Tuesday, January 7, 2014

We have moved to South Africa!

So, yeah, the post below? Not entirely accurate. But maybe "soon" means 2 years to you?  It's all relative.

In any case, we are now at our new post in South Africa!

It feels like a long time since Congo and so much has happened since we left Kinshasa. Our family has increased by 2 amazing little boys, Henry spent nearly a year in Afghanistan, and we have moved around more than a few times while in transition.

South Africa is a great place to live and we are looking forward to the time here. Unfortunately and fortunately, we probably won't have the same level of craziness as Congo here but I'm quite positive there will still be lots of non-ordinary things to share.

 Check out the new blog: www.alittlelatitudesa.blogspot.com

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blog? What Blog?

Meet Nathaniel! Here's the cute little reason why I have neglected our blog over the past couple of months. When I finally remembered I had a blog, I imagined it covered in cobwebs and sad little tumbleweeds rolling around.

But anyways, the blog is back on. Check back soon. I promise.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sophie and the Packers

Last week, our apartment became empty. In preparation for our next post, all of our stuff in Congo was packed up and put into shipping crates. The next time we see our belongings will be in Kenya. Luckily, we do not have to do any of the hard labor ourselves. The embassy sent a team of 4 Congolese workers and they boxed it all up. As per usual in Congo, the packers were terrified of Sophie but she remained intent on winning them over. Both she and Emery supervised the pack out and made sure the movers used enough bubble wrap. Sophie seemed to take her job very seriously and kept a very close eye on the entire operation.

Very proud of her work...

Sophie lays down for one last snuggle on her bed before it goes into a box...

Monitoring one of the movers very closely.

Sophie ensures there is no slacking. And confirms her toys are properly taken care of. She runs a tight ship.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Au Revoir Congo: Part I

I have been the a pretty negligent blog updater lately. I should have done better but somehow the motivation just didn't happen until about...now.

In Congo news, the biggest update is that I am no longer there. Henry and Sophie are still in Kinshasa, but I left in early June. I was really sad to go and wanted to stay and leave with Henry and Sophie but we ultimately decided it was best for me + baby to come back when I did. It was a really difficult good-bye for me. Congo kicked my butt on many a day but it also was an incredible experience. We made amazing friends and all in all, despite some of the hardships, it was a great 2 years.

If you asked me 10 (heck, 3) years ago if I could ever imagine living in Congo, the answer would have been a scoffing no. Even 2 years ago, when we first moved to Kinshasa, I never thought I would miss it as much as I do. When we first arrived, I was ready to turn right around and hop on the next flight back. For the first month, I didn't even want to unpack my suitcase because that meant that we were actually going to be living in Congo for the next two years. But, we settled in. We adjusted to Congo (some of us slower than others) and, while it was challenging, it was also unforgettable.

Henry and Sophie will be leaving Kinshasa this month and it's hard to believe our Congo time is coming to a close. I'll be posting some more updates from Congo soon but we will also continue the blog from the States and when we move to Kenya next fall. And who knows, maybe we will visit Congo again sometime. Or perhaps not.

One last burning pile of trash before I leave...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Golfing in the Congo

Here's another little glimpse of Congo as retold to me through Henry....

The other day, Henry was golfing at the (one and only) course in Kinshasa. As their group approached one of the ponds, one of the caddies saw a fish surface on the water. Overcome with excitement, the caddy sprung into action, took a putter from one of the golf bags and started whacking the water, trying to beat the fish to death with the club, in hopes of eating it. Just a guess, but this is probably not something that happens at Pebble Beach.

When I heard this story, my first thought was, "ha, oh so Congo"...but then my next thoughts were "Sad!!! Do you guys not pay your caddies well? Why did this caddy go into a manic fish mode at the first sight of a fin? Did he catch the fish? Can we buy him some fish?!". Henry told me that, yes, the caddies are paid but that he always gives his caddy extra when he sees him. In their group, the caddies also win drinks every time their person does something with par or birdie or some other term I have since forgotten. So, I feel a little better about it but not much. The golf club is one of the nicest places in Congo and I can imagine it would provide decent employment, especially considering the miserable predicament of the rest of the country, but even so...it is still sad. Even more depressing is the fact that the caddies are probably better off than a majority of the Congolese population. Someone once told me they heard the goal of Congo is to "get from misery to poverty". Living here, in this fourth world country, it is just so obvious every day how much we have to be grateful for as Americans.

So anyways, that's what happened one day on the golf course. FYI, the caddy did not catch the fish and it lived on. Until the next golf group came along anyways.

Monday, May 23, 2011

More Sightseeing...

A place to buy fabric and a place to buy Coke...as in cola.

No one knows just how deep these potholes are until you drive through them as they are usually covered in muddy garbage water. So convenient.

This is how I imagine my demise happening in Congo... A large, speeding, out of control truck filled with people and/or livestock. Every time one of these trucks hits one of the many massive potholes, I always expect to see the roof people fly off. But, impressively, I have never seen it happen.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Baby Shower

On Sunday, my amazing friend Lauren threw me the most incredible baby shower. Everything was so perfect and adorable and just made me realize all the more how much I am going to miss everyone here.

Lauren really went above and beyond - especially considering we live in Kinshasa where it is impossible to get anything. Everyone decorated a little onesie and now baby will have a fun wardrobe that says cute things like "Sophie's Little Brother" and "Made in Kinshasa" along with all the other great clothes and gifts.

As of now, I am set to leave Congo in about 3 weeks (Henry will be staying here until later on in the summer). It's hard to believe my time in Kinshasa is coming to an end soon and I wish I could take everyone here with me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

South Africa (again)

Back in Congo after another quick trip down to South Africa . This was our second trip to Pretoria in the last 2 months and, minus the Congo travel experience (will fill you in on that later), it was another great visit. More great food, accommodations, first worldy-ness and...maternity care.

