Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas & De-construction in Kinshasa

Our beautiful Salt Lake temple back home in Utah,
 with some of the 1/2  million Christmas lights of Temple Square.
Picture this with the lights shining through beautiful snow-laden trees,
as it looks this week after a good snowfall.

Christmas lighting on the Spanish architecture of my picturesque St. Augustine, Florida.
Chances of snow here are somewhere around one in a million!
This may appear to be just the view eastward from our bedroom,
but if you look closely, you will see more than just the building.
Here's a challenge to all grandchildren:
Look at this & following pictures (you might have to enlarge this )
Find the hidden objects and count them! Adults can play, too...
or just skip & scroll on down several levels.
Is it easier to see now?  How many do you count?
Be careful.. don't count the lamp post.
Half of one counts as a whole!
This is a pretty "pre-flight" picture.. But, is that the only one?
Sometimes it's hard to tell... is it sky or is it a bird?

Other times, it's easier.
What was your grand total?
Here's how they look up close.  Aren't they pretty? 
They are migrating, but we aren't sure to where...
Can you find out what they are called? (Hint: Google "Birds of Africa") 
Which is  your favorite bird in the Google images?

The next several pictures may be more interesting to the men...
The women might want to scroll down till you see colorful pics.
This was taken BEFORE the de-construction of the 5th floor began.
George's idea was to make this huge 5th floor apartment into two. 
This looks southeast from apartment 5-A toward 5-B beyond the wall. 
The sliding door and double doors will be walled over to create
the 2nd apartment.  Photo is from the LR & DR of 5-A looking toward 
what will soon be a hall (r) with doors to the two new bedrooms (l).
The wall on the other side of the ladder will be knocked down
to make the LR/DR of the 5-B apartment.
The 5-B wall coming down to make the LR/DR. 
The shorter man in red is one of our many unemployed Bishops.
(Unemployment in the Congo is over 70%)
The Church has unpaid ministry,
so we were happy that he had an opportunity to receive wages.
He is old, but worked harder & longer than any of the younger men. 
The worker on the right was younger, tall & looked strong, 
but he was the laziest.
  Lesson:  Looks can be deceiving!
However, the lazy guy wanted to look fully engaged for the picture. 
Elder Smith had to supervise a lot to keep sliding glass doors (l) 
from being broken due to flying concrete from all of the
"hammer-happy" deconstruction workers.
Looking back in the opposite direction from what will be
  one of the bedrooms toward the LR/DR of 5-A.
Both apartments have nice views & share some views in common. 
One nice development was that the workers had music from
the sound truck and dancers who stationed themselves
by the Plaza below, loudly advertising the opening of a new store. 
After a couple hours, having attracted a crowd that probably
consisted mostly of their immediate relatives, they circled the   Plaza 
and took off down Trente Juin Blvd, Stage Right...
hopefully to attract more customers. 

Now, on the 5-B side, looking at the "new" LR/DR.
Note that sliding glass doors have been miraculously preserved
amidst all of the flying concrete.

The debris was gathered in bags, put in wheelbarrows
and taken downstairs to our big Toyota pickup truck,
where Pascal took it to the road he lives on
 to fill in the holes & craters.
His neighbors were very grateful for his hard work,
(but no one offered to help unload).

Another hard worker.  Many of these men have graduated from the
Construction Training program, which has helped them get M-F jobs.
But, this will give them a little extra. 

After the men successfully tore down the door
 between this 5-B bathroom & the bedroom (soon-to-kitchen),
George tried to do a victory sign.
But, I pointed out to him, that with his chopped off finger,
 it looked more like a check mark.
So, he tried it with the other hand for the full "V" for victory!
He looks tired in this picture after working hard all day.
Putting in two nine-hour Saturdays was exhausting.
It's voluntary and he doesn't get paid money for any of this,
but he feels he is serving by doing it (and God compensates well). 

A chipped broken sink was a casualty as George was supervising
in another area & didn't get it pulled out in time.
Wielding a sledge hammer is hard work, but can you imagine
 how much fun all those young men had...
laying into these concrete walls.
Sort of like a "Demolition Derby" for construction guys.

Now for some fun fashion stuff... No more grey concrete pictures!
Wish I could have taken a picture of the whole dress.  It was very pretty 
and sophisticated.  Hopefully you can get an idea from the top.
Isn't it great that this woman was so bold to combine
shades of neon & olive green with fuchsia pink accessories? 
And, here is a combination..
pretty lavender and turquoise fabric
with turquoise shoes.
We have to put this in the category,
"Clueless Men & Their Fashion Statements"

Speaking of men:
This truck ad would never pass the "Gender Sensitivity Test" in America.
Apparently, being tough & competitive is "The Business of Men"
and hauling the beer is woman's work.

