Sunday, July 29, 2012

Missionaries At Work

Missionaries coming up a lane to visit a new member.  See the little kids watching them in the background?

These two missionaries are receiving a special African greeting - bumping heads.  The women do the French greeting with friends, kissing both cheeks (or rather, touching cheeks and making a kissing sound). 

I didn't time this perfectly, but wanted to get another view of this greeting.  This man has been a member for a few months.  His daughter has joined, and her young son.  They are a wonderful family.  The elders have been doing their follow up visits with this family.  They are active in the branche and are a wonderful addition to the branche.    

Another day in the well at the church!  The baptismal font was filled and it was almost time to start the service and suddenly the water was almost gone..........we are pretty sure one of the kids running around pulled the plug and it only took a few minutes to create a water emergency!  Luckily there were a lot of helping hands and a few buckets and so the bucket brigade began. 

Fast feet and lots of smiles!

Some physical work can be a nice change for an elder, and
 getting a little wet can be very refreshing.

Faun Tchi Tchi

 This is a small view of the busiest outdoor market. It doesn't really show how big it is , but it is the edge of the market.  I have only walked through it once and don't plan on doing it again - it is SO CROWDED!  Some people don't want their picture taken, so I can't figure out how to get a good picture of the markets.  The one in town, that is covered, is so huge that it must have thousands of booths and is crazy crowded. 
Here is the other side of this market - I don't know why it is where all the white sacks are, but they are what the cement comes in and then people re-use them for other things, like putting charcoal in. 

Streetlights in Pointe Noire

This is the Chateau Deau, intersection, which we usually go through several times a day.  It can take an hour to get through, especially when there are only streetlights being used.  Funny that it is faster if traffic police are there!  This doesn't show what it is like at a busy time!

This shows a better view of the actual light, on the right.  If you look closely, you can see the train standards that come down - except they don't.  A man with a red flag comes running out and stops traffic when a train comes through several times a day.  The trains don't go very fast.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Package from Home!

Elder Wheatley is holding our first package from home.  When we got the notice in our mailbox in town (there are no street addresses and no mail delivery), I was so excited - knowing it might be the package I was hoping to get, as an experiment to see if we could really get one.  We have told the elders how difficult and expensive it is to get a package, and that it can take a long time.  We have received packages after elders have transferred to another country, and even after they have gone home.  When a package arrives in Pointe Noire, another customs fee is charged, and it can be a large amount, that the missionary has to pay.  We do understand how great it can be to get a package from home, though, so I asked for one.  It took about 21/2 months, and this is how it arrived!  It was in a gunny sack, tied with a piece of twine, and I thought it had dirt all over it, but it was the Hershey's Cocoa that was spilling out all over.  The cardboard box was demolished, due to rats, moisture, and customs.  The powdered sugar and cocoa was eaten/ruined/spilling out all over.  There was cocoa in the scotch tape, but we are still going to use it.  Photos in an envelope were OK.  The two containers of Cream of Tarter (for cookies) were OK, as were two pairs of earrings (I am so glad!) and two bottles of nail polish.  Some of the jello was OK.  They even chewed on the plastic ziplock bags I asked to be sent.  Those may seem like strange things to ask for, but when you are many thousands of miles away from home and want to make something like a birthday cake or jello for the elders, it is so great to have the right ingredients.  

If anyone wants to send food items to Congo for your  missionaries, putting them in a metal tin, like a cookie tin would be a wise choice.  Even when rats don't eat the whole package, whatever they do get into (and they usually do), has to be thrown away.  It is probably worth the extra weight.  We have been told that the elders in Cameroon have much better luck getting packages, but they even have some trouble with rats eating treats.  The elders do love packages and letters!  A big problem, though, is if they get transferred before their package arrives, they may never get it.  Transfers between here and Cameroon are frequent and the limit for the airline between our two countries is one suitcase and one carry-on, or lots of extra cash to pay for being overweight or having an extra suitcase. 

Whenever we see extra people coming down our little lane to get water from our neighbor, we know something is up with our water supply!
This woman has her hands full, so she is using her head, which often means carrying a load on top of her head.  Many people who are lucky enough to have access to a wheel barrow, use it to put their water containers into.  First we saw this lady carrying water, who we don't usually see, then another neighbor came over and asked for some buckets of water, so we checked our reservoir, and sure enough, it was getting way low.  No shower for Elder Wheatley that day, but, I had already had mine! We conserved, and we have learned to have stored bottled/filtered water and some beatles of water for washing, etc.  Then, in the afternoon, we heard the blessed sound of water running into our reservoir again. 

