Sunday, March 07, 2010

My trip to Congo, days 1, 2 & 3

We left on Monday, February 15th, flying to Toronto. It was in Toronto that everything started sinking in that this was real. The flights were all fine-- from Toronto we flew to Paris and from Paris, to Kinshasa. We arrived at about 6pm Kinshasa time, on February 16th.

Driving in Kinshasa is crazy! There aren't lines on the road, hardly any signs or traffic lights and lots of lane changing and honking! This is what we saw on our drive to our hostel-- a mini-van jam-packed with people (there must have been between 12 to 15 people in there!) with a live goat tied to the roof!

In Kinshasa, we stayed at MPH, a presbyterian hostel. Here are my team members: Ken Wiebe, Len Janzen and Konrad Loewen (our church's senior pastor).

The fifth member of our team (& our team leader, who'd been to Congo four times already), Dennis Hoeppner. Here he's talking with our contact in Kinshasa, Maurice, who works for MBMSI.

An outside shot of the hostel.

The MBMSI office, where Maurice works.

After stopping at the MBMSI office, we went to visit the Bon Berger Clinic. To get there, we had to take two cab rides and then were dropped off across from a cemetery. From there, we walked to the clinic, which was quite far. And this was the middle of the day, and it was very hot. The clinic is run by a doctor named Delphin, who also runs other projects, like sewing classes, education focused classes and is also building a church in the area.

Just an example of how littered the "streets" are. Garbage is everywhere. It's very sad.

Sewing classes that the Bon Berger clinic offers to Congolese women. They were packed into this tiny, hot room, learning how to sew. They don't offer the machines for micro-loans, though, which was disappointing to hear. For these women to purchase their own machine, it would cost them $120, which might as well be $10000. We talked to Delphin about offering a micro-loan program to purchase the machines, like they do at BTEDE and he said he'd be open to it. So I'm planning on organizing another fundraiser to purchase machines for Bon Berger and BTEDE to offer the women as micro-loans.

Some kids on the street, outside of the clinic. They are so friendly. The one boy spoke to me in English, saying: "Hello! How are you?" When I said: "Fine, how are you?" he replied: "Good!" and then they all laughed. So cute!

After walking over a mile in the hot humidity, we were so thankful to be offered cold drinks. The selection in Congo is Coke (they call it Coca), Fanta (only comes in orange) and Sprite (which is more rare). Coca and Fanta seem to be the most popular. I used to be addicted to Coke but stopped drinking it nine years ago. When I told the guys this, they insisted that I have some. So, here's me, drinking my first Coke in nine years. The verdict? I didn't like it! Way too syrupy. I ended up trading Konrad for his Fanta.

At the Bon Berger clinic, with Delphin (in the white shirt). The man in the vest is Edgard Kimbau, the director of BTEDE, the organization that our church supports in Kikwit.

After leaving the clinic, we walked to the Bomoyi Ya Sika orphanage, which houses 10 orphans, all older than five.

They'd made their own checkers game (Jeu de Dames) out of a piece of wood and bottle caps.

After a couple of hot taxi rides back to MPH, we walked across the street to a type of bar where we could sit outside in the shade and attempt to cool off. My cold Sprite helped somewhat.

While we were sitting there, a boy came up to us with dead animals in cages. One of them was a monkey. He asked if we wanted to buy it. "Bush-meat" is was apparently called. Uh, no thanks. We'll pass.

My scariest incident in the Congo occurred that evening when I left my room at MPH to go to the bathroom, but had to go back to get some toilet paper. When I opened my door, there, across the room on the curtain was a huge cockroach! I was already a little sad and teary (a little homesick, I think) so I trekked across to the men's side of the dorms and called for someone from my team to come and help me. Thankfully, Dennis and Konrad (with camera in hand!) came to my rescue. It took several attempts, but they finally killed it!

After that, I just prayed that if there were cockroaches around, that I just wouldn't see them. And I didn't see anymore on the whole trip!


Erna Elias said...

I loved your pictures! It was like reading your daily journal for the 3 days. How exciting and yet so scary -so far from home. What a brave and courageous woman you are with the all the men.You deserve a medal!!!

carol said...

Cockroaches! EEEEK You are a braver woman than I! LOL So far the pictures I've seen are quite something. What an amazing adventure for you to have been on. Looking forward to seeing more.

Heather said...

WOW sounds like an adventure. You were the only woman. Brave girl!!

Can't wait to hear more!

Anne Krashel said...

Wow, amazing pics.
What a trip.
Can't wait to see the rest.

Heather M. said...

Leigh, it sounds like quite the trip. I'm so glad you were able to go! I saw cockroaches (and rats) in NYC this summer and they freaked me out!

Anonymous said...

Leigh, I'm just getting to read your Congo posts...if the cockroach was your scariest moment, that's pretty good. Although I used to be deathly afraid of spiders until I saw my first cockroach in Belize. Now I'm ok with spiders.

And I remember my first night in Africa, it was teary too. The long flights, the overwhelming level of need and lack of so much we take for granted just does ones heart in.