RSS

Tag Archives: DR Congo

U is for Utilities (Africa)

Gathering rain in...totally did a double take.

Gathering rain in…totally did a double take.

(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)

My friend warned me, “It’s the rainy season, so the utilities will be a little…you know.”

I didn’t know.

I figured from a previous visit to Congo that if the capital city of Kinshasa lost electricity and water for short durations fairly regularly that being all the way on the other side of the country meant more of that–especially given the season.

Sometimes we were without electricity for longer periods (like hours or maybe half the night), but our hosts had a generator they would run if they or we needed it. We ran the generator at the education center a good bit and went through a lot of gas which bothered me more. Like we were pouring money into a machine when beautiful bight sunshine was all around waiting to be harnessed. A little bummed that solar panels are so expensive, but I understand the need and the benefit in a different way now and am praying for supply.

The great thing about the rainy season is that when the running water stops running, there is still plenty. Our first few nights in East Congo the rain came down and the two 100 gallon(?) drums on each side of the house filled to over flowing by morning. I kind of wondered how many times you wash out a hydrochloric acid drum before you’re confident about drinking its contents, though.

When you travel in Europe you learn to take advantage of the restrooms at your lunch, cafe, snack stop because they aren’t available to anyone but customers. In Congo you learn to hop in the shower if someone says there’s hot water running. Otherwise our kind hosts lugged a 5 gallon bucket of piping hot water from the stove up to the bathroom for us. If I wasn’t doing the #AtoZChallenge for my blog, I would have entitled this “Standing Bath, Sitting Shower.” For bucket bath I find it easier to stand and run water by the cup-fulls as needed from the position where the water covers the most area. For the showers I sat though.

The shower head was what I tend to think of as European since I first saw them here and they are very common. They are the ones with the head mounted on a flexible hose that are terrific when giving the dog or a small child a bath since you can hold it at any angle and get in close where needed. What I don’t get is why they are mounted about a meter (or yard) above the bathtub. To relax under the stream of hot water, to wash out my waist length hair is to sit.

Our timing and schedule being as full as it was, we were mostly standing this trip. Bathing from bucket is not new to us–as my niece pointed out, she used to use the bucket method when visiting her grandparents on the reservation back before they got running water. Used frugally, the bucket had enough in the bottom to turn my head upside down and dunk my hair for one wash and rinse.

It was fine. We adjusted and came home with a greater appreciation of what we have so readily and often take for granted. Still I have to say I am especially grateful to whoever it was that invented “Dry Shampoo” that works for brunettes like us. Thank you!

At some point I told my Congolese friend, “I thought the utilities would be more of a challenge since it’s the rainy season and all.”

She frowned like she didn’t understand and I reminded her about the warning she gave me before arrival. “Oh no,” she said, “things are much better in the rainy season with all the water and everything. I meant to prepare you because it wouldn’t be like what you’re used to.”

Oh. Guess I got it all wrong–and I’ll pack more dry shampoo when I travel next time.

_____________________

 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.

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , ,

R is for Rwanda vs. DR Congo

Driving through Nyungwe Forest National Park on the best road I've ever seen in Africa.

Driving through Nyungwe Forest National Park on the best road I’ve ever seen in Africa.

#AtoZChallenge  April 2015 – Back to Africa

The journey to our educational mission in East Congo is six hours long–six hours driving through Rwanda. So even though the Democratic Republic of the Congo is our destination, most of my sight-seeing is in another African nation. Initially I think this is great.

We named our organization Future Hope Africa, not Future Hope Congo for a reason. The Hope we represent does not recognize national boundaries. On my first trip to the Congo to meet my new sons, friends told us that the DRC is not only physically in the heart of Africa. “As it goes in the Congo, so it goes in all Africa,” they said.

On this trip, I’ve landed not in the heart but in the left lung, where people breathe easier.

Rwanda seems bursting with hope. Everywhere is construction–roads and homes and businesses–building today for tomorrow, even in the mountains, this “Switzerland of Africa” they call it. Terraced hillsides full of agriculture line the roads as far as the eye can see, except in the national park.

I see all this cultivation and I am jealous for my Congo, where the mountains grow rebels. Why are these nations so different?

Perhaps when a country rises from depths, from times so bad–not bad–no, evil–such that the whole country must wake up and say “We are better than that. That is not who we are. That will not be our legacy for our children’s children.” Then one voice joins as the nation.

And the world? When the shame of the world that looked the other way as Hutu’s murdered Tutsi’s and even moderate Hutu’s by the hundreds of thousands finally moves from guilt to action, the world doing what it can where the conflict originated–perhaps that makes the difference. Perhaps it makes the work easier in a country where the lingua franca is English?

Like Future Hope Africa on our page (linked here).

Like Future Hope Africa on our page (linked here).

It is never too little too late when people hope for a better tomorrow. –Dr. Kristin King

Despite the work of the Panzi Foundation, the Oscar nominated documentary “Virunga” and the world’s notice of Dr. Denis Mukwege (“The Man Who Mends Women” ), most of the world’s blind eye is now for the leftovers from that very genocide. The rebels in the East Congo mountains, the atrocities continue, the families torn asunder.