English Sunday School class Dec. 9... It changes every week,
with LDS members passing through for various reasons.
(l-r) Colin and ?: two of the partnership of four who are diamond exporters.
Sometimes all four are in Kinshasa on a Sunday & then they are gone again.
Mac Coleman: retired AF, State Dept. trainer for Congolese soldiers in the east. 
Chelsey & Larry Itejere & Leyna: couple from NC adopting the little girl. 
He returns to work Dec 21 & we're praying she'll be home for Christmas.
Brittney & Eric Roos: another adopting couple, from ID. Their baby boy
had some problems & was in the hospital, but was finally released 
& they were able to go back home the 14th.
On the way home one day, we couldn't believe our eyes. 
Was this actually a fire and a real fire truck responding?
(They still haven't rebuilt the burned-down fire station)
But, apparently they are able to overcome that small obstacle.
When we got closer, we saw a number of policemen
 just standing around. So we knew that it must not be TOO serious
 or they'd have been running into the building to save people...
(I'm sooo bad!)

(I forgot to turn the camcorder to "photo",
but if it works, even for a moment, you'll see a beautiful
girl I've shown before, named Getou.)

One of the sweetest blessings of serving here has been the people.
Our respect and love for them grows by the day.
And feeling love from them, in return, has been an incredible experience.  
All of a sudden, like Sarah of the Old Testament,
 I'm becoming a mother to many.
Getou's mother has died & her father is in ill health, 
so her loving Aunt has taken her into her own already large family.
Getou hugs me strongly each Sunday
and now calls me "mother".  That doesn't mean I replace her mom, 
just that she thinks of me as "a mother-like" influence ...
Of course, it all started with this dimpled guard,Laurent.
I've wanted to "adopt" him since we got here.
He couldn't attend Church last week, because of malaria,
(every Congolese we know gets it)
but this past week, he finally was able to attend Church
for the first time.  He was standing with "Perry"
when the note in the photo below
was given to me.

I was so touched when Laurent & another guard waved us to stop
on our way out from the apartment one morning this week.
The other guard (Perry) explained that he'd lost the Pass Along card
that I'd given him with the ph.# of the APs.  As I gave him another, 
he handed me this note with HIS information, so that I could
give it to the APs, as well.  What a sweet surprise to read the note. 
Apparently the guards have ALSO adopted me as their mother.
Photo: With my best mom...:)
Also, I found a new hairdresser.  He works in the beauty shop which
 is owned by the sister of a Lebanese dress shop owner
with whom I made friends one day.
 Did you keep up with that?
Rami is from Beruit and one day, when I came early & saw him smoking,
I shook my finger and said, "Rami!  Don't smoke!  It's bad for you!"
He said, "It is true.  My mother tells me that, also.
She is worried for me. You are like my mother.  Thank you."
The good news is that he has cut way down on his smoking
 (this was verified by "Bridgette", the manicurist) and he's trying to quit.
Meanwhile, he had someone take this picture
and posted this on his Face Book page titled:
"With my best mom..."
Finally, today, an email came from a young man named 
Bienvenu Motshikana (left).  I didn't take this picture, but
the three blue-tied young men had just sung in Single Adult choir
We also know Junior (c), and Dieumerci Kalonji (r). Can't remember #4. 
Kalonji has translated for us several times. 

A more casual picture (r), from 2nd week of de-construction.
Bienvenu is a returned missionary who was employed in 
the 7-week office cleaning job when we 1st arrived on our mission.
He has always been happy to visit with us.
After the Monday Christmas Devotional, he asked me
 to email him a copy of the talk I gave. 
His response was so sweet, in broken English.
 Apparently, I now have another "son" in my growing family.
"Thank you so much sister Smith you are a great mother even inspiring. 
The day you were giving your talk i felt the Spirit strongly upon me.
That was the same Spirit i was feeling when i was a missionary.
And that Monday i thought it was the wife of the mission president teaching us. 
Your teaching made me think much about the Savior. Thank you so much mother"  

First thought... should we call "Suicide Prevention"??
No, this guy was just taking the hard route to who knows where,
(the safety of that rickety scaffolding, perhaps?)
Only two chains holding this load.  You see this and you think...
how OLD are those chains,
(and, even if they are brand new... were they made in China?)
Either option is reason for worry.

Two men dressed in very spiffy looking white suits,
waiting for transport in the rain. Maybe a groom and best man?
I felt bad for them, but was glad it wasn't pouring!

Most of the taxi vans have religious phrases on them.
This one... "The man of courage is the object of criticism today."
"moral courage" is implied...  How true.
Decided to throw a little surprise birthday party for Sister Jameson.
They had been traveling so much & were due to be gone again
on her birthday.  At the last minute, I let President Jameson in on it.
Good thing, too.. because she was so tired, she considered not coming. 
We provided the balloons, decorations etc.,
George made brownies w/ walnuts and Sister Robinson made
yummy mint brownies, while the Moons brought the ice cream.
Our little group was incomplete because the Billings couldn't come. 
When we all said, "Surprise!" and began singing "Happy Birthday",
Sister Jameson cried just a bit.  She'd really had a hard day,
and this made her feel so much better!
We were so happy for that.

