Thursday, January 22, 2015

Change of Plans

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a long, complex and tumultuous history. Beginning in the 1870's, King Leopold II began an exploration into this mineral rich region and slowly began a process to acquire the rights to this country. His reign can only be described as brutal in his attempt to exploit many of the country's vast riches. Once his violent methods came to light, Belgium elected to colonize the country allowing them to continue to utilize the Congo's resources. Eventually, the Congolese people won their independence on 30 June 1960. Unfortunately, the newly independent country began its leadership struggles between the elected president and the first Prime Minister, who was eventually thrown out of office by Joseph Mobutu, chief of the new army.

Mobutu began paying the new army out of his own pocket, whom he later used to overthrow the government, declaring himself leader of the newly named country of Zaire. His years in office were cut off when a coalition of Rwandan and Ugandan armies came in to overthrow him resulting in the First Congo War. In 1997, Mobutu fled when Joseph Kabila and his army marched into Kinshasa, declaring himself the president. In 2001, Joseph Kabila was assassinated and his son (also named Joseph) succeeded him in office. UN peacekeepers worked with Kabila to help the country to settle. By June of 2003 a transitional government was set up and a constitution was approved by its voters. In July 2006, the DRC held its first multi-party elections in which Kabila won. After serving (more than) two five year terms, according to the Congolese constitution, the president is to step down and a new leader will be elected. Recently, a census has been proposed to take place before the next election (a process which could take several years). Due to this, some in the population have expressed their concerns in less than desirable ways.

What does this have to do with our plans? Parliament is set to meet tomorrow morning at 9 AM (3 AM EST) to approve or deny the proposed census. After much consulting with our program manager, it has been decided it would be to our best interest to delay our return to Congo until the results of the decision are known. That being said, we currently have plane tickets for this Tuesday on reserve for us. We will know more when Parliament votes and hope to return without further delay.

In the meantime, feel free to brush up on your Congolese history with "King Leopold's Ghost" by Adam Hochschild, which is the source for much of my above information. If you would like to skip the history lesson and go straight to the news, many news sources are available about the current situation: BBC NewsThe Wall Street JournalThe DailymailFrance 24 NewsYahoo! News, etc.

Please join us in prayer for the country and its leaders to make a decision on behalf of its people.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Big Un-Adventure

Boy, when Kevin and I decide to travel, even our un-adventures turn out adventurous! Today was the big day, the day we were meant to go back to Africa. We loaded up all our bags, car seats, babies, baby bags, and carry-on's into the car and headed to the airport. As we were pulling into the airport, Kevin got a text message from the airline that our 2:27 PM departure was delayed for an hour due to weather issues. An hour is not bad but that left us with only a 35 minute layover in Washington, D.C. with two kids and carry-on's. We decided to talk to counter agent about getting us assistance at the gate to get us there on time.
When we walked into the airport we were greeted with a great surprise! Our friends, the Dodd's, had joined us to assist and we were so grateful! Levi helped load all our bags up while Erin and the kids played with our little girl.

While checking-in, we discovered that our plane was delayed an additional hour due to weather, meaning, we would not make our connecting flight at all. The United Airlines ticketing agent felt bad for our situation and figured out a way to help. He got us transferred to US Airways for a flight to Pennsylvania and then to Brussels. So we moved all our bags down the airport and went to check-in. There, we discovered that only the first bag was free, and with additional bags for each person the cost was much more. After getting checked in, we went back to United to see what to do about the additional charges. Once that was taken care of, we loaded our persons up, said our tearful goodbye's, and headed for security.
Security went as usual. Packing, removing articles, getting hands wiped down, chasing little girl down, getting bags singled out due to medications, chasing little girl down, finding shoes, chasing little girl down, and loading bags, after chasing little girl down. We grabbed some food and sat down for our short wait. While waiting we heard the announcement that all flights to Pennsylvania were being delayed, both in and out. So even though we were delayed, it wasn't by that much. The time went quickly, we loaded the plane with no problems and began to back away from the gate. Unfortunately the dreaded announcement came..."Ladies and Gentlemen, we are experiencing some technical issues and will be heading back to the terminal." Not only were there problems with the plane, the delayed flights to Pennsylvania were being pushed another hour and a half.

Our poor little girl lost it. She wanted to ride the airplane. She cried at the window looking at the airplane, while we tried to determine what our next options were. The next part was a blur of ticketing agents, phone calls back and forth, research, calls to our HQ, calls to their HQ, and all this while we were on our phones looking for connections. During this time, we had a hungry baby, a poopy diaper, an Adah who thought I was another person and ran screaming after them shouting "MOMMY!" in a panic, a meltdown or two, watching our luggage being loaded on another plane while we were in the terminal trying to find a new plane, a few tears (not saying who did that), getting our luggage held back for later, and an overtired screaming baby.

We tried every flight combination we could think of - through Paris on Air France, through Istanbul on Turkish via London Heathrow, Johannesburg on South African Airways, but to no avail. The end result? The exact same original flight from Knoxville-Washington, D.C.-Brussels-Kinshasa, at the exact same time, tomorrow. Whew!

Overall, we were very thankful for kind and patient agents who worked hard to get us on flights (or tried to) and got us refunded on our original luggage as well as a little upgrade on our first leg tomorrow. We were very grateful for having many hands to make a light load this morning and the distraction. We are blessed. And tired. But mostly blessed.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Talented Mr. Daddy

We have our departure date, tickets, passports, invitation letters, and VISA's. Our departure date is this Wednesday, January 21st and we are cramming in family visits! This past week has been of whirlwind of normalcy mixed with feeding our possible food cravings, and a few good-byes. Now that the countdown is in the single digits we have been doing everything we can to get our bags packed. Here is just one of many examples of what we are doing in order to get as many things as possible in as few bags as possible...

I think the photos explain for themselves what a talented daddy we have who worked hard to get this small tricycle to be even smaller!