Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday at Church

On our little girl's bucket list of things to do on vacation was to go to church. In Africa, there are not many children's programs for her age. She definitely misses the children's church back home. Ever since we touched down in London, she has asked if we were going to church. Today she got her wish!

Last night we spent forever googling churches with children's programs within our traveling zone. That proved a little more difficult but we located one.
This little gem was just what we needed this morning! It didn't have many members but the ones there were quite welcoming. They were quite excited to have baby boy and little girl as the only children in their children's program and there was a crowd of ladies who personally escorted them. The kids did not hesitate!

After church we were made to feel welcome with tea and biscuits and great conversations. There was a man from Angola, a gentleman who was arranging mission trips for Uganda, another man who grew up in Zaire (Congo-Kinshasa) with parents who were missionaries and even a woman who had flown with MAF to Kisangani (DRC) from Kinshasa about 25 years ago!

We were certainly welcomed and sweet pea enjoyed being the center of attention. It was so refreshing to meet so many connections to missions in one place. It certainly felt like God chose this particular church for us this morning!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Sweet Pea at the Natural History Museum

On my (Tasha's) bucket list for our vacation was to visit a museum. This morning we woke up to chilly and wet weather, which made for a perfect day at the museum. We put baby brother in the backpack carrier and sister in the stroller and headed out. Sister was immediately enraptured with everything! She was squealing and saying "WOW" and shouting "LOOK!" It was a great feeling to see how excited our little girl was when looking at bones and stuffed animals (taxidermy).
One of the things that sister requested upon entrance was to take over the photography. I figured it would be a nice break for me. Without further ado, here is the Natural History Museum as see in the eyes of our little girl.

Our first specimen is a cast of a fossil of a Plesiosaur that was mounted and displayed on the wall.
The museum hosts a lovely display of turtles. There are many different species in various ages of their lives including bones. The eggs and nests were amazing as well. Here is a photo of a sea turtle that was on display for people to touch.
A recent addition to the ecology exhibit included a crustacean display. Sister enjoyed exploring the many different types of ocean life, especially those that are edible!
After this section, Sister wanted to take a moment to photograph her family members.
Baby Brother
One of the most popular exhibits is the Diplodocus on display in the heart of the museum. This fossil was presented to the museum in 1905 and was moved in 1979 to Hintze Hall. In the 1990's a new scientific study found that the tail never dragged the ground but was held up higher. So the museum spent lots of time to dismantle and recast the tail. 
The mammal section housed amazing displays of beasts of all walks of life. The polar bear was a sight!
The lion was so very lifelike.
One of the largest sections is the exhibit of elephants. The museum boasts a large display of elephants including both African and Asian. The ones on display were placed in the museum back in the early 1900's and have been in the collection ever since.
And there you have it! A brief tour of the museum with your guide Adah!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Happy Birthday

Yesterday was our first born's 3rd birthday. She has been talking about "Happy Birthday" for a weeks now. I even had a paper countdown to help her realize how much time is required. I was super excited myself because this was to be the first birthday she has shown interest. I decided to go "all out" and give her what she asked for. Here are the photos with captions included.
Her toy's left a trail showing her where to go.
She was thrilled to see her toys out. She squealed "LOOK!"
Each of her toys got her a present.
She made certain to thank each and give kisses.
She was tickled with the party blowers.
She picked up the box and shook it asking, "what's that?"
I love her stunning blue eyes.
Sister insisted on playing with each item after opening it.
She is enjoying her new putty and cutters.
She loved her new Peppa Pig noisy book!
Her favorite part - singing "Happy Birthday" and blowing out candles.
She insisted we do this three times.
So much fun!
Finally enjoying the sponge cake.
Happy 3rd Birthday to my sweet baby girl! You are such a joy and so filled with life. We can't imagine our lives without you.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Flag

Patriotism runs high here, but that is a good thing. You want people to love their country and be proud. The people here have such respect for their nation that the raising and lowering of the flag is cause for a commotion...or lack thereof.

Around 7:30 AM, each military camp/base/headquarters/office will go outside and raise their flag. Around 6 PM, they will lower the flag. If you are in the vicinity of the flags, you must stop everything. If you are working, you stop. If you are crossing the street, you stop. If you are eating, you stop. If you are driving, you stop. It is quite eerie to look around and see everyone standing completely still, some even in mid-stride, almost like the beginning of a scary movie. But at the same time, the people have such a respect for their nation that they stand motionless and wait for the procession to be over.

