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Category Archives: Christmas in Congo

Navigating Ethiopia’s Airport

Addis Ababa Airport

Addis Ababa Airport

Navigating Addis Ababa Airport, the prime gateway to Ethiopia and much of Africa, brings one of my mottos to mind. You never know unless you ask (…or try.) For instance many small items have no price tags. Water is only $2 at one small souvenir shop (better than the cafe). Cokes are $5 at the internet cafe but only $3 at the small electronic shop (with watches and remote control cars). And if you have a long layover in Ethiopia, there are these great lounge chairs that sleep maybe a little too well. Those in the know make bee-line from their flights to get these as they fill quickly after 6pm.

The toilets are at both ends, but the ones near the smoking room get more traffic and thus are not as clean. (The smoking room is on the top of the H across from Gate 1). The cleaner toilet near Gate 8 is on the bottom of the H made by two long halls with shops in the center.

The best shop for souvenirs in the airport is the Book & Gift store near Gate 8. The keeper’s small key chains (metal Ethiopian crosses) were half as much, his local paintings on sheep skin were also about 1/3 less. His English paperbacks were outrageous–used and $10 each–but I gave him the novel I’d finished and he gave me a small item.

Flight changes must be paid for in dollars or euro. When the exchange bank/booth situated between shops is closed, there is still the one downstairs at immigration which is open 24 hours a day. You are allowed to use it, bypassing the duty stand–just tell them shy you bypassed the Ebola/temperature station. The window on the right can only give you Ethiopian birr–head to the one of the left (just past the ATM) for international exchange. They don’t take Turkish bills but will break or exchange dollars and euros. A cash advance on your credit card will only get you birr, though, and won’t help if you’re needing the funds to pay for a flight change.

My unexpectedly long layover (36 hours due to a missed connection) gave me ample time to make notes about the airport. In the early morning I walked by the Star Alliance lounge and saw they were serving breakfast. There was no worker to ask (& I am an alliance member–but maybe that area requires a certain level?). With no one to ask, I got some eggs and a roll–grateful to eat as my cash for returning home was running lower than I’d liked.

With extra time, I decided to splurge on the internet cafe to catch up on my email and see my commitments back home for the rest of the week. The sign there said “If you don’t receive a receipt, you don’t pay.” In other words, if you aren’t asked to pay before you start, no payment is required. I only realized this after I’d been online for an hour and looked around to see that everyone else had a paper receipt laid out near their mouse. Again, no cost to me, so I let my one hour run to another.

Two men and a woman who also missed a flight invited me to sit and talk. The were from Sudan and taught me a few words of Arabic as well as giving me an insider’s view of the war, split of their country and future hopes (more here). They also bought me a water.

All in all, Ethiopia’s primary airport is not a bad place to spend a few extra hours, but I recommend making your connecting flight whenever possible.

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 Kristin King is an author, publisher and co-founder of the nonprofit Future Hope Africa which is based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is from Kentucky (USA) and lives as an expat in Holland.

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Posted by on February 13, 2015 in Christmas in Congo, Travel

 

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African Rock Quarry

Roadside gravel pile in Eastern Congo.

Roadside gravel pile in Eastern Congo.

About 9 piles of gravel sit ready for purchase, and atop each one is a man. He has a sack of larger stones he is cracking with a hand-sized boulder.

It is a far cry from the quarry in Kentucky where my high school friend lost her father to a stray rock after a dynamite explosion. In Rwanda is a safer rock, though the gravel maker’s backside might beg to differ.

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Kristin King is an author, publisher and co-founder of the nonprofit Future Hope Africa which is based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is from Kentucky (USA) and lives as an expat in Holland.

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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in Christmas in Congo

 

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Lost White Woman in East Congo

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 11.06.30 PMSeveral years ago when I flew through Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) a couple of times, my husband and I were among the rare white faces on the flights. In fact, another couple adopting from Ethiopia were the only other ones on our first 300+ passenger flight out of Frankfurt, Germany. 3 1/2 years ago there were a small handful of pale faces.

During my most recent trip on Christmas Eve, I couldn’t help but stare as I waited and then boarded each leg of my travel. Later I said to Bintu, “What’s with all the white people?” We had a laugh, and jokes about the white woman (i.e. me) became a thing. “Blanche personne” I sometimes heard in French. The white woman effect has both pro’s and con’s. Speaking of my experience, if the white woman says anything in the local (i.e. tribal) language, it is as hilarious as it is welcome. That was particularly enjoyable.

In visa and immigration lines while dealing with Congo officials, the white woman went to a shorter line and received a lot of help. This made me uncomfortable as if I were cutting in line until I was told it was because my paperwork was different. For instance, in the Antwerp DRC Consulate, I was the only person applying for a travel visa when others were more often applying for passports.

