Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cultural Nights in Kinshasa, Africa


Before we get to that, though, a few miscellaneous subjects.
First, a picture taken right outside our dining room window.
Isn't he beautiful? 
I say "he" because, in birds,
the males are better looking than females...
(unlike the human species.) :)
Who can tell me what kind of bird this is? 

A final tribute to the Jamesons from Temporal Affairs...
A tablecloth in the colors of DR Congo (blue & yellow)
with hand-sewn appliques of typical Congolese people, events.
Presented to the Jamesons at the T.A. Farewell.

This date (Trente Juin) signifies the DRC "Independence Day"  
or July 30... which also just happened to be the day 
the Jamesons flew out.  Also partially visible is the soldier
in blue carrying an automatic weapon.  It IS the Congo, after all!

Hard to smile for this picture with tear-filled eyes.
Jamesons saying goodbye to our wonderful Bishop
and very capable fellow Mission Office worker, AimĂ©, 
his daughter & soon-to-be-mom again, Effie.

And speaking of those who fly away (and some who return)
This is a group shot from English-speakers Gospel Doctrine class.
Elder Billings & Sister Moon (Elder & Sister Billings have now
gone to the Lubumbashi Mission to do Construction Training.)
Back L-R: Hugh Matheson is a Utah developer who 
comes & goes, but will move here soon with his wife.
Mac Coleman, now retired as a State Dept. contractor
 training Congolese soldiers in the east, has returned to Houston.
Norman Kamosi  & Stan Houghton building contractor partners,
will be working on the new temple in Kinshasa.  
Many years ago, Norm was a member of the DRC Parliament.  
During a violent coup he escaped with his life, 
he found his way to Washington DC, 
where he was introduced to the Church and baptized 
by Stan's son, who was serving a mission there.
If I look as if I'm hanging on to Elder Smith, it's because I WAS.
This was taken while I was still using crutches after the knee(s) injury.

Manon D'Isles (sp?) and her husband are from Montreal, Quebec,
which is where my mother was born.
They will be returning to Kinshasa as he assumes responsibilities
for Facilities Management for all Church buildings in our mission. 
(That's five COUNTRIES!  And 30 CHAPELS just in the Kinshasa area)

When we arrived at the Memling, we found 
that the first hour was for drinks and browsing.
Above are some of the Congolese wax fabrics on display.
I didn't get a picture of the innocent-looking 
(and supposedly "non-alcoholic") white drink
that LOOKED like coconut milk, but turned out to be Palm Wine. 

A downtown advertisement for Vlisco.  
Their models are truly as beautiful as any women I've ever seen.

A good example of the statuesque & exquisitely gorgeous
Vlisco models which began the evening's entertainment.

This was one of the "mature", full-figured models,
full of personality and fun!

A two-fer (blurry) picture of some of the fabric 
draped on display figures
a pretty good example of a man in Congolese attire.

Some of the Drummers and Dancers on stage.

Dancing out on the floor.  If ONLY I'd been able to upload
my film of these dances.  There were about six tribal cultures
represented, with the dancers rapidly changing outfits in between. 
The music was loud and wild, the dancers followed suit,
dancing and yelling as they moved their bodies in amazing ways.

And, speaking of amazing, this is a still picture of Elder Smith
DANCING!!... and rather wildly, at that!
(Some of you will be able to see the video when we get back home)
When the dancer came to get him, he was refusing to go with her,
but the Gates & I exercised extreme pressure & he relented.
He quickly figured out that, if he rocked his hips back & forth
and occasionally made a little bumping motion forward & backward,
it bore a faint resemblance to dancing.
We were laughing SO hard (WITH him, of course!)

Tables were set nicely with a strong African theme.
Bamboo circles tied w/ raffia for napkin rings,
coconut shells to hold the candles. 