Some locations have a fanfare with militia men and women marching and a bugle playing. We got stopped right in front of such a location one morning and Adah loved the bugle. Every time we drive by, Adah asks to hear it "one more time." One morning when I am braver, I might walk down there and watch the flag raise while they play the bugle. Until then, you will have to settle for some photos of people in mid-motion. Although the photos will never give you such a strong impression as would the sudden silence that occurs around you.

The crowd "pauses." All of them stood in
that exact pose for the entire event.
"Pause" from making concrete blocks
Bowing his head while he takes a work "pause."

Saturday, May 23, 2015

More Traffic

In the previous blog I talked about the traffic. Well, I got stuck in some morning traffic and had the opportunity to snap some photos. I am going to try to explain what is happening.

Look at this photo.

I am in the correct lane of traffic, naturally. There is supposed to be another lane of oncoming traffic. On the left you will note a white Toyota pick-up truck who decided he did not want to wait for traffic. He has decided to go "off road" and use the "sidewalk." If you look to the right of the pick-up truck (in the middle of the photo), you will notice a blue sedan. That lovely vehicle has also decided to not wait for traffic and it is attempting to merge into my lane of traffic. So a two lane has now become a three lane. But wait! There's more!

Ta-da! The other lane of traffic is no longer blocked and is attempting to flow. But it is now officially blocked by the white Toyota pick-up truck and now a Jeep. Neither vehicle was willing to lose their precious ground so they parked. Now our sneaky little blue sedan has merged into our lane leaving an "opening" between the Toyota truck who is on the "sidewalk" and our lane of traffic. A motorcycle proved that a vehicle could drive through and is making headway. So the oncoming flow of traffic is now attempting to also squeeze in between that little "opening."

Meanwhile, there is a road on the right. There is no stop sign, it is simply an "Every Man For Himself" rule when it comes to side roads. In your view, there is a large white bus who decided to not hesitate and force himself into my lane of traffic. There was no merging involved. It is pretty much like a game of chicken. He who hesitates is he who loses the game. The bus won. 

Now you have had a small taste of traffic in Kinshasa. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Traffic, Traffic, Traffic

In a city of an estimated 8 million people, there are going to be lots of cars. And by a lot of cars, I mean more than you can imagine. In an early post, we talked about the "10 Commandments of Driving," but what I failed to mention was the wait time required when driving. The nearest grocery store is about 5 kilometers away (give or take a few blocks). If the streets were empty, I could get there in less than 15 minutes. If there is traffic, the commute can be hours. Yes, hours with an "s."

There are many causes for traffic. There could be a new "pothole" that makes everyone slow down to drive across safely, there could be a car that has broken down and they left it where it was to repair, there could be 3 lanes of people trying to cut one another off instead of one lane of traffic, or it could just be that there are too many cars on the road going in the same direction.

That being said, I got stuck in traffic the other day and decided to take two photos. If you look closely at my side mirror, you will see that I was in the middle of the traffic.
Pausing from making cement bricks to watch
everyone argue about how best to solve the car puzzle
The cause for the traffic jam was a taxi driver. The driver decided to go around another slow driver, except he did not beat the driver facing him. They both slammed on their brakes but the taxi driver swerved and was blocking both lanes of traffic. No vehicles touched and no one was hurt. There was lots of yelling as people tried to figure out how to unblock the other cars, who at this point, were following so closely that the taxi was blocked in. (*I did not take a photo of the incident because I did not think a crowd of people wanted me in their way, snapping photos while they were arguing).

As I grew bored of waiting for the giant puzzle to be solved, I turned to my right and noticed two adorable children playing with a broken box.
Doesn't this melt your heart?
The one in blue pretended to repair the box with a rock and the one in white kept climbing up and down the box. It is amazing how much fun children can have even when they appear to have nothing.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Congolese Swing

Playgrounds are a rare occurrence. There is no such thing as a public park here. That is something that is sorely missed - a nice open green field for kids to run around and get out their energy. And the few playgrounds that are available charge per person anywhere from $5-$10 for use, which is not something your average Congolese can afford on their daily salary. It does make sense culturally. If no one is using the playground, who is to prevent someone from "borrowing" a piece from the equipment (which could render it unusable or unsafe). This is why the few playgrounds available are behind large gates with people working there to guard the equipment and prevent people from misusing it. The fees go to pay for the guardians and upkeep.

The exceptions are schools. All schools are built behind large gates and people work there all the time, keeping the precious equipment guarded at all times. Each school that I have visited has some sort of playground fashioned out of anything available - old metal trash cans, old tires, metal poles, etc. It is really quite brilliant how resourceful people can be!

The following photos were taken at our little girl's school playground, but she was unable to model the usage due to her collar bone.

