Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hello first world!

I love me some America! We are back in the States for our first R&R visit and, let me just say, it's pretty flippin' fantastic.

A couple things I have noticed immediately:
  1. I am really really cold. No, a better word would be 'freezing'. I am really really freezing.
  2. The roads are incredible! I can't believe we can drive in a straight line without incurring whip lash or shaken adult syndrome. Who knew smooth pavement could bring me such excitement?
  3. The food! And in particular: sushi! And I also have a newfound deep love for the grocery store. I will probably embarass myself by hypnotically staring at all the vegetables and fruit options in the produce section. You mean I can get whatever I want when I want it? Marvelous.
  4. Americans don't speak French as their primary language. I keep stopping myself from saying "Bonjour", and the other 8 French words I know, to everyone I encounter in Massachusetts. I have forgotten a few times and hopefully people don't think I am a complete pretentious mental patient.
  5. Everything is so clean! No burning piles of trash!

So, in summation, I am loving being back. Can't wait for day #2 of vacation!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Commuter Babies

This is how babies get around in Congo. Thinking as a baby, I can't decide if this looks like a good way to travel or not. On one hand, I think it has the possibility to be pretty comfy and there are definitely some days here when I wouldn't mind falling asleep strapped to Henry's back to avoid walking around in the heat. But on the other hand, it doesn't appear to be the most stable design ever created and there is probably a reason why it isn't mass marketed in the United States.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another Congo Update

-It's raining mangos. The driveway is covered with fallen mangos and it neither looks nor smells good. It's also not a great idea to stand under a mango tree nowadays. The mangos are quite heavy and will fall suddenly from the branches. Sophie almost got clobbered by a mango yesterday. It landed with a loud thud next to her and she looked at me like, "what kind of place is this?".

-This weekend we are headed back to see the freaky little bonobo monkeys again. Some new diplomats have just arrived in Kinshasa and we figured the best way to start them out is with some monkey debauchery. I'll report back on any particularly scandalous behavior (from the monkeys).

-The other day on the river walk a random Congolese police officer handed Henry a bill for various personal expenses. Henry politely declined to pay.

-Another day on the river walk the Republican Guard soldiers asked me to give them Sophie. They said she could live with them in their tent. I'm pretty sure that is a sizable step down for Sophie in terms of quality of life. I gave them an evil stare and told them they absolutely could not have my dog.

-Henry and I recently watched Hotel Rwanda and Ghosts of Rwanda. Perhaps not the most comforting choices. Especially at the end when both remind us that "the genocidal rebels were pushed out of Rwanda and into...the Congo". That's just fantastic.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Village

Here are some of the pictures from our visit to a village on the river. We arrived via boat and it was really amazing to meet and talk with these people. As soon as our boat pulled up to the shore, all the kids started smiling and waving at us. The people were so welcoming, kind, and very grateful for our visit. We plan on returning and bringing them some more things very soon.


The church in the village.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Holy Moly....An Actual Traffic Light!

Prepare to be amazed. Here is a picture of one of the few working traffic lights in the city. However, before you get too excited, this highly sophisticated example of the modern world appears to be purely ornamental. As similiar with the human traffic lights, adhering to the "rules" and the whole red-means-stop thing seems to be 100% optional.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Camping in the Congo

January 1, 2010

The Situation:
We decide to start 2010 with a bang and go camping for the weekend with some friends. Camping in the Congo. That is a phrase I never thought would apply to my life, but nevertheless, here we are.

The campsite is about 2.5 hours away from the city. It's amazing how beautiful the country is once you leave the city. The roads out are awful and full of huge, enormous, car-eating potholes.


The Upside:
The campsite is very scenic and there is no question we are in Africa. We set up our tents next to the river and right behind us are beautiful hiking trails. The river is clean and has a very fast current. Henry and some of our friends go upstream and ride the river current back down to our site. Sophie loved running around and swimming. It's great to be outside of Kinshasa and see another side of Congo.


The Downside:
The rainy season. As we began to go to sleep, it started to rain. And rain. And pour. And lightening. And thunder. And, sadly, our tent was not completely up to the challenge. We originally planned to stay 2 nights, but decided to cut our trip short when the rain failed to let up the next day.

Here is the bridge to cross the river to the campsite. Pretty much made out of twigs and mud.

Good news, the bridge can at least hold the weight of one tall dude...

...And one wiggly puppy.

Officially leaving "civilization"...

Here is the bathroom. Also known as a hole in the ground. This is nobody's idea of a good time. As our friend's 6 year old daughter told me "You have to make sure you put your pa-gina and your bottom over the hole".