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V is for Views in Africa

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

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The towering flower bushes captivated me even when surrounding security gates. Visit “F is for Flowers” http://wp.me/p8Fvh-xv

As I come to the end last few letters of the alphabet in the #AtoZChallenge, I see so many more notes in my travel journal that are yet to be communicated. So V is for Views of things I saw to take note of during this last trip to Africa. Tidbits straight from my journal.

  • Used to the safety videos in flight? Here’s a new one on me. The larger Ethiopian Air planes have a new lavatory that is complicated to get in and out of and has several touchless-automatic features that confuse people. Now you will watch the “How to Use the Toilet” video on each of these flights.
  • Strapped to bicycles in the mountains we spot a hog-tied goat, roped containers for empty water coming down, stacked high with the person walking and pushing the bike uphill containers full of water, bound loads of sticks bigger than the people transporting them. Bikes and manpower for commerce and survival.
  • A small boy runs into the road right in front of us. The driver is fast to hit the breaks. The boy’s mama retrieves him but the child is all smiles like it is great fun that the car had to stop and she had to grab him.
  • A roadside "store" that we passed several times but was not in use.

    A roadside “store” that we passed several times but was not in use.

    Two boys about 7 or 8 years old are hacking at a tree with an ax.

  • Houses have yards of banana trees, or cassava bushes–occasionally even a front yard of tall corn.
  • Three boys sit in a dry drainage ditch on the side of the road, eating a snack (perhaps chewing on sugar cane pieces?). Their entertainment is watching the cars and trucks go by.
  • Sunflowers are planted a few here and there by houses–not the big single-headed kind but multiple blooms. I wonder if the smaller flowers mean smaller seeds.
  • A pile of orange bricks on the side of the road for sale. It’s huge and notable because usually we see rock piles (African Quarry). Earlier we saw bricks laid out behind a house to dry.
  • In two hours we see only one speed limit sign–80 kilometers per hour. What is that 45 mph? Everyone disregards.
  • After almost finishing my Coca-Cola I notice that the writing on it is Amharic, one of the first languages of my oldest son. This little bit of American-Ethiopian makes long to bring him with me next time I come.

More of these items of notice from Africa will make up Z is for Zoomed By.

We see the UN cars and compounds, but no one seems to know what they actually do locally.

We see the UN cars and compounds, but no one seems to know what they actually do locally.

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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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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.

Visit Future Hope Africa

Visit Future Hope Africa

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

 

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