But my favorite thing of all is the swing! It is perfect for little ones who must sit back in order to use it and it prevents kids from jumping out of it at enormous heights. It is an old tire turned inside-out. Impressive!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Confidence and Bugs

My ability to speak French is lacking. It truly is my fault for not having the confidence in myself to attempt to talk to others. Part of this photo challenge was a way to force me out of my shell and speak French. Today my shell was cracked open!

My gas tank was a bit low so I grabbed my cash on the way out the door to pick up little girl. When I pulled into the gas station, I recognized the attendant as someone I had spoken to before. I must have made quite an impression on her because she immediately began asking where I had been. She said she thought I had left. So I told her the truth, in my broken French. I said, "My daughter broke a bone." Then, I attempted to pronounce clavicle in French but settled for pointing to it. At this point, I pulled out my iPhone and showed her the X-Rays. She asked her age and I said she was three, but attempted to correct myself and say she was going to be three on Wednesday. She told me her name was Jezebele and I told her my name. I was feeling pretty good about the progress in our relationship!

At this point she went to pump my gas and I had left my car window down. All the peddlers took this as an invitation and came forward pressing me to buy tissues, gum, and hard candies. I normally buy from them but today I was low on cash. I had a crowd of 5 guys outside of my window disappointed but I decided to tell them why I was low on cash. I proceeded with the story of our little girl and how she fell out of the car getting out, breaking her collar bone. The guys were all nodding solemnly and tsk-ing at the right moments. When I pulled out my iPhone to show them, they all jumped forward, pushing each other aside to see the X-Ray. It was then I realized they had never seen an X-Ray before. They began touching their bones attempting to discern their shape and began smiling with knowledge. After my story, they politely left.
Delphine selling me tissues while
waiting for school traffic to move
But a new gentleman walked up to my car. He was definitely new to me and his goods were new as well! I was so delighted I asked to take a photo.

When I got home I had to ask Maman Cele what these bugs were. She explained (in French) that when the palm nuts no longer grow on a palm tree, they cut it down to make way for a new tree. When the tree rots, termites grow. These lovely bugs are termites and they are to be cooked and eaten. I did ask if anyone eats them not cooked and she just grinned. Might be one of those silly things kids dare each other to do. The termites are a delicacy but Maman Cele agreed with me that they don't look too appealing. I was not feeling THAT adventurous today!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Rainy Day

When it rains here, life appears to stop. Everyone and everything moves in slow motion. The vendors who sell on the side of the road wait for the rain to cease before setting up, leaving the streets eerily vacant. The peddlers who walk among the cars are holding their items while standing in doorways and under vendor umbrellas staring. People who are walking places go much slower trying to avoid puddles and the occasional fall. The same can be said for driving.

The cars on the road after and during a rain move at a snail's pace. The drivers of the cars are trying to pay close attention to the puddles in the road, which could be masking a much deeper hole that could cause some damage to a vehicle. The drivers also make an effort to not go quickly through smaller puddles which could splash water everywhere and on everyone. Let's face it, if you splash someone with your car it is rude in any country!

So this morning I left extra early in anticipation of the slower traffic but I took advantage of it and took a few photos while driving. (*Please note in one of the photos that my speedometer is not even registering speed because we were either stopped or were going too slow. I would not attempt to take a photo while the vehicle is in motion placing others in danger.)

A taxi will just stop in the road to pick up
 people requiring others to drive around

This road is only one lane of traffic on each side.
The taxi (right) attempted to go around the slow poke in front.

The black truck is carefully driving over a large
puddle which IS masking a large crater

Monday, May 18, 2015

Just Another Day

I was up fairly late with baby boy last night. He was quite colicky and I could not determine a reason. When this morning came around, I certainly missed Kevin and possibly my only opportunity for a nap. I decided I wasn't going to let a little something like sleep deprivation get me down...this time!

During brother's nap, I was determined to take a quick nap so I came up with a genius mom idea! I put sister's robofish in an empty food container with some water and let her play. I got some cute photos and a little bit of a reprieve before continuing with the day. While our floor did suffer a bit I was able to keep my sanity in check! 

One of the things I have learned recently is how to tie a "pagne." This is the preferred method of the Congolese women for carrying their children around.
My first attempt at tying a pagne
Once brother was up from his nap, I packed us all into the car for a trip to the grocery store and made certain to bring my pagne. When I got to the crowded parking lot, I had an audience of people watching me slowly fit and tie baby boy onto my back. The moment I was finished and had sister by the hand, I was greeted with many smiles and nods from the onlookers. Let's just say the Congolese are very proud of their culture, and to see a non-national attempt to fit in with their culture, they are quite pleased! Lots of people stopped me in the store to greet me, not simply because our cute little blonde headed girl speaks a little bit of French, but the mama with the pagne! I was so tickled but it definitely wore me out a bit. I was exhausted and so ready for bedtime. 