People all over east DRC tended to stare without concern for appropriateness. Bintu told me I was probably the first white woman they’d ever seen who wasn’t riding in a UN van. One of the students at our mission declared, “She is the prettiest white woman I’ve ever met.” When Bintu told me I asked if I was the only one the student had met. “No,” she said. Of course, this compliment came only after almost 2 weeks of seeing the white woman play with the children, greet everyone with smiles, try to speak in 3 languages obviously foreign to her, etc. I pray it is the light of Jesus inside me she sees shining.

The downside for the white woman is being an automatic panhandler magnet. This is understandable in an area that has seen so much suffering.

My Congolese friend discovered a final upside to the effect at church my last Sunday when we became separated. Her sister arrived and Bintu called, “I’ve lost my white woman! Have you seen her?” The whole choir erupted in laughter.

Indeed, when out for my last day in the car I spotted TWO white women on the sidewalk. Absolutely unprecedented. I exclaimed, “Look! White women! I should take a picture.” Alas, I was too slow with the camera.

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Kristin King is a white woman with a heart for Africa. She is co-founder and president of the nonprofit, Future Hope Africa. Kristin blogs about travel, books and writing while living as an US expat in the Netherlands with her husband, four sons and golden lab.

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Posted by on February 9, 2015 in Christmas in Congo, Travel

 

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Tops in Toilets (Congo Christmas Inspired)

Rwandan border facility

Rwandan border facility

For a squatter this Rwandan toilet at the border of Congo really wasn’t bad. The urinal disk worked as an air freshener and the view out the window as superb. Jokes about the porcelain throne abound. This elevated seating area fit that bill, though I had a small concern that the Congolese visitors of the rooftop next door who were handing their laundry might glimpse a white moon.

Squatter's view

Squatter’s view

The Minnesotan next to me on my flight home from Africa said his friends rate toilets on five criteria. Here they are in no particular order. The better toilet…

  1. …has a seat
  2. …has running water
  3. …has a door
  4. …has soap
  5. …has paper

If you’ve gone without any of these for a good length of time, you, like me, come to appreciate them like never before. To hear this list made me smile. I can delight in the smallest things and finding pleasure in simple ways is a great life practice highly recommended.

Of course, few toilets will top the one I saw inside an ambassador’s residence. In addition to the 5 Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 6.51.37 AMfundamentals, this accommodation had lotion, a fresh flower arrangement and a lovely fainting couch. Not only is this the top of the pops, it finally makes sense of the term “restroom.”

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Kristin King is an author, publisher and co-founder of the nonprofit Future Hope Africa which is based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is from Kentucky (USA) and lives as an expat in Holland.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2015 in Christmas in Congo, Travel

 

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Presidential Hopefuls

Mama Future Hope Africa with His Excellency, Governor Marcelin Chishambo Ruhoya of South Kivu, DR Congo.

Mama Future Hope Africa with His Excellency, Governor Marcelin Chishambo Ruhoya of South Kivu, DR Congo.

Beiden, Bush, Clinton, Palin. Highly recognizable names of folks considered most likely runners for the 2016 Presidential race. (30+ others listed here.) On my trip to Congo I actually met two possible presidential hopefuls you’ve probably never heard of unless you live or have worked in Africa.

Sadly I neglected to take a photo with the man who told me I might very well be sitting with the future president of Sudan, one Mr. Khalid. Like Palin or Clinton, Khalid is an interesting character in his own right. A muslim politician who was traveling in a brown suit, didn’t mind shaking this woman’s hand, and freely answered my questions about Sudan and South Sudan, the effects of the war and the future direction of his country. Carefully worded answers that nonetheless revealed his concern for his people and his country, with consideration for his present audience of course. I wish him well and pray for a great leader to rise in Sudan, one who focuses on the needs of the people.

My thoughts turn more to the presidential elections in 2016 for the Democratic Republic of the Congo–where the need for a good leader is also great. His Excellency Joseph Kabila is, like President Barrack Obama, nearing the home stretch of his final term. Will there be a peaceful transition? Unfortunately, elections can set off violence that continues even after the results are in, as recently evident in Iraq, which no one involved in aid work like our education mission wants.

Although we might complain about dirty politics in the US, hanging chads are a far cry from the quiet elimination of potential candidates that sometimes occurs elsewhere around the world. Political maneuvering has begun not only in the US, and for the Congo subsequent protests last week were quickly followed by phone and internet disruptions which kept me from contact with our mission personnel in country. This could so easily have happened while I was there and would have worried my family and friends no end. I sat sidelined last week with concern, and an email from my friend (and FHA’s Operations Director) Bintu brought palpable relief as I waited in Holland for word.

