29 December 2010

No Seatbelt

They say you haven't really been initiated into the Congo until you've been pulled over by the traffic police here. It took me 3 and a half months but I am finally apart of the club!

The traffic police here in Lubumbashi can be very humorous and very annoying at the same time. It is not what you think if you come from the US. There are no police cars that pull you over with lights and sirens. No. The traffic police here stand in groups of 2-4 on the side of the road in their bright yellow uniforms and whistles (no guns, just whistles). They often will walk into the road and block the path of oncoming cars so they can do an inspection of documents and vehicle safety. It seems like we get pulled over by about once a week in our work van. Luckily I am never driving so I don't have to deal with these individuals. That was up until a couple weeks ago.

I have helping every once in awhile on a project my roommate is working on. They are working on taking homeless/abandoned kids off the street and giving them shelter and education. They are some building projects that are going for the project and this day I was driving a out to the project to do some painting. As we're driving out there a team of traffic police step in the road to pull us over. I recognize the main police guy because he has pulled our work van over several times. After giving me a good stare down for about 15 seconds he asks for my drivers license. That is good so he has nothing on me there. Then he asks for all the paperwork for the car. That is all in order so he has got nothing on me there. He then asks for something which I couldn't understand because it was I word I didn't know in french. He then proceeds to try and pull over another car so he can show me what it is. I finally figure out he is looking for our fire extinguisher (which is required in every vehicle). We have that so no infraction there. He then finds that one of the side mirror is cracked and that I am not wearing a seat belt because it is broken. Well now he has got something on me. $50 infraction and trip to the police station he says. Going to the police station is never a good thing so I try talking more with him. He doesn't seem very satisfied with my french and then begins talking with my boss' daughter, who speaks a little Lingala (language spoken mostly in another part of DRC) and he can communicate better with her. We finally get bailed out by a friend who comes to our rescue and is able to work out the problem by paying an $11 fine. That was a waste of an hour and again the officer says something insulting, which I didn't quite understand as I leave. I'm doing a great job of insulting all the authorities here. Haha.

These are some of the people here that it is hard to love sometimes. These men that are born into a system of greed and corruption who stop me because I look like an easy target to get money out of. I don't really know anything about these guys, whether they are just doing what they have to help their family survive or what. And even though it is hard to do the work I came here to do with distractions and headaches like these, these situations remind me of the reality of the country and there is need here and plenty of opportunities to show people love.

Beep Beep Beep

I've had some unfortunate experiences with the authorities and traffic laws lately. Here is my first story.

I had just come back from a flight with work and headed straight to a Christmas party. It was a good time and then some of decide to head back to my house to watch the big soccer game. I first had to drop off some friends who teach at the Belgium school here. After dropping them off I head home. The president of DRC has a house here in Lubumbashi, but he is currently living in the capital of Kinshasa. The street that passes his house in guarded on both sides by the military. My way home is via this street, which is not unusual because it is a main street in town. As I approach the last barricade two soldiers walk in the road and stop my car. Oh great. I ask one of them what the problem is and he won't give me an answer but tells me to pull over to the side of the road. While I'm talking to him another soldier jumps in the passenger seat. Oh great. Now I'm in for a battle. These are soldiers by the way, not traffic police. They have guns, big guns. After pulling over we start talking. By this time 3 of these guys are at my window. None of them speak english so it is all up to my french. They tell me that on this road passing the president's house (who is not currently there) I need to honk my horn 3 times out of respect...ugh. I knew right then that this would not go well because he just made up that rule and now he is going to ask for money. I begin to protest and then realize I shouldn't be too insulting, especially since it is an infraction agains the president and because these guys all have big guns and one is sitting next to me and because it is dark, I am alone, and there are not too many other cars out. He tells me it is a $50 fine, which I at first refuse to pay at all. After awhile of arguing they threaten to search me so I decide to give them some money and get out of here. I end up paying them about $10 total. They then insult me for not knowing a lot of french and let me go. As I drive away I give them the thumbs up and honk three times. Beep beep beep.

03 December 2010

Josue Manda

A friend of mine died this week in a swimming accident. His name was Josue Manda. He was just a year younger than me. I had only known him for a mere 3 months. He was a fun individual and I enjoyed the conversations and times we had together. He welcomed me as a friend the second day I had been in the Congo. He loved life and always had a smile to give. I respected the willingness he had to serve others. His life has blessed me.

