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Monday, September 28, 2009

Hi from Congo

I’m at the Western Congo Union office in Kinshasa. Here’s a bit of what the trip’s been like so far:

Tuesday, Sept. 22: Left Kelowna on a perfect Okanagan September day. The mountains between Kelowna and Seattle are amazing – I’ll be due for some backpacking when I get back.

Wednesday & Thursday: These day sort of merged together in the travel. Spent the time in the air and touring Washington/Dulles airport, where I met up with the rest of the group I travelled with. They are Tim, Nathan, Melody and Friedrich Rittenour, and Keith and Tammy Mosier. We flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with a stop at Rome. From there Tim and Melody went to Chad, and the rest of us got hotel vouchers to spend the night in Addis Ababa. But before we could go to the hotel, we had to spend hours in line and trying to arrange for baggage sent in the wrong direction to be sent the right way.

Friday: Got a tiny glimpse of Ethiopia, then flew to Kinshasa with a stop at Brazaville, capital of the other Congo. Then the Kinshasa zoo (aka airport). I don’t like experiences that test my patience, so I didn’t enjoy my time waiting for bags there. The baggage carriers there will not let you carry your own baggage. Then if you do manage to fight them off and carry your bags, they’ll still try to make you pay for the assistance they tried to force on you. Poor guys, I’d hate having that job.
Then some guys from Galaxy transport, an Adventist company, helped us make a mad dash to the UN to get tickets to Kisangani, then to get groceries, then to a hotel. Traffic gets really backed up because of road conditions and driving styles, and I’m glad I never (quite) fell asleep on top of all the luggage in the truck.

Sabbath: Went a little church at an Adventist clinic down the road. The preacher preached in English for us, so the rest had to listen to a Lingala translation. Then we got invited to the home of a Filipino couple for an excellent lunch. If you’ve seen or heard the story “Finding Grace in Congo”, this is the couple you heard about. Then I went swimming with Friedrich in the hotel pool.

Sunday: Shopping at a market, more swimming, and spending time watching the hotel’s monkeys, birds and snakes – that’s about all worth mentioning.

Monday: getting up at 3:45 for Nathan and Friedrich to catch a ride to the airport, then finding out it was actually 2:45, made a great start for the day. If you find that this update is putting you to sleep, you now know why. Then getting up after a quick dream of trying to go biking, having a quick breakfast, and coming to the Union office.

Nathan and Friedrich never got on the flight today (flying UN, you’re on low-priority standby, but the price is right), so there’ll be more crazy hours tomorrow as we try again.

Knowing French would definitely come in handy here.

There are lots of similarities between Africa, India and South America: the way things are built, the way there are too many people for too few, or seemingly meaningless, jobs. For instance, a common job here is breaking large rocks into small rocks by hand. I’m very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had in Canada. Whole wheat is alien food here – hopefully I’ll be able to get some oats and corn meal though. At least there are lots of beans.

The first time I ever drank, or heard of, “Canadian Pure” water was here in Africa. And it’s a UK company. I have no clue where the water itself is from.

Thanks to everyone who helped me get here or get what I needed for here.