This dear elder stayed home with another sick elder, and to keep from going crazy (they are used to being on the go all day long), he cleaned house!  It is fun to observe how some elders are very clean and some medium clean and some need some reminders!  They are really great about cleaning on P Day, but often don't have enough time to do the extras, like cleaning out bookshelves, and stacks on tables, which this elder did.  Then, he decorated!  They don't have a coffee table, so they have had boxes with cloths over them.  He was tired of how bad it looked, so he eliminated one big box, replaced it with a smaller one and a different covering, all tucked in nicely, and Voila! 

4th of July Celebration

We celebrated July 4th on Monday, July 9th, which was the missionaries' P Day.  We went out of town to the edge of a lake, where there is a privately owned area with some gazebos and an area to play football (soccer).  It felt almost like the southwest, because there were pine trees with pine cones around the picnic area, and of course lots of local shrubs and trees.  It took me a little while to get a good picture of this darling little girl because after staring at us for a long time, whenever I tried to take her picture, she would laugh and turn her head.  I asked, when we first came, why some little girls have beautifully decorated braids and some don't, and was told that sometimes it is a tribal tradition that determines if the hair is shaven, like hers, or is grown out and decorated.  It could also be whether the mother or someone else has the time or desire to do fancy hair - it can take hours and hours of sitting still and I often wonder how little babies and toddlers manage that!  We were all watching the elders play football with a group of kids from the area.  Children and adults LOVE to play and watch football - it is the most popular past time here.  One of our English students said that playing football makes him feel 'free'  from the cares of his world.
Here are more children who wanted their picture taken while we watched the game. Of course, when I took the shot, they quit smiling, except one little guy.  The big eyes in the middle belong to the little girl in the picture above this.   I showed them the photo after and they thought it was wonderful.  If you take one picture, you can count on taking lots, because suddenly there is a crowd who want to be included. 

These boys behind the wall, came over to watch us as we gathered at the gazebo.  Some of them  had  played football with the elders, two of whom are also in the picture, and they told us they needed water, so we gave them some bottled water.

This charming visitor was in a web on the gazebo.  We didn't see him at first.  He was HUGE!   When we gathered around to take pictures of him, he started back up his web - in leaping bounds.  One of the elders took a video of it - it was amazing and scarey to watch.  We didn't see any other spiders, but the elders had fun getting me to jump when they said there was another one.  Just a note to our wonderful missionary mothers - we haven't seen anything like this in town and nothing like this in the elders' apartments!  All the elders in one of the apartments sleep under mosquito netting because their windows and screens don't keep the apartment free of those pests.  Really, the insects in town are no worse than in many places in the U.S.  We do all we can to rid our apartments of them.

Here is one action shot of the football game.  The field was big, and had bamboo goal posts.  They all had lots of fun and  just about beat the ball to death with the sandy dirt. I wish I had taken a photo of all the elders who played, to show how they looked when they were done, but here is one example, below.  Our missionaries and the local boys were on mixed teams and they helped each other up when they bit the dust - one missionary kicked the ball so hard, his shoe went flying, too!

Looks like he got a little dirty, doesn't it!  Luckily, we had dinner first, because the water we brought was for drinking ........Water in this area probably has to be hauled from somewhere in 'beatles.' It is a precious resource, especially clean water.  The Mission provides filters for our apartments and we are given careful guidelines about not drinking any other water, unless it is sealed, bottled water. 

Dinner was pulled pork sandwiches, chips and salsa, baked beans and rice, potato salad, lots of water, and chocolate cake and peach cobbler with whipped cream for dessert - a taste of the U.S. The missionaries are fun to cook for, because they always eat lots and say lots of 'thank yous.'  I am still saying, that even though I am not doing so good with learning French, I am doing OK at cooking for the elders every once in awhile!  I asked one of them if he liked the pulled pork (my first try with that) and he said yes, but that there wasn't enough of it!  Sounds like a hardworking, growing young man, doesn't it?

