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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Paintings

Here's some pics of paintings that we bought back in November. They show a lot about what Congolese life used to be like without European influence. The paintings of the women show what a large part of many Congoles women's lives are still like.

Sorry for the glare.






Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hippos, fly catchers, and other monkey business

Today Tammy gave us the idea to go to the beach. So we forgot about the work we're so far behind in as quickly as possible, and went. This time a few of us swam quite far out into the river. Then we got a game of keep-away going. As the game was getting good, a lady told us to watch out: a hippo had been coming to the beach about this time of day. We looked around, and about a minute later Mr. Mosier saw the hippo. So we watched it a while - at least it's nose, which came out of the water every couple minutes. Good thing the hippo never came by when we were way out in the river...
Nathan and Tammy's sister, Melody, is here with her boyfriend Jonathan, who's a mission pilot in Chad. So we had to go up to the zoo to see the monkeys. There are also donkeys at the zoo, and one of them had just had a colt today. It was just starting to get comfortable on it's soft hooves. We were allowed in the pen, so it got lot's of attention, to say the least.
Freddy the chimpanzee put on a really good show. Nathan started to do the rival male thing with him, then he started to get a bit upset. There was a baby baboon, and another cute little monkey that the zoo had recently acquired.
Here's a little bit about Chad that I learned: Chad has a dry season for about half the year, and temperatures that reach like 115 F many days. For a few months of the year, papayas and mangos are available: most of the year there's almost know fruit available. And Chad is flat as a pancake from central Alberta. I'm glad to be in Congo...
Last week I saw a little praying mantis, so I put it on my hand to show people (I found out they've already seen lots). Just after I got it settled on my hand it shot its arms out like a loaded spring and caught a fly. It was awesome - we could use more of these critters around.
That's all I have time for now - if only I could hire one of the Africans for the usual $3 a day to write my blogs for me...
I've got lots of pictures I want to put up, but that'll be later
God bless

Friday, January 1, 2010

African Road Trip

Last week was my first African Road trip.
Nathan, Chauffeur Robert, and I took CFM’s 4-ton Mitsubishi Fuso to Butembo, which is 800km away from Kisangani in the hills of Eastern Congo. We went to pick up roofing sheets and other supplies which are much cheaper there – and so I’d have something interesting to share with you in my blog.

We left before 6:30 Sunday morning, and made good time – just so we could have a good long wait at the bridge repair 61km down the road. It was okay though, the wait gave us time to work on the truck and read a bit, and I went for a nice walk. We finally got going and made it to Bafaswende at supper time. I went with the chauffeur to find food, but as soon as an official saw me, a white guy, in town, he made me go to the dgm, or immigration office – there went another hour. By the time we got to the Okapi conservation park for the night, it was well into the morning.

The second day I again chose to ride in the back about as much as I could, where the view and fresh air are the best. The roads vary from gravel to clay: they had holes in them that gave us air time over our seats – another reason it was nicer standing in the back. Driving past all the villages, the adults would stare, and the kids would wave. Despite the extra attention, it was still enjoyable riding outside. The jungle is beautiful, and a couple of times birds came and flew along beside the truck. Many of the villages had pygmies – their houses are tiny: smaller than many bedrooms. Nathan bought a pygmy bow and arrow set. There were a few scares as a couple of pygmies demonstrated how to pull the bow back – pointing it right at people.

A little after Komanda we came to a mud hole in the road that a truck was stuck in. After we found out that we’d be waiting a while, I ran back up the road to where I’d seen some red bananas for sale. I got about 5lb of them for 500fc, about 60cents – and the people were going to give me more for free, but I knew we couldn’t eat them all. Just after the mud hole, there was another hole in the road: this one about 4ft deep and 60ft long. To get trucks through, the locals kept on lengthening the hole, tossing wet clay out and dry in from the ends. One man had built a temporary bridge for light vehicles on the side, where the hole was smaller. He made a business out of it, charging $5 per vehicle. Other locals had made a business of selling food to the delayed truckers and passengers. Since our truck had no load, we took the bridge. The bridge had boards running cross-wise over the length-wise logs that spanned the hole. When the truck hit the boards they all moved forward, then when the back tires went over the boards, they spun the board out behind. If the truck had had a little less momentum, we would’ve been really stuck.

Overall we made good time on Monday, and got to Beni at suppertime, where we stayed with the Galaxy Transport crew. Galaxy transport is a Congo-wide shipping company that is Adventist-owned, and helps CFM out a lot.

In the area of Beni and Butembo is about 6000ft high and made of high, steep hills – almost mountains. Whole hillsides are covered in banana plantations, and there are many cassava and corn farms. Other large areas are dedicated to cattle grazing, and most of the rest of the land is Eucalyptus forest. There are many valleys with streams running through them. It’s a really nice area – kind of like the highlands of Ecuador, just more farmed. And there is a good variety of food, so we stocked up on things such as potatoes, peas, cabbage and carrots, which are treats in Kisangani. Butembo has nicer-looking buildings than Kisangani – it seemed a lot like cities in Bolivia or Ecuador.

On the return trip there were more police stops and time in the dgm office to keep things interesting – or at least test our patience. We got a flat tire about halfway back – it was in the morning when we got to the Okapi reserve. Robert said he’d take care of it so Nathan and I went to see an Okapi. The okapi is in the giraffe family, but is smaller with a shorter neck: about the size of a very large horse. It has zebra stripes over about half it’s body. It is native only to Congo. Sorry, I never got any pictures.

When we got back from the Okapi tour, we found that Chauffeur Robert didn’t know how to remove the inside tire of the duallies on the Fuso – so we all played around and eventually learned. The spare tires were sized for the front: slightly smaller. And the tire that was still good was a little low. I’m sure some of you see a problem here. We soon heard a strange rubbing noise – and were soon doing the whole process over again. I’m afraid we were in a hurry, and we expected each other to have chocked the wheels properly. Just after we got the first wheel back onto the axle (thank God it wasn’t before) the truck rolled off the jack. The wheel was on enough to catch the truck, and we were much more careful completing the job. I hope we’ve all learned our lesson…
We limped the rest of the way back, averaging about 30km/hr, since we were already using both our spares.

Here’s the main adventure of our trip back: the hole past Komanda had gotten worse: there was a big line-up of trucks, and they had a system of pulling each other through established, but it was slow. The locals really had taken advantage of the situation: there were people selling shoes, and all sorts of things. Against the advice of Nathan, I got out our shovel and started helping the guys throwing dry clay into the hole. People here are used to white people being rich and unwilling to work, so they sure had a lot to say about an Mzungu doing work. They were fine with it though. The line was moving slow, and we saw rain coming. We decided to do things the hard way: we hired 4 guys to help us unload most of the 5 tons of roofing sheets on the truck, and the banana starts and other heavy things. Then we drove over the bridge – after securing them with a chain tensioner this time. And we reloaded – by the time we finished reloading we were almost dropping the sheets – good thing there weren’t more. By the time we were all done the truck behind us in line was already through – we did all that work for nothing. At least we got a story to tell, and gave the locals something to talk about though.

(our truck isn't in the photo)


We were about 107km from Kisangani when the new year rolled in. We got close to Kisangani about 3 hours into the new year, but had to stop and wait to get through a check point that is closed during the night. The Butembo trip was an excellent experience, but I’m glad we’re back: I don’t think I could handle any more character building.