, as he danced with his broom.
Of course, he stopped as soon as I switched to video.

If the video doesn't work, here is the guy who entertained
us outside ShopRite on Friday.  He made us laugh and was
well worth the 500 franc note.
A 3-in-1 shot... pretty dress, young couple holding hands
(which is still unusual, even in the younger generation),
and a guy who is obviously battling the frigid 85° weather.
This guy doesn't have pajamas, but he DOES have a hat
and he deserves some credit for the death-defying job he has:
To be the "conductor" and hold on with your fingertips
 while the taxi driver goes
hell bent for leather down the street.
The opening of a new internet provider company.
However, George believes that, like the gas stations and taxis,
they are all under government control.
So, prices are fixed & there is no real competition.
What we call the "Squatters Building"... uncompleted & abandoned,
but lived in by many families who must pay something to the police
to be allowed to do so.  This day there was a huge crowd outside,
but we didn't find out why.  Crowds easily gather after an accident
or any unusual incident, and they also tend to easily become a mob,
so we are counseled to quickly leave such situations.

This beautiful woman is Gloria Lomboto,
Pascal's wife.

Pascal is diligently saving all he can to take
his wife and family to the nearest temple
(Johannesburg, S. Africa) so that
they can be sealed for Time & Eternity.
2013 will be a blessed year for them.
I pray it will be for all of us, also.
Bonne Année!

1 comment:

  1. I hope that $37.00 price tag wasn't for my two post cards.....