Sister Laraine & Elder Hal Robinson, Perpetual Education Fund Couple.
Pre-mission, he was a banker back in Afton, Wyoming.
 Here, he's had the difficult PEF task of dealing with Congolese banks,
which don't have "Customer Service" or "Efficiency" in their vocabulary.
The Robinsons are much-loved, by their students and by us.
We love to tease Elder Moon about nearly everything.
He's a good sport and teases right back.
The Humanitarian Couple have a very big job,
helping through a wide variety of projects.
Mac caught Sister Moon in the same,fingers-to-the-face position.
She is from Canada.  She & Elder Moon married after both
had been widowed.  They previously served a mission in Ukraine.
We love to kid her for "aboot" and other Canadian words. 

Mac Coleman was taking these pictures so subtly that we didn't even know.
Apparently, Sister Moon moves faster than the lens setting.
This was the longest my hair had been for decades, even back to high school.
A few days after this picture, I had Rami chop it off. (see pic above)
In one of those "watch what you say in a foreign language", I used the word
"blanche" when I should have just said "blond".  Fortunately, he didn't listen!

I think Sister Jameson is making her wish.
I hope it was a good one & comes true for her.
After seeing how hard she works to support her husband,
and to function as the "Mission Mother",
you would not ever want to aspire to be in her position.

Four very diverse women with a special bond of sisterhood.
Just HAD to laugh at (and take a picture of) my husband's
pre-bedtime snack on the nightstand.
Is this a sign of OCD or just the natural process
for a left-brained, abacus minded, accounting major...
who knows that M&Ms are a precious commodity
and should only be carefully & systematically allotted ?
George's "surprise" Christmas decoration for the apartment.
It consisted of unrolling a ball of red & green rubber bands he'd tied,
then draping the strand on whatever he could, after which he hung
plastic colored Christmas balls, which he secretly got in Johannesburg.
It's important to remember that we were there in June...
so the store's sale price was almost .."We'll pay you to take it!"
Sister Jameson brought back S. African beaded Christmas trees
for each of the couples when they were in Jo'burg in Nov.
It's the smallest tree I've ever had in my life, but it's a tree.
The  petite Nativity was also a "Jo'burg" surprise from George.
The sheep are about the size of my thumbnail. I love it. 
Special holiday treats began with a "sweet" gift from the Itejeres.
Unfortunately, George didn't get to eat many
because they mysteriously went missing...
(I'm soooo very bad!)
How happy we were to see this unexpected item in the store.
But we were a little dubious about the quality.
Joan:  "Get two.  If they are good, the store will sell out."
George:  "What if they aren't good?"
Joan:  "Then you can eat both of them."
My family probably is not surprised
that I did a happy dance right in the store when we spotted THIS!
I always faithfully brought it to each family Christmas dinner
 & then taken it home afterward, minus the one piece I ate.
(Not sure where all these non-mince pie eaters came from).
Anyway, the taste test hasn't been done yet.
Just waiting to find some egg nog!
Just recently, we finally saw a sign of "Christmas as we know it".
We found out that the Congolese typically begin
the celebration of Christmas just ten days before Dec 25.
Let's see... that's about two months after the USA.
(Unless we've now pushed it back to July 5th)

The next clue was the street vendors with their Chinese-made
 blow up Santas and various inexpensive toys.
Is that purple garland over his shoulder?

And the Congo version of carrying home your Christmas tree.
But THEN one day... lo' and behold... we saw men scampering up
a Christmas tree-shaped structure in the Plaza... could it be?

The next day, as we came home from the Mission Office,
We saw what appeared to be a completed tree.

And, as dusk came, the blue lights on the tree and the gold-lit star
"much to our wondering eyes, did appear".
After it was all finished, we happily enjoyed it's glow that night..
the next two nights it was dark, because the power went off.
That's the Congo!

 Finally, proof positive that commercialism is alive & well in Africa.
(What IS it with purple garlands here?)
This was in City Market, which is owned by Lebanese and 
frequented by many from that country, as well as other ex-pats.
The piped store music is usually classic Celine Dion with occasional 
Lebanese songs, but I had to really laugh yesterday as I heard
"Jingle Bells" sung in Lebanese & in a middle eastern-style.

It's 75 degrees today and all the Congolese are wearing their winter coats.
It was quite funny this week to try to explain "snow" to some Congolese.
OK... think about it.  How would YOU describe it???
Of course, that weather won't be happening for our Congo Christmas, but...
If you close your eyes and squint, you can imagine that the Flamboyant tree
flowers are actually Christmas Poinsettias.

I HOPE this picture is deceiving just because I'm leaning closer,
but already-trim George IS losing weight and I AM gaining.
Why is life so unfair?
Is it too late to ask Santa for some TNT to blast it all off?
(Maybe I should forget that egg nog)...sigh!

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