Yep, maternity care. We are expecting a little baby boy around Labor Day and could not be happier. Who wouldn't want to be pregnant in Congo? Jokes aside, we are thrilled but as you might expect, prenatal care is not exactly thriving in Congo. There is a med unit at the embassy but we also travel to South Africa for some of the bigger appointments and screenings, thus our recent trip. The medical care in South Africa is excellent and the hospital we went to is outstanding. We had a great appointment and loved the doctor (with the fun Afrikaans accent). All in all, totally worth the travel and definitely on par with US standards. In some ways, I would even say I liked the South African care better (gasp!) than what I experienced in the States because of the long personal appointment and the doctor does the ultrasounds herself. But let's be honest, either one is perfectly fine - States or South Africa - just as long as it's not Congo!

Henry and I are very excited and happy and, though it does change our Congo to Nairobi timeline a bit, we will figure it all out...eventually. So anyways, that's the latest news! Thanks for all the well wishes. We are so grateful that things are going well and looking forward to spending some time back in the States.
Pretoria East Hospital...

Our doctor's office...

Baby boy!

A kicking little leg!

Sucking his thumb...

Waving hello.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sightseeing: Congo Countryside

Truck loaded with bags of charcoal. Add a few goats and a handful of people to the top of the pile and it will be ready to go.

Breakdown? Congo's version of a tow truck.

Suburban living.

A Congo "building".

Suburban downtown area...

Local pharmacy...

Small river. Those lumps you see in the middle and along the edges? Yep, those are piles of trash.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rat!

I am a little traumatized. For one, there was a rat in the hallway. For two...well, take a look at the picture above.

How did this rat die? Oh, that would be through the mighty hand and brute strength of Emery, our domestique. How did Emery kill it? Rat death was created Samurai-style with the end of a cleaning device. Emery yelled, "MADAME, STAND BACK!", quickly unsheathed his broom, let out a warrior cry and struck the rat on the head...thus creating a gruesome little carcass in the stairwell outside our door.

Am I thrilled we had a rat near our home? No...But aren't there magic little anti-rodent capsules you can throw at rats that send them painlessly to a cheese-filled afterlife? Oh well, I don't mean to seem ungrateful. Thank you Emery for saving me from the big Congo rat. May it rest in peace.

Monday, April 11, 2011

1st Annual Kinshasa Decathlon

Last Saturday, our friends, Jen and Emily, organized the very first Kinshasa Decathlon. Such a fun day and an important moment in Congo sporting history. T-shirts were included.

Events of the day:
  1. Distance Running
  2. Throwing
  3. Sprinting
  4. Basketball
  5. Tennis
  6. Wrestling
  7. Swimming
  8. Pool Long Jump
  9. Beer Shotgun
  10. Dizzy Bat
Things I learned:
  1. Decathlons are tiring. Even those that include Beer Shotgun as an event.
  2. Watching a decathlon is also tiring. At least for me anyways.
  3. Wrestling is much more exhausting than I thought and it is also sort of intimate.
  4. One can have incredible and limitless control over boys when giving instruction in the name of competition. Good to note.
  5. When Americans compete in Dizzy Bat, Congolese think we are entertaining but crazy.
So, in summation, the First Annual Kinshasa Decathlon was a big Congo-sized success. Check ESPN for Top Ten plays. Be there next time.

Sightseeing

Monday, April 4, 2011

Henry the Mundele plays soccer

Let's see if you can spot Henry?

One Saturday, we went to watch the US-Embassy Kinshasa All Stars (previously seen here) play in a tournament and, in an unexpected turn of events, Henry went from spectator to participant.

Though a little unprepared, Henry managed to find a pair of golf shoes in the car, they handed him a jersey and he was ready to go. As he was playing, my friend and I would occasionally hear a "ha, look at the mundele!" and "watch the mundele!" on the sidelines from the all-Congolese crowd watching the match.

When Henry stepped out on the field, a group of at least 50 Congolese children started following and grouping around him, chanting "Zidane! Zidane! Welcome Zidane!" in Lingala, the local language. Apparently, they thought he looked like (or perhaps actually was) Zinedine Zidane, a French soccer player who also happens to be pale of skin and bald of head. Either way, it was fun to watch.

Friday, April 1, 2011

South Africa

Recently, Henry and I went on a short trip down to South Africa. It has to be said: South Africa is pretty incredible. It's hard to believe that it shares a continent with Congo. Now I know what people meant when they called Congo "the real Africa". If one has visited South Africa, they should definitely not expect the same conditions when traveling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Just ask Frank.

Yes, true, South Africa is not without problems. But what's a little car jacking when you have real roads, sturdy buildings, and a working society? And, ok, yes, some in South Africa have some unsettling views on race, there is extreme poverty, and I would certainly never claim that the townships are a nice place to live...but, heck, at least it all looks better than Congo. There are shopping malls, highways, McDonalds, a working government, amazing hospitals, no malaria risk, escalators, sushi, a real airport…the list could go on. It's like an actual bona fide place. Oh, and you can use the water there. Plus, the people there have great accents. Need I say more?

South Africa is absolutely a place to visit. We stayed in Pretoria and it was a great mini-break from Congo. I have also heard that Cape Town is unbelievably beautiful and even though we didn't have time to go this trip, it is definitely on the list for the near future. We will be heading back down to Pretoria again in a month and I am really looking forward to it.

Henry at the hotel.

Pool at the Sheraton.

Visit to the lion park...

We found out lion cubs like belly rubs. Just like someone else we know.

Feeding the giraffe. Henry just learned that giraffe tongues are very long, very slimy, and somewhat creepy, in a lovable way.