This is a view in one direction from the football field. It was quite a drive to get to the picnic area - on dirt and sandy roads.  It is quite a mix of tropical and other kinds of trees and bushes.  Sometimes we were surprised about what was just around the bend....and we only took one wrong turn!
Here is a view of the lake.  Some elders walked down to the edge of the lake and got great photos of some wooden canoes. We could see a few canoes out in the lake with people fishing, but they were too far out to get a good picture.   One of the elders said we didn't have to worry about him getting in the water, because he surely didn't know what other living things were in it!  I hope to get some of their pictures so I can add them to this blog.  It was starting to get dark and we wanted to get back to town before night.  It is currently winter here (cool, dry season) and so it gets light about 6:15 AM and dark about 6:15 PM.  It is also MUCH cooler - blessedly so.  I have even turned off the air conditioning a lot lately.  Many Congolese are wearing winter coats and multiple layers of clothing, at least in the mornings.

Dinner with Cyrielle and Rita

This is Cyrielle and Rita, who invited us to their home because we helped them move.  Cyrielle was recently baptised.  He is a wonderful man, a physician at a hospital in Pointe Noire.  He speaks at least 5 languages.  They were gracious hosts who prepared a lovely and delicious meal.  Before we ate, they served cold Beesap (a non-alcoholic drink made with blossoms from a flowering bush) and a delicious platter of beautifully presented sliced, boiled eggs with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers & French bread.

As we started to eat, a picture was in order, so we could remember all this great food - a great, authentic African meal.  In the bottom left is manioc, which is made from cassava flour and steamed for several hours.  In the enter, is a platter of beautifully cooked and decorated fisth.  The two pots have a type of beef stew and chicken with sauce.  Here is some information from Wikipedia:
The cassava is an important source of dietary carbohydrates in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world, with its roots providing food for over 500 million people.
  It comes with hard and starchy white flesh. This vegetable is the basis in the making of cassava flour. The cassava contains a strong poison, cyanide, which needs to be eliminated during the preparation of the flour. This is done by cooking or fermenting the vegetable. Drying and grounding comes next. The cassava flour or gari is now ready for storage or use.
   The cassava or manioc plant has its origin in South America. Amazonian Indians used cassava instead of or in addition to rice/potato/maize. Portuguese explorers introduced cassava to Africa through their trade with the African coasts and nearby islands. Africans then further diffused cassava, and it is now found in almost all parts of tropical Africa. Africans adopted it for several reasons: The cassava plant is possible to cultivate in shifting systems and it gives flexible harvest. Furthermore it is resistant to locust attacks and drought. Today Nigeria and Congo-Kinshasa are great producers of cassava, next to Brazil. Mostly grown small scale in compound gardens and consumed locally but also on a bigger scale in some countries.

This picture gives a better view of the fish and another look at the smiling faces of some elders who are starving after a long day of working in the cartiers (neighborhoods).

Cyrielle is from The Central African Republic and he made his favorite dish from there, which has potatoes, banans (plantains), and a sauce with peanuts in it.  There is also a blue bowl with freshly made FuFu.  Here is some inforation from Wikipedia, about FuFu:

"...fufu is usually made from cassava, yams, and sometimes combined with cocoyam, plantains.... made into powder/flour and can be mixed with hot water to obtain the final product.... Often, the dish is still made by traditional methods: pounding and beating the base substance in a mortar with a wooden spoon. In Western and Central Africa, the more common method is to serve a mound of fufu along with a soup (ọbẹ). After washing hands, the diner pinches off a small ball of fufu and makes an indentation with the thumb. This reservoir is then filled with soup, and the ball is eaten. In Ghana and Nigeria, the ball is often not chewed but swallowed whole - in fact, chewing fufu is considered a faux pas. Therefore fufu not only serves as a food but also as a utensil.  A selection of soups that could be served with fufu includes but not limited to: light (tomato) soup, palm nut soup, groundnut soup, and other types of soups with vegetables such as okra, nkontomire (cocoyam leaves). Soups are often made with different kinds of meat and fish, fresh or smoked."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunsets, Doggy Door, and Goats

A sunset view from outside of Pointe Noire.  The sun is really bright red, but it doesn't show well in the photo.  The air is so polluted, the sunsets are usually beautiful.

A sunset view from our front porch.