Regardless, peoples of all walks of life are looking toward coming elections with hopes for better tomorrows. Like the citizens of the US, citizens of the DRC are looking around for who might make a good candidate. One politician, who is well liked and looked to by some, was at the border when I visited. I’ve no idea if he is considering making a big for office, but I asked Bintu about getting a photo with him.

“Why not?” she said and took me over to make introductions.

He was amiable in the midst of his busy day and consented to the photo, shook my hand, and asked what brought me to his country. While I don’t know if he is the man for the job any more than Sudan’s Mr. Khalid is, I appreciated the chance to interact with these leaders and found myself hoping I might one day say, “Oh President So-and-So, yes. I met him once. Seemed a nice fellow.”

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Kristin King is an author and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa, a small educational mission in east Congo. Recently returned from spending Christmas in the Congo, she is currently blogging about the experience. Her views are her own and should in no way be considered as an endorsement for any particular political candidate.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Christmas in Congo

 

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Congo Christmas – Dr. King Presents

Congo Christmas – Dr. King Presents

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 11.07.06 PMBearing the name of someone renown once imbued a sense of hope to many parents, though Martin is not in the top 100 of any name rankings of which I know.  On a recent list from Nameberry.com’s most popular names in the US, which goes all the way to the 1000th name, Martin ranks 263rd. Other historical names one might think popular include: Washington (doesn’t rank), Jefferson (#609), Jackson (#16), Lincoln (#95), Kennedy (#64 for girls), Reagan (104th for girls, 960th for boys), Madison (#9 for girls) and Franklin (495#) have all become common.

Having earned my doctorate, the history rich name I bear is Dr. King. And as I presented certificates of training upon which I signed that name during my Congo Christmas trip, I reflected on our pursuits at FHA Education ASBL and thought that what we were doing would have pleased Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We see educational gaps and inequalities and do whatever little things we can to help folks pursue their dreams.

Proud of our training certificate recipients

Proud of our training certificate recipients

What our educational mission in east Congo does goes beyond the student tutoring, training teachers, and disciplining youth, to providing what the local schools lack including a library, music lessons, and art. We respond to the needs that arise on the ground in country. When one young woman could not afford the bus fare from work to make it on time to her classes, we helped with a micro-loan so she could earn her way and begin growing a small business. Another young woman was never able to complete school but still dreamt of becoming a tailor, and we allotted a sponsorship for the apprenticeship she entered a few months ago.

And those I had the privilege of honoring just after Christmas completed school without ever receiving the practical skills to write resumes, engage in interviewing, and do other things necessary to successfully getting the professional jobs they seek. As I apply my signature on documents for our organization, I aspire to continue to give the name dignity and to honor the man most people remember when they hear someone say “Dr. King.”

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Dr. Kristin F. Chaudoin King is a Christian author and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa. She recently returned from  visiting FHA’s education mission in eastern Congo and is blogging from her travel journal about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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Congo Christmas – …Think On These Things

IMG_0428There are sights in the poverty-stricken areas I’ve visited in several countries that are impossible to forget–they scar the memory. Going to a place like east Congo where so many differences are a product of war, greed, and atrocities, it would be easy to focus on things like trash strewn areas, hovels, children playing in a ditch. As the leader of a nonprofit shooting photos and video, how easy it would be to highlight needs and ply your heart-strings with sad melodies.

However, I set out on my trip with one Bible verse on my mind’s virtual billboard; it played across the ticker-tape of my vision level with my forehead as if I wore gamer glasses with this function.

…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8 (NASB)

That God is alive and doing eternal work at the mission is more true than the trash on the street, that our staff pours in time and energy without regard for salary is honorable, that to see needs and meet them in whatever way we can is right, that the children’s delight in your small attentions–the smile or goofy dance–is pure, that the whole journey during the rainy season became a movement from one blossom to the next was lovely, that careful hands prepared meal after meal of African fare we’d never tasted was of good repute, that there was excellence and efforts worthy of praise at every turn, that my LORD says “think on these things” was the foundation of my travel journal and visual documentation.

