Thursday, February 27, 2014


Pondu is a Congolese dish that is big part of the diet. It is a dish made from the leaves of the cassava plant.
1000 Fc worth of greens (about $1.10 USD)
 First you take the stack of greens and you pick all the leaves off of the stem.
Cassava leaves
After separating the leaves, you need to rinse any dirt off of them.
Slowly adding the boiled water
After cleaning them off, you add an entire tea kettle full of boiled water to scald them.Once they have cooled off enough to touch, you squeeze as much water off of them as possible.
They are then added to a giant mortar and pestle to be ground down into tiny pieces.
Papa Didier begins to "piler" (pound) the leaves by lifting
the heavy pestle and bringing it down repeatedly. 
Sweetpea gets in on the action
Just when you think you are done pounding, you add your raw seasonings (onion, garlic, etc.) and pound some more. Depending on how many hands you have, the whole process takes about 2-3 hours.
Finished product
Now you get to sautée the pounded leaves in palm oil and serve over rice. Don't forget to top with fresh toasted peanuts for protein!
Congolese meal

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dirty Feet

Africa is a dirty place. There is dirt and dust everywhere! The dirt and dust which lives among the streets and by the water banks culminates into mounds that get swept everywhere by the wind. The wind manages to push the dust into every nook and cranny and every crack and crease. It never fails, if you spent a few hours sweeping your home and then moping, you can walk barefooted across the floor and your feet are going to be dark with the dust. The doors and windows don’t have good seals so the dirt just seeps in through all the cracks. All of this worsens right before a storm when the winds fill the air with a cloud of dust. And after the storm, all that remains is mud everywhere. And at the end of each day, before going to bed, you must wash your feet.
But I am learning to not be upset by seeing my own dirty feet or the never-ending task of scrubbing them. They are becoming symbolic to me. I used to read the story about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet and it didn’t mean much at the time. What was the big deal? In America our feet are clean. I would almost be willing to volunteer to wash a stranger’s feet. They usually have socks and shoes on to protect their feet anyway. But in Africa, it is not that way.

Many people don’t own shoes, or if they do, they might just be borrowed. But because feet are the main source of transportation, protecting them are important. They will make their own coverings or find two different colored and sized flip flops and make them work. But as with other customs in many other countries, the Congolese take their shoes off when entering a home as a sign of respect, even if the floor is just as dirty as the outside ground. In fact, our sentinels don’t even wear shoes on our porch!
Bringing all of this around full circle, image washing a stranger’s feet. Not just any feet, but feet that have been wearing open sandals. Open sandals that do not block out the dirt and dust. Feet that have been a person’s livelihood, taking them to and from their destinations. Feet that have become harden by so much walking and dirt. And then image Jesus willingly washing those feet to show us His love. Perhaps the holy ground God was referring to when He asked Moses to remove his sandals, were the feet, and God was getting ready to wash them.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A day in the life of...

Happy early Valentines day y'all. First things first, if you venture to the bottom of the page, you will see we've added yet another "gadget" to the blog. My miles flown have started to add up quickly! It doesn't hurt though when you get trips that cover over 1,000 miles in a day.Monday my first passenger was a young lady originally from Great Britain, her family now lives in Canada, but she is studying in Scotland, and would be spending 5 months working along side of a university from Japan studying the Bonobo Monkeys, teaching forest conservation, and generally helping improve the living conditions there.

This trip was about as far into the jungle we take the Cessna 182.
The three tiny "pins" from left to right/south to north are Kinshasa, Semendua and Djolu.
I got to the airport early, had the fuel tanks  topped off, and took off for our first fuel stop in Semendua, about an hour and a half flight. After being on the ground 20 minutes, we were off again for Djolu. The flight was just at three hours, including crossing the equator (but there was some cloud cover so I couldn't see the line on the ground like all the maps show). Once we landed, I off loaded her luggage, and prepared the aircraft for my next passenger. Except we had 3 passengers show up. Once was a researcher headed home to Japan, and the two other were medical patients. Unfortunately with the three of them and all their luggage, it was too much weight and I had to inform them one of them would need to stay behind. Once I payed the landing fee ($50...for a grass airstrip, literally in the middle of the 2nd largest jungle in the world) loaded the bags and briefed the passengers, we were off again. This time however, we were racing the sun.

 As a new pilot on the program I have to be on the ground 1 hour before sunset. In essence, I had to cram 9 hours of flying, roughly 30 minutes at each stop along the way into 11 hours of sunlight. It was going to be tight. Then if you subtract the hour of sunlight we burned getting to the airport and readying the aircraft, we were really cutting it close.

The ridiculously vast jungle. Nothing but trees as far as you can imagine.
Oddly enough, we frequently have a tailwind going out AND coming back from Kinshasa. Going east, we try to stay below 5000 feet, and we typically have a few knots of wind on our tail. Coming back west, we attempt to stay above 6000 feet, and we usually will get 5 to 10 knots of tailwind.

Fuel stop at the old MAF base in  Semendua
So I decided to climb. I went up to 10,000 feet and got a nice twenty knot tailwind. We were able to touch down in Semendua about thirty minutes early. After a quick splash of fuel, we were off again. By the time I leveled back off at 10,000 feet, it was getting later in the day and most of the winds had died down. But, almost exactly one hour before sunset, the wheels gently chirped on the broken asphalt at Ndolo, and after offloading passengers, bags, and a little paperwork I was able to go home and spend the evening with my girls.