My heart is broken.

Tears roll down my cheeks in the mountains of Rwanda.

What must our driver, Papa Justin, think of this strange white woman who takes so many photos, scribbles notes constantly, asks about the flora, and warns (via translation) she will scream with delight if she sees a monkey–what must he think as she sits beside him and weeps fat tears that drip to her shirt?

______________________

 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.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

M is for Melodies of Children

(A to Z April Blog Challenge – Back to Africa 2015)

Remember seeing your child sing with a group? Or seeing your niece, nephew, younger sibling? Can’t help but smile and feel my soul rising on the wings of joy. That’s what today is about. Any melody sung out from the hearts of children can do this for us, when we listen with love and delight regardless of ears.

BTW, I’ve not had good luck with technology and thus haven’t posted video before. However, I really wanted M is for Melodies of Children to be a short clip of the children outside our education center in East Congo practicing a song with motions. Here’s the link to visit if the video won’t play in screen here.

______________________

 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.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

K is for Kamologa

Mrs. Kamologa monitoring the fuel supply for the generator that provides our education center electricity.

Ms. Kamologa monitoring the fuel supply for the generator that provides our education center electricity.

(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)

A huge part of my trip to Africa was meeting the team who works in country, encouraging them, and thanking them. The people like Ms. Kamologa who are the face of our organization, who believe in a brighter future, who are giving every day to make a difference in their community with the help of supporters.

Today it is my pleasure to introduce to you Viviane Munyeruku Kamologa (in blue dress above). Ms. K serves as librarian, receptionist, teacher and cashier for Future Hope Africa since 2009. The team calls her Mama Education @sbl. They told me about her during a meeting dedicated to teaching me what everyone does on the ground in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

She registers the books, knows what supplies we have where, oversees borrowing and return of books.

With the children she knows every child by name, their problems, background and their parents.

A firm presence offering discipline, she is also the one the children go to with any difficulty.

She is open to everyone and is the 1st person people see and interact with because she works the desk at the front door.

She does everything, and is humble, cleans or does whatever work needs to be done.

A flexible, comprehensive worker.

Shelves of books line the longest wall of our education center in an area of Africa where most schools have no library.

Shelves of books line the longest wall of our education center in an area of Africa where most schools have no library.

When FHA began, people like Ms. K worked for what little we had, sometimes receiving some pay, sometimes volunteering, but always doing all she could. Our group of supporters was small, but eventually we were able to pay $50 a month and be regular. Recently we were able to increase most of the team salaries

Although the pay is a great benefit for those with positions at the center, their families, and the community, the drive to accomplish and do “whatever work needs to be done” is the real fuel behind our endeavors. Ms. K embodies that with firm love for the children and caring for their families.

“When we began,” Bintu Mujambere, Operations Director, said, “Vivian frequently held things down alone [at the center] because I could not always be here.”

Because I expressed a desire to see her son, Vivian had the nanny bring him to the center one day. Robust and wanting only to be in his mommy’s arms, I held the squirming fella who still needed guiding hands to walk.

How precious is this child, full of potential. As Vivian K. gave the bus fare to the nanny and sent her son home, the burden of bringing him in to meet me at the center came home to me. How precious is Ms. K who gives so much for all.

______________________

 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.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

J is for Jambo!

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 10.50.01 PM(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)

Language in Africa can both unite and divide at the same time. I saw this in action in East Congo and neighboring Rwanda.

It’s terrific when a lingua franca (i.e. bridge language or language of trade) crosses barriers. Take “Jambo” for instance.  I learn to say this to folks outside our education center. It’s basically “hello” in Swahili and will serve you well in lots of places across Africa (i.e.Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi, Somalia, and the Comoro Islands.) Even though Swahili isn’t the language of Ethiopia, I clearly remember people using it there as well. I suspect the greeting is common across many more countries.

Inside Future Hope Africa’s center, I use the French greeting “Bonjour.” The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was once part of the Belgian Congo (also Zaire) which established French as the country’s language of interaction with the western world. Within the country, though, it draws a dividing line between those who are educated, and those who are not. And how well someone speaks French can give an employer, or anyone else, a measure of the person’s level of education.

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 10.51.48 PMIf you’re a local and happen to speak English very well, you might be Rwandan. Since the town in which we’re located is right on the border. Crossing in and out of the 2 countries the languages create a demarkation as clear as the river–an impediment that may be crossed with the right effort and know how. However, many folks from East Congo fled the over-flooding genocide of the 90’s to places where English was spoken, and a good number of others have studied English. Again, it’s a mark of education.

But if you think you can come as an aid worker with your French and reach people, you might be wrong. For example, one young woman who came to our education center out of curiosity ran away when she was greeted and asked a question in French. Later she explained that she was “ashamed” because she could not understand what she was being asked. After hearing about her, I switched to using “Jambo” the most. We want to make connections across the world and draw people in rather than drive them away.