24 November 2010

A Season

It has been 3 months since I moved to the Congo. A season. I have never real had a good sense of time. For the most part it seems like I have been here a lot longer than 3 months. I was talking with a missionary last week and he said the first couple months seem like they'll never end and then time flies after that. I'll just take time as it comes and try to patient enough to slow down and enjoy the moment and take it all in. I'm glad I still have plenty of time here. I'm definitely not at my full potential and feel there is so much more God has for me to do here. So I'll take this moment to reflect on the first 3 months and be thankful and then turn my attention back to the present and joyfully anticipate the future.

Happy Thanksgiving!

05 November 2010


I've been on those tours of old prisons that are now closed down, but I've never been to a real prison. At least, I hadn't been to one until last week. The church I'm attending here in Lubumbashi does a prison ministry once a month. We take a team to the prison to deliver a message and then give them some food. I decided to tag along last weekend and see what it was all about. The prison we went to is in Kipushi, which is about an hour and a half drive from Lubumbashi and right on the border of Zambia. I didn't really know what to expect from the prison. All I knew it was cramped and not the greatest of conditions for the prisoners. When we got there we were led into an outdoor gathering area. All the prisoners were gathered in this courtyard, seated on the floor watching we set up our things in front of them. A family from my church had come along and sang some songs for the men. The message was then given and then we passed out food. They are not fed very well so I'm assuming they really appreciate the food we bring, even though it is not much. I got to help hand out the food so I got to look each prisoner in the eye as I handed them food. I had no idea what any of these men had done to deserve to be in prison, but I never felt uneasy or afraid. I felt sorry for them. I probably sat in the same room with them for 2 hours, sitting towards the front so I could see all their faces. I didn't feel like I was better than anyone of them. I've made tons of mistakes and done terrible things like I'm sure these men have, yet I am the one who could walk out of that prison whenever I wanted to.

It was one of those times, which seems to happen a lot to me, where I try to be a blessing to someone but they end up blessing me more. It also reminded me of Ephesians 4. While Paul is in prison he gives this message to the church:

"While I'm locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walkbetter yet, run!on the road God called you to travel. I don't want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don't want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and disciplinenot in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences."

I have the opportunity to run, yet I often find myself sitting on my hands or going down these dead end paths. The prison visit reminded me that I am not a captive of my sin and I need to steadily running on the road God has called me.

02 November 2010

Confederation of African Football Championship

I found out a few days ago that the biggest soccer match of the year in the Congo was happening this weekend here in Lubumbashi. I had been to one soccer match here already and I could tell the Congolese here are quite enthusiastic about their soccer so I knew this match would be a must for me to go to. Africa's version of the English Premier League is the CAF Champions league, but it is for the entire continent of Africa. So all the best club teams in Africa play in this league and the local club team here, TP Mazembe, had advanced to the championship match against a team from Tunisia. I decided to go to the match with a Congolese guy I work with named Patrick. He and his brothers are big fans of Mazembe so they were fun to go with. We headed to the stadium and past through downtown on the way. The fanatics were already out in full force with their painted faces and costumes as they danced and sang in the streets. Once we got to the stadium it was much more of the same. We had to push our way through the crowds and police to make our way inside the gates of the stadium. We found some good seats and watched as the capacity stadium sang, blew their vuvuzela's (which I am now able to fully appreciate how obnoxious they are), and chanted as the team's warmed up. The opposing team was full of mzungu's, which is Swahili for "white person", so unfortunately I heard lot of jeering with "mzungu" thrown in there. Luckily I was proudly wearing my TP Mazembe shirt so I was not to be confused as a fan of my fellow white men, which brought much entertainment and laughter to the crowd around me.

Once the match started all focus was put towards the field. I very much wanted TP Mazembe to win, but I was able to watch the match with an impartial view of the refereeing and as I result it was very clear to me that the referees on the field were very biased in favor of the home team. I hoping to find statistics on the match somewhere, but I can guesstimate that the fouls on the Tunisian team were close to 30 whereas the number of fouls against TP Mazembe was maybe 5. The Tunisians probably got about 7 yellow cards to Mazembe's zero. The Tunisian's also had a player red carded and another one called for a penalty kick. It was the most ridiculous officiating ever, but the Congolese fans loved it. TP Mazembe took advantage of the situation and converted on some great plays to win the match 5-0. The stadium would go crazy after every goal. I almost got knocked over several times and definitely got splashed with lots of water. It was sad to see the Tunisian team totally dejected after the goals started racking up. When the final whistle blew the riot police rushed out onto the field to protect the referees because they knew the Tunisians were upset and were going to go after them. There were several skirmishes were the Tunisian players tried attacking the refs or anyone they could take out their frustration on. The police soon devised a plan to hold hands and encompass the entire Tunisian team. This was quite a site from the stands and crowd applauded it. They were led off the field and the celebrating began.