IMG_0464Another translation says to “dwell on these things,” let your thoughts live, find their home, rest your being on the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent things, on whatever is worthy or praise. I pray this for you today. Let us help one another see these things even in the valley of the shadow of death.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. (Psalm 145:3) I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.(Psalm 18:3) For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.(Psalm 96:4) Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. (Isaiah 40:28) For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. (Psalm 86:10)

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Kristin King is a Christian author and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa. She recently returned from  visiting FHA’s education mission in eastern Congo and is blogging from her travel journal about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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Visit Future Hope Africa

 

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Congo Christmas – Gone Bananas

IMG_0672The vendor comes down the gravel church drive to our education center. The attractive display of bananas perched on her head must weigh 30 lbs if not 40. She is just outside the window where Bintu, Vivian and Rachel make their selections while I try to get a post to my blog up during very limited internet time.
Later the bananas are offered to me. They are strange little yellow stubs, no longer than my ring finger–perhaps 2.5 inches. Oh the taste! Like I’ve never had a banana before. There is the traditional flavor yet sweeter. What really sets them apart is the sharp tang, like the best key lime pie.
They are dangerous for someone who worked through lunch. Five are gone before I consider the consequences of too much fruit. I’m told they tried to grow them elsewhere and they aren’t the same. Even here in east Congo they no longer as common as they once were.

The are called “bitika kamera,” and they are the best bananas in the world I am sure. You should visit the Congo just to taste them.

 

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Congo Christmas – Dengue Diet

Beignet handmade for the children's party by Widows Catering behind our education center.

Beignet handmade for the children’s party by Widows Catering behind our education center.

There was concern among my family members about what could go wrong on my Congo Christmas trip: ebola, terrorists/rebels, malaria, war, etc. I was more concerned over what I would pack since I have put on weight. My husband helpfully suggested this gain would not be a concern for long.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “You’ll catch Dengue fever, lose thirty pounds in a week and fit in all your old clothes.”

Dengue fever, a tropical virus whose symptoms include fever, headache, muscle & joint pain (flu anybody?), is, like malaria, another mosquito borne pathogen. In a small percentage of cases Dengue can become hemorrhagic (ebola?) and thus more deadly. Dengue is a cousin of West Nile and yellow fever. With ebola symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle pain & nausea, and malaria symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea, folks who get sick in the Congo really have to be checked out by a doctor.

My trip turned out completely disease free and even better (link to future post), so I took several photos to show my husband that I choose a different course.

No Dengue Diet for me, darling. Nope, I spent twelve days on the Beignet Diet.

Yum!

What are the widows making?

What are the widows making?

 Hand dropped beignets...

Hand dropped beignets…

…by the hundreds!

…by the hundreds!

 

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Kristin King is an author and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa, a small educational mission in east Congo. Recently returned from spending Christmas in the Congo, she is currently blogging about the experience.

 

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Congo Christmas – The Best Souvenir Shop?

Street shot of the shop

Street shot of the shop

My niece’s stay is shorter than mine and she is the first to ask about where we can get souvenirs. Our mission is not near a hotel, and there doesn’t seem to be a touristy part of town. When you travel far, you do want gifts to take home for family and closest friends, for whoever is watching your house or the pets, etc. Papa A and Bintu take us closer into town to a terrific little shop called Likembe Shop.

You might wonder how I knew we were closer to downtown? That’s easy. The shop was beyond where the pavement begins.

Is this shop the best? What would make me say so?

What stood out at first was the posted price list. From Crete to Tunisia, Ethiopia to Kinshasa, I’ve learned that there are tourist prices and the locals’ prices. Although all are negotiable, pale faces and those with foreign accents will pay more. This practice is normal and expected on both sides. Personally I think of it as a visitor tax, simply another expense of travel.

Not at Likembe. Items are marked with a letter and number code (e.g. A 3) and prices are posted on several *signs around the store. (*well-worn A4 paper in plastic sleeves) The shop keeper shows me how to find the code and reference the list which she gives me to carry around.

Oh how refreshing to shop on a budget, find prices marked, and choose among options without concern for being too heavily taxed. 🙂

And the options! They have most everything: wood carvings, woven baskets, leather works, banana leaf figures and art, painted notecards, tribal masks, animal print wooden bowls, jade jewelry, and what might be ivory (illegal to import to US). Lovely reasonable, and profuse.

That’s not the BEST part.

After a small discount haggle on the total and giving our Congo francs to 4 elderly folks with their hands out near the door, Bintu tells us that the Likembe Shop runs the storefront next door which is not a business. Once a week they open that front and run a sort of food bank. A portion of their sales are used to purchase small bags of rice, cassava flour, and other foodstuffs which they distribute to those in need.

Kinshasa, the capital of the country, had nothing to compare. Taken together these aspects (i.e. posted prices, options, and food bank) make the Likembe Artisan Shop the best souvenir store in the Congo.

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Kristin King is a Christian author and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa. She recently returned from  visiting FHA’s education mission in eastern Congo and is blogging from her travel journal about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Visit Future Hope Africa

Visit Future Hope Africa

 

 

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