When we got home, brother decided that he wanted to continue being colicky, so I wrapped him back up in the pagne and paced the floor while sister played some more with her fish bowl. When 5:30 PM rolled around, I was giddy. The day is complete and I am now going to bed! 5 more days till Kevin returns home. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Getting your vaccines in the states is normally a simple process. You go to the doctor or health clinic, tell them what you need, they give them to you, and you are done. Not so here. This process definitely raises your blood pressure.*

*(Please note that this is my personal experience as I have not been brave enough to try out the pediatrician and see if he vaccinates in office because my French just isn't that great).

First, you decide when to vaccinate and you research the information on your own using the CDC guidelines. Baby boy is 6 months old and fairly healthy. I realized it was time for his first vaccines. To date he is able to receive the standard DTaP, Hib, Polio, Hep B, and Pneumococcal.

Next, you personally call the local missionary PA to see if she is available to give said vaccines and arrange a date to show up at her house. The day before your "appointment" is the best time to fight traffic and drive to the reputable pharmacy known for having a back-up generator (because without it, vaccines that require refrigeration will spoil).

Once at the pharmacy, you get to have an awkward French conversation about which vaccines are available for each illness, which you must now only refer to them by their French names because someone along the way decided that their trade names would not be in Latin.

After getting laughed for not saying pneumocoque correctly, you proceed to pantomime your desire to know if there are any generic vaccines or alternate options because $280.38 is a lot of money for two vaccines. But since I have researched the illnesses and I know the worst case scenarios if contracted and I have compared that to the current outbreaks, I happily pay the price.

Once you have paid, you take your kids to the car and pay the police officer to help you get into the traffic because the pharmacy is at a terrible intersection. Then you proceed to sit in another hour's worth of traffic but wait happily knowing there is no electricity at home and at least you are sitting in the air conditioning!

Now you get to put your medication on ice until your appointment time (the following morning) where you drive to the PA's house and wait for the vaccines to be administered and the CDC card to be filled out.

Your final step is to pick up your toddler from school and look at a note from the teacher about another outbreak of mumps and wish you could give your baby the MMR vaccine early.
Super snugly squish after his shots 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Life at Home

I was recently discussing with some other moms the delusion of what happens all day at home. No one walks your personal walk and does not know what happens behind the closed door of your home. This made me realize how secretive my life might appear when I have yet to open my doors and invite you in. So I decided to challenge myself.

Many of you know that my personal call to ministry has been the ministry of motherhood, but how has that changed with two children? What do I focus on all day? Do I step outside the doors of my house? Do I interact with others (besides my children) on a daily basis?

My challenge to myself is to present to you over the next few days (and hopefully weeks), snippets of my "life at home." Some days reveal cultural lessons, some days reveal struggles with parenting, and some days are quite and boring. My goal is to give you an idea of what I do. Many posts will be a simple picture with commentary and some may be long-winded but I hope you enjoy the view!

Today's view is our countdown to Daddy's return. He is on a week long flight/adventure. We are very excited for this opportunity for him to watch a local pastor visit villages interior to do training, but we will definitely miss him.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Internet Hiatus

Right before I left on maternity leave September 2014, we began experiencing some internet connection problems. Even though our house is located on a hill, we do not have a direct signal with our MAF internet antenna because of a few trees. Our signal is actually bounced from the antenna to another MAF house and then it hits us. Our neighboring MAF family gets their internet connection via a signal from our house. When we began experiencing signal problem, both of our families experienced intermittent internet.

When we returned from maternity leave, the Internet was doing much better, but this did not last. The decision was made to make an attempt to add another antenna in direct sight of our houses on the hill so we would experience a better signal. Unfortunately, the decision was made during rainy season. Trying to find a time to put an antenna on a roof when it is not raining is difficult but you must add in the additional humidity making a very slick roof a dangerous thing. Our IT guys made multiple attempts to repair the problem but it was too dangerous.

Right now, we have had intermittent to no internet for a few weeks now, but thankfully we were able to purchase internet for our phones (which is not cheap but is necessary). Currently, we are awaiting dry season for safer conditions in an attempt to get us internet. In the meantime, we have internet on our phones and are able to do basic things (check our email, see Facebook, FaceTime, etc.). What is difficult is writing an entire blog post on a phone. So while we have plenty of things to talk about and photos to show, it is quite difficult to correct yourself, add watermarks to photos, and it is just plain difficult to express yourself while pecking away on tiny buttons (oh, and auto correct gets frustrating).

We will hopefully be back online soon and look forward to sharing many stories and photos of all our adventures!