Poignant to me, we interviewed two newly sponsored students (about 4th and 5th grade/year) in French so we could send their sponsoring family a video thank-you-get-to-know-you. When we asked their parents if they would like to say a few words, they were all eagerness…except that they could not speak French, only Swahili.

That’s when it really struck me how language can even divide a family. What does a mother feel when she does not understand what her child is saying? In this case, I think it was hope, because those French words in combination with the funds to continue school could mean a better tomorrow for her daughter.

Then, with my soul-sister’s family, I tackled another langauge. I always thought Swahili was Bintu’s first language, the one she used at home growing up. Turns out I was right and wrong. Her family’s group language is Mashi and fairly wide-spread in the area I visited. When I used this with her family, they laughed and laughed to hear this local tongue from mine. Rather than separating us, though, they embraced my efforts and nodded with understanding at how Bintu and I became family.

Visit Future Hope Africa for more information about our mission.

Visit Future Hope Africa for more information about our mission.

______________________

 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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I is for Insects – Malaria and Meds

(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)

Lifecycle of the Malaria Parasite from Nature.com

Life cycle of the Malaria Parasite from Nature.com

While everyone back home was worried over ebola during our trip, insects were my primary concern, specifically mosquitoes. Malaria killed 70 times more people in Africa last year than Ebola although the former preventable if we just got rid of most of the mosquitoes that carry it the way we have in the US. I’m digressing, though, and don’t want to get on a soapbox.

Mosquitoes come in various shapes and sizes, and all sorts of rumors abound about these insects. I’ve heard the large ones are female and don’t bite. Was told the buzzing one that gave me a terrible night’s sleep wasn’t the right kind. How did that parasite get under my blanket and why is s/he so intent on scoring blood from my ear lobe?

We prepared the best way we knew how with medication to prevent malaria. Start taking it before the trip as directed, best at same time each day during the trip, and keep taking it two weeks after homecoming. It takes at least that long to let go of the worry that you’ll begin to show the flu-like symptoms.

Jaime's bites were always more red than this, but it does show what her skin looked like. (Photo: LOLO FROM TAHITI on flickr)

Jaime’s bites were always more red than this, but it does show what her skin looked like. (Photo: LOLO FROM TAHITI on flickr)

My niece is a mosquito magnet and slightly allergic. Once when she was small and spent about 30 minutes playing outside with the hose, she came in with dozens of welts from bites just on her short arms and legs. Outside at the same time, I had none. So I wanted her to have the best anti-malarial, malarone, which is more expensive but only needed 2 days before, 7 days after, and doesn’t make your skin sun sensitive.

My husband took piles of doxycycline during his army deployments with no (known) ill effect, and mefloquine was my choice on one previous Africa trip. Mefloquine gave me weird dreams, though, and according to my doctor, makes some people homicidal. Seriously? Still, you only have to take that one once a week.

For myself this trip, doxycycline was the choice with its proven track record for my system. Sure I was more likely to get sun damaged skin, but preventing that is old school. Medication wise, I also traveled with loperamide (in case the fruit or such struck me wrong) and ciprofloxacin (in case sickness really takes over). We also had up to date vaccinations for yellow fever, hep a, hep b, typhoid, and even rabies. That pup might be a stray, even so, you know I’m going to try to pet the cutie.

Back to insects. Although mosquitoes are the worst, there are others to think about. Perhaps to distract yourself, contemplate the Top 10 Deadliest Insects and note that the TseTse fly is a African native as is the Saifu (African ant). Seen those green grainy videos of ants attacking someone in their sleep? Probably was one of these. Made me grateful for our clean accommodations in my friends’ home. Note to self, no camping in Africa for me.

______________________

 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.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on April 10, 2015 in A to Z Blog, East Congo, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

G is for Gates (Congo Security)

Rebar view from inside our education mission.

Rebar view from inside our education mission.

(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)

Alone in our room, my niece and I stay up late talking. At one point there is a lull and my gaze rests on the window, the screen, the metal frame built around the glass and the bars outside. Gates and bars are everywhere. In the US a “bad” neighborhood is sometimes recognizable by such additions. If we keep thinking that way, all of this East Congo city we’re visiting appears to be the bad neighborhood.

Every property a gate, every window with bars, every gate a guard. Security? The rebar view of life.

The decorative window bars on our room.

The decorative window bars on our room.

“The bars should make me feel secure,” I say to my niece. “Instead the need for the bars makes me a little anxious.”

“Yeah,” she says. “I was thinking the same thing. It made me wonder if I was going to wake in the middle of the night to someone trying to get in.”

“No,” I say.

We play a game on my iPad and talk till midnight. Then we both sleep very well.

Solid metal gate, though most I saw were dark and had one small section that opened for the guard or folks on foot.

Solid metal gate, though most I saw were dark and had one small section that opened for the guard or folks on foot.

______________________

 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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,