There was a mass exodus from the stadium and again we pushed and shoved to find our way back to the car. I felt like the most popular person there being a mzungu in a TP Mazembe shirt. People loved it and everyone had a comment for me. The car ride home was a parade as crowds lined both sides of the streets and cheered as the cars passed. We headed home one direction but saw objects on fire in front of us a ways down the road. Whether it was tires, cars, or Tunisian fans being set on fire I don't know but the people in the street around us told us to quickly turn around so we wisely did so. Another memorable sight I saw on the way home was a taxi-van with about 15 people crammed inside, including a marching band. The back door was open and there was also about 15 people riding on top of the van as it sped and weaved through traffic. Got to love the Congolese and their ingenuity. We finally made it back home alive. Quite the experience. I was kicking myself the entire night for forgetting to bring my camera so I don't have pictures to share. It felt like one of the crazy events that you only get to experience once in your life. Needless to say I was quite happy.

Found a clip of some of the mayhem after the match:


26 October 2010

Some Truth? A Lot of Truth?

Came across this map the other night and found it quite amusing.

18 October 2010

Heart of Darkness

The final leg of the journey really was perfect for me. The sun was setting and there were huge vertically developed clouds on the horizon. I snapped a few photos out the window and sat back in my seat and thought, "How lucky...no...how blessed am I to be where I am at this moment." This realization came as I sat in the co-pilot seat of a Cessna 208 Caravan flying 12,500 feet over the open landscape of the DR Congo. It had been a long day of flying for us. We had been dropping off cargo and flying passengers between 3 different remote airstrips in the region. It was my first opportunity since moving here to go along on one of the flights and something I had been looking forward to since the beginning of my "Josh in the Congo" endeavor. With my dad and two of my brothers being pilots, I had spent plenty of time in small planes so that was nothing new. But doing it in a Third World country and in the capacity of helping people made it special for me. I loved every minute of it. Flying in low over the city as we come in for the approach, landing, takeoff, flying through clouds, turbulence. It was all exciting.

At one point during the flight I did try to read Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad's significant work of English literature about the Congo. I thought it would be profound to read it as I soared over the country the book was about, but I made it through 4 pages before deciding I could finish it later. Not as profound as I thought but it earned the title of this post.

12 October 2010

Jungle Fever

Well I survived my first bout with illness in Africa. It was a 'Rumble in the Jungle' but the main rumbling going on was that in my stomach as the illness struck swiftly and forcefully in the night. After 4 hours straight of hugging the toilet and having everything inside my body rapidly fleeing out any orifice it could find, I saw the light of day. Unfortunately that was just the sun rising and I still had to battle this sickness. The symptoms continued to attack with lethargy, back and stomach pain, leg cramps, fever and chills. As a result I got to visit a local clinic and have a malaria test done. Results came back positive a couple hours later. However, it wasn't until about 22 hours after my first attack on my body that I was able to keep any solids or liquids down. But finally I was able to start the medication and the illness relented. Knocked me off my feet for a few days but I am back at full force. We decided afterwards that I probably had a stomach flu, that has been going around here, along with the Malaria. I am just so blessed with many things I guess.

Josh: 1
African sickness: 0

29 September 2010

A Day in the Life

A lot of people have been asking what it is that I am doing here. Each day is different and unknown, which I like, but here is an account of my day to give you somewhat of an idea of the things I am doing in Lubumbashi.