Door prize winners!  
The Gates won TWO nights (w/ breakfast) in a suite at the Memling.
In the background are three of the Americans who had traveled
to Kinshasa in the process of adopting Congolese children
and we had helped facilitate some of their needs. 
They made up a group of ten and joined us that night.
At one point, Elder Smith took my camera & disappeared.
If I'd known he was taking pictures of the cards on the buffet,
I would have encouraged him to show the food as well.
But, then, it MIGHT be best to try to forget how it looked.
As it turned out, the one thing that all 14 of us thought looked good
(and therefore took & ate a lot of) turned out to be MONKEY!
If you know Lingala, you may be able to identify some of these,
but I can tell you that ANY time you see a food in the Congo
that is RED (e.g.,last item)... do NOT eat it!  As Rusty said,
          "Whad dewah yauw do, dode ead da Mbtamba. 
I cand fel by dongue!"  

These were the items on the very first table... fruits and nuts of various sorts, 
(some of the "nuts" looked like either peanuts.. or fried caterpillars & maggots)
I hoped for better fare on the other tables... but it was not to be.

One of many VERY hot sauces which can be found here.
They have a pepper in Africa called Peri-Peri and use it a lot.
I tried it when we were in Johannesburg and 
immediately began looking for a fire-extinquisher!

We survived the Palm Wine, Peri-Peri Pepper Sauce, Pulled Monkey, 
and who knows whatever else we ate that night!

Our two Assistants to the Mission President (APs),
Elder Kabuya and Elder Mpungu.
Two wonderful young men, singing a French children's song
naming the days of the week.
A few days later, on July 4th, Elder Mpungu  came int my office,
saying... I have something for you, Sister Smith.  He then 
sang "The Star Spangled Banner" & made tears come to my eyes. 

Sister Guylaine, our Gombé ward Relief Society president.
Her husband is a Major in the Army, so relatively well-off.
(key word, "relatively"... George showed me the Officer Housing
and people in the USA would protest if it were prisoner housing).
Her heart is so big that she has taken in several of her nieces
and nephews who lost parents or were in difficult situations.
One of those is Getou, my favorite Congolese daughter.
Her mother (Sis. Guylaine's sister) died & her father is very ill.

Two styles of Congolese dresses. (forgotten the name of the first sister.)
On the right is Angelique Tarr, our Kinshasa Young Women's president.
Her husband is Da Tarr, whose story I look forward to sharing soon.
She & her husband have raised their children to value education, so
Two of their beautiful daughters have been studying at the Univ. of Utah
(wish it were BYU, but I love them, anyway!)  
Missah graduated in International Business
and DaAnge returns tomorrow to complete her Architectural degree.
They are beautiful girls and both look forward to contributing to DRC.
A son, 18, is also in Salt Lake City attending Judge Memorial H.S.
and the youngest son is a fine young man in our ward.

Our Bishop's younger sister is petite and lovely in this dress.
Behind her is one of our best Sister Missionaries, Sister Flagbo.
She arrived shortly after George & I did.  So, since sisters serve 18 mos,
she will be completing her mission in a couple weeks & returning to 
her home country... Togo.  George & I kid her & say,
"Sister Flagbo from Togo!"

OK... one good men's shirt just to round it out the fashion show.

Au Theatre De Verdure (Mont Ngaliema)
Scene of the Concert Symphonique
with a combined Kinshasa & Cologne, Germany orchestra 
Also the location of the former Kinshasa Zoo.
When the Belge left, it was a large zoo.  But the people
soon reasoned, "Why should food go to these animals,
when I do not have any... and they ARE food."  
So, they gradually killed all the animals and ate them. 
 It is empty now.

Pascal & Elder Smith looking at King Leopold's statue.
I'm a little surprised that it has survived.
He began the Belge colonization.

"Doctor Livingston, I presume."
Just a couple hundred feet to the left of this statue is the Congo River,
which he famously came down.