 Elder Wheatley got locked in our little hall bathroom.  The door is warped, and on Sunday, between some meetings we went home for about 1/2 hour.  I was in the other room and I heard this pounding and went to see what was happening - he couldn't get the door open, the lock was broken.  All our windows have iron bars on them, so he couldn't get out the window.  I call it our pretend bathroom because it has a shower that breaks, a toilet that moves and feels like it will break if you sit on it, and a mirror - but no sink.  We had left most of our tools at the service project site for people to use after we had to leave, but we had a few screw drivers.  I got them and was able to force off the wooden pieces that held a panel in the door and then forced a screw driver through a small opening so he could do the same on the other side, and Voila!  He could get out - but I told him not to come out until I got a picture!  I call it his 'doggy door.'

Can you see the goats on top of this trailer?  Not an uncommon sight.  Any vehicle that travels between towns or through villages usually carries lots of extra baggage, including animals and usually people, too.

Mpaka Service Project

This is a wonderful garden in the yard of the sister's home where we did the service project.  She is fortunate to have room and soil for a garden.  Many homes have tiny yards or no yard at all, just some area to walk through.  She keeps her home and yard very clean.

This is the area where our sister does her laundry.  It looks like she is lucky to have a water spigot in her own yard - that is a great luxury.

This is a close up of a type of palm tree in her yard  that has scarey spikes.   

This is another view of the palm tree, further away.

This is a view from the road of the corner parcel where our sister lives, behind this fence.  

Progress by lunchtime!

Mpaka Branche Service Project

This Branche Service Project was adding a room 
onto the home of a member sister who is a seamstress (she sews out under the trees in her yard) and has extended family living with her.
There were more people there wanting to help than there was work, but everyone loved being there and most people stayed all day to help.

They have few tools and no ladder, but many helping hands.  They are using long branches as poles for the main structure, with wood for part of the frame and for the roof support.

This view shows the pole in the hole, with broken up pieces of cinder block filling the hole.  The process is now to beat the rock down with another pole, as much as possible, and then fill in what room is left with dirt.

The holes for the poles (this sounds like a Dr. Seuss story!) are dug with machetes - so they start out as kind of square holes for poles......They actually are quite deep holes for the poles.

When they couldn't find a chair or a barrel, a friend with strong shoulders worked just fine!

I showed some youth how to play tic tac toe, so they would have something to do while they were waiting to help.  It just to a minute to show them, since my limited French doesn't include the right words, and they understood and had fun playing it in the dirt.

I think these little boys were grandsons of the sister whose house we were working on.

I love this picture, because it shows the diversity of Africa:
Grandmother is sewing, using her hand/foot powered sewing machine.  Young boys are playing a game on a computer.  Teen age girls are lounging in the shade of the big tree above all of them.  And the helpers on the other side of the tree are adding on to the home, which has no running water or electricity.  Lunch is cooking in big pots on a fire in the yard and everyone is having a great time!
These pictures are especially for our grandsons, whom we miss very much.  We thought they would like to see how little boys and big boys work and play in Congo.  These two little boys are scraping up sand off the road, with flattened 2 liter plastic bottles.There is a sack in the right upper corner they are putting it into. 

They are standing in the cement gutter - this gutter is not as deep as many - but if your car goes into it, you are still stuck!
We aren't sure if people get paid for removing sand from the streets, but many paved streets are almost completely covered with sand.  There is sand EVERYWHERE here - because we are by the sea....

Here are two boys playing by our house.  They have a toy car they have built of empty cans, sticks and tape.  They are very proud of this and they should be!  These toys are very common and get very creative.  Often children sort through piles of garbage to find cans to use.

Here's a close up view.

This young boy on the right has a heavy load - I am not sure of what is in the sack.  Public school is out now.  There is a break from the latter part of June until October.  Many private schools are still in session.  The first part of July is also when exams are held for those trying to pass the High School exam, which is called a Baccalaureate degree.  Most youth do not pass this exam until they are at least 20 years old. Many youth attend trade oriented schools, such as for electrician or car repair skills.
The young man on the left has lovely plants for sale!

We will be celebrating the 4th of July with all the elders tomorrow, Monday the 9th, on Preparation Day.  We are going out of town to have a picnic.
However, some of the elders invited us to have hamburgers with them on the evening of July 4th, and one of them made a flag decoration for the table.  Then, when I took the picture, Elder HeMan and his companion, Elder ArmyGuy showed up.  We thought the TP and empty water bottle left on the dining table added some realistic ambiance for a missionary apartment!