-Woke up 7:15am. Didn't have the neighbor kids screaming their heads off to wake me up. That was unusual.
-Cereal for breakfast.
-Walked to work. Took the main street route to work rather than the quicker back road. I didn't feel like having an awkward Swahili conversation and less people try to talk to me in Swahili if I take the main road. 15 minute walk to work. Got there at 8:20am.
-Started working on formatting 'Airstrip Guides' on my mac using the Pages application.
-Dan, my boss, and I head out about 9am to run some errands in town.
-First stop is my house. We are replacing a hose on my hot water heater we've been trying to repair for a few weeks. Thought we had it fixed before until it started leaking water down my hallway.
-Head to MMR, a mining company in town that we fly for occasionally. We had flown for them yesterday so we were stopping by to pick up the payment.
-We also met up with one of our Congolese staff, Patrick, there. He was helping someone in his church that morning. He drives the MAF van for us, among many other things.
-We stopped briefly downtown at Vodacom to pick up some units for the cell phones.
-We stopped in at the World Concern office to collect a payment from them as well. We had flown 4 of their passengers yesterday in the same flight as MMR.
-We were close by so we stopped at the drilling company's office that dug the well at the Carlson's house. We had a few questions about the pump.
-World Concern paid us via check at a bank we do not have an account at so we head down to that bank to cash the check.
-Our errands are done so we head back to the office around lunchtime.
-I have lunch at "McDonalds". It's not really everyone's favorite fast food restaurant but I like to pretend it is because it has low-quality tasty treats for inexpensive prices. I had a sandwich (ham, tomato, onion, lettuce, mayo), a croissant, and a coke for 1500 francs, which is $1.70.
-After lunch I worked some more on inputting data into the 'Airstrip Guides' template I created.
-Dan and Binene, another one of our Congolese staff, found a discrepancy in some of our financial records. Asked me if I could make any sense of it. I could not. But probably means I should do some more auditing of our records to see if I can find any errors to account for it.
-Called it a day at 2:30. Walked home again on the main street. Got talked to by 2 different crowds of guys wanting my to join them for a drink or just get a reaction out of the "white guy" walking down the street. I couldn't really understand because my French is still terrible so I just smile and say "Non Merci!" and just keep walking.
-Stopped by a fruit stand on the way home to buy some apples. 400 francs each. The lady tries to convince me I need 20 apples. I tell her 5 will do.
-Back home I fold some laundry I washed last Saturday. Clean up my room, which included sweeping up 3 dead roaches. They seem to think my bedroom is a good place to go and die.
-Shave my beard. 3 weeks overdue in that department.
-Roommate Ian was out to dinner with some other folks so I did not feeling like "cooking" dinner so I make a couple tuna sandwiches and slice up one of my apples for dinner.
-Start eating and getting ready for my "Skype Date" with Steve at 7:30pm. Power goes out at 7:29pm. Great. Plug in the power cord that supplies the internet connection to the battery so I can at least skype in the dark. Power comes back on while we are skyping.
-I had turned on the hot water heater several hours before hoping it would work and I would be able to enjoy a hot shower tonight. Turn on the shower. Cold...cold...cold...warm...HOT! Success! Took the first hot shower I have taken in my own home since moving here. Only my second hot shower since moving to Africa. It was glorious.
-Now just browsing the world news and social networks of friends in the States and finishing up this blog post.
-Bedtime. 10:50pm.

19 September 2010


The other night I was out to dinner with friends. One of them, Congolese, asked how I was liking Lubumbashi. I told him that I liked it here a lot, which was an honest answer. He laughed and couldn't understand why I would like it here after growing up mostly in the USA. Maybe I'm just in a different state of mind knowing that I'm here for just a year and this is just an "experience" for me before I return home to the comforts of the States. Whatever the case may be I do enjoy living here so far, even though I recognize the ways of life here that can bring so many frustrations. Things like having traffic police spread out all over the city, whose main purpose is not to ticket the crazy drivers, but rather to pull over the people whom they think they can get the most money out of for ridiculous infractions. And speaking of those crazy drivers. So many of them trying to get the advantage by going weaving in and out and coming head on with oncoming cars or pedestrians in the street. There are also frustrating things like not getting the city water pumped to your house for 5 days or the electricity being out half the time. I've also learned that things happen slowly around here, or in 'Congo time' rather. Like if something is said to be built in 2 years, it will actually happen in 5 years. Or if you are waiting for someone who says they are almost here, it means they haven't left yet. "I'll be there in just a couple minutes", means they'll show up in at least an hour. These are just a few examples of how one could be frustrated by life here in Congo if not normally accustomed to it. So far it hasn't been a huge frustration for me. It is all kind of humorous to me at this point, but again, maybe that is because I'm in a different state of mind because I know it is temporary for me or maybe it is because I'm still new to life here and at some point in the next couple months I'm going to lose my marbles. Either way, I appreciate and am thankful for the things I have.

06 September 2010

Social Life

Apparently my social life is a lot better here in Lubumbashi than back home in the states. I found myself involved in a lot of fun activities over the weekend.