We packed all the Senior Couples, plus Eduardo & Nilza Grana,
and their two girls (seen above) into the Mission Office bus.
George & I rode with Pascal in his truck to lead the way.
Our diligent Elder Bybee felt it was important that we be there 1 hr. early.
So, at 6:00 pm, we arrived.... fortunately, it was a lovely night.

At 7:00 pm (starting time) the still casually dressed orchestra was 
running through some unconnected pieces of their music, 
but there was no sign of a concert.

At 7:30 pm, the first of many ambassadors, along with their wives 
(although some looked as if they might be daughters) came in
and sat in the reserved seats directly in front & next to us. 
This VERY large body guard preceded them & sat across from me.
I hoped that his large-ness would be a protective wall for me, as well.
At 8:00 pm, we watched the workmen DIS-assemble the large 
crated camera boom they had begun assembling an hour before. 
At 8:15 pm, opening remarks were made & ambassadors recognized.

At 8:30 the music began and the long wait was forgotten.
The music recorded on my video-cam, but I don't hear it, now.
Hopefully, those looking at the blog will be able to have the audio.
It was SUCH a treat to hear beautiful, live music.
It felt as if we were thirsty travelers on a desert,
finding an oasis and enjoying long-denied, refreshing water.
We were so thankful for this special treat!
Now, back to everyday life in Kinshasa....

The loose long African garment for men is not uncommon here.

The camera can never capture the details of style & color.
This was a very attractive dress.

Two examples of Congolese fabric and style.
George tends to like the bright red, orange & yellow colors.
I like the blues, purples and greens.

This is the back of one of the approximately 45 new 
"mass transit" buses which debuted recently.
At first the people didn't seem to be using them, but that has changed.
They've discovered that being in a new, air-conditioned, comfortable
vehicle for a set price of 500 CF (Congolese Francs) or about $.55
 to destination, is better than additional fees at connection points in an 
old, beat-up, crowded and hot taxi van w/ 24 people squeezed in.
Take note of the maker of these buses & imagine the investment!

Beyond this bridge are vendors who seem to be practically
 on  top of each other alongside a small river approaching Masina.

Couldn't resist getting a picture of this young man,
all dressed up (albeit a crooked bow tie).
Maybe he was on his way to a Prom.

When you get to the area of Kinshasa called Masina,
the difference is noticeable.  This is the better part of that suburb,
but still a much poorer area than downtown Kinshasa.
In the 18 months we've been here, the 5 mile stretch of 
downtown Kinshasa has been cleaned up considerably.  
It hasn't been long since even the main boulevard (Trente Juin)
 was still partly dirt and didn't have medians, so traffic was horrific! 
(Now, of course, it is just terrifying).
Some more of the boulevard changes... There were previously 
no paved sidewalks, planters with flowers & bushes or trashcans. 
All of those things have been introduced in the time we've been here. 
Senior Missionaries coming from now on will still be shocked because
It IS a third-world country and the world's POOREST.
However there HAS been slow but steady progress.

A final tribute to the resourcefulness and courage of Congo's people.
As we drove through Masina, we saw a large group of young men.
They were playing the most popular sport in Africa & the world.
(soccer... or as everyone else calls it, football)
This young man was playing, and showed a lot of ability to manipulate
the ball, despite the fact that he was using crutches AND had only one leg.

Now WHAT was it that we thought we couldn't do because it was too HARD?


  1. I enjoyed you long awaited post.First I think I have found your bird. It is a Tree Kingfisher. I can't tell if it's the striped or mangrove variety.I also was not able to hear music from the orchestra. I did see the picture moving though. Once again I loved the fashion show. I really like the Bishop's sisters dress. I love the gold dress with the black top. It's very nice. We'll hopefully you don't take as long for your next blog update or you'll be getting ready to come home too. Love you guys! XOXOXO Juli

  2. Thanks for the comment, Juli. It's nice to know that you really enjoyed it. I'll try to do better and post sooner next time, but you are right... we'll be getting close to coming home! Love you, Mom