Friday night I went out with the roommate and we picked up a couple other friends to see a concert at a local cultural center downtown. We weren't sure exactly what kind of concert it was going to be. It ended up being a kind of operatic performance by these 2 girls accompanied by a pianist. They had amazing voices and it was very entertaining, especially to see how the crowd responded to some of the songs.

Saturday night we found ourselves going out again to a new club in town. A new friend of mine and his wife are co-owners of this new club and were holding a party to celebrate its opening. It was a very nice place and there were a lot of expats that showed up. I had a great time meeting new people and learning about some of the other NGO's and companies in Lubumbashi.

Sunday morning was church. Apparently this week at church was a memorial service for one of the members of the church, who happened to work for the Zambia consulate or something like that. So the church was full of people for the memorial service and it dragged on forever as many people came up to give speeches. I don't think the church I'm going to will be much like this, but this is kind of what I was expecting church to be like here: long.

Earlier in the week I had heard that there was going to be a big soccer match in town here. Senegal was coming to play the DR Congo national team, which is a pretty big match for the locals. They do love their soccer here as they have couple stadiums that I'm aware of and a couple local teams. I am not a die hard fanatic of soccer but I do love the sport so I really wanted to go see what a soccer match in Africa would be like. So I arrange to do with one of my co-workers, who is a Congolese guy who speaks fairly good english. So he and his brother picked me up Sunday afternoon and we headed out to the stadium. They were wearing matching shirts, which I found quite funny at first and then again once we got to the stadium. The taxi took us as far as we could before the crowds were too much that we had to walk. Once we got to the stadium we found a couple people literally fighting with the police guarding the gates. We had to squeeze through the crowd, while getting pushed and shoved and trying hold on to our tickets. Once we got past those crowds outside it was relatively peaceful. We had bought tickets for one section of the stadium, but we payed the guard at the better section to let us in. This is kind of how everything works in Congo I'm starting to learn. So once we were in the actually stadium it was amazing. It was a huge crowd there to watch the match. The stadium was packed full of yelling and screaming Congolese. The field was artificial grass and we had a great view. The match was very entertaining and Senegal proved to be a much better team scoring a couple goals in the first few minutes. Senegal ended up winning 4-2, but there was much yelling and arguing between the people in the crowd amongst each other after every goal. After the match, we exited the stadium with the masses and I had these 2 guys, with their matching shirts, escorting me the whole way. They were very protective of me so I was laughing a little because I felt like someone important with my 2 "body guards", but I was very glad they were there.

So that was my entertaining weekend full of social activities. It's good to know that I can have a social life here.

02 September 2010

Settling in to Life in Lubumbashi

Well I've been in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for 9 days now. I'm starting to get settled in and making this city my home for the next 12 months. If you haven't gathered by now I am in the city of Lubumbashi and my first impression of the city is that I love it. I've read online that they guess there is about 1.5 million people in the city. But I've heard not that there could be upwards of 3-4 million. So it is definitely a happening place and lots of people to see and interact with.

I arrived last Tuesday and was picked up by my roommate Ian, who is from England and has been working here in the city setting up a project street children in the city. We are sharing a house together just a little outside downtown Lubumbashi. Well after Ian picked me up I was able to take a short nap before heading over for dinner with the other 2 MAF families working here in the city. The other families are Dan and Karen Carlson, with 2 of their kids at home (Tim & Caleb), and Nate and Terra Birkemo with their daughter Grace. The Birkemo's are actually headed back to the US as I right this to take their furlough for 7 months. They will return in March so until then I will just be working with the Carlson family. It was great to meet them and get to know them both over this week. I'm excited to work alongside Dan and look forward to Nate's return in March.

On my first full day in the city I spent the morning talking to Papa Lomami. He is one of our house helps that works around the house during the day. He is a kind friendly old man and very curious about everything and loves to chat with you. Unfortunately he does not speak any english and my french is not very good. So it takes us a long time to have a conversation about a simple subject. In the afternoon I went out with Ian for lunch and took a tour of the city. We walked around downtown and explored some of the shops and markets and then drove around the other side of the city to see where the governor lives and where the president's lubumbashi house is. The president happened to be in town this week so his street was all blocked off. The downtown part of the city is quite busy. There is just so many people out and about and walking in the streets. The traffic is a little chaotic but incredibly horrible. I've driven a couple times since I've been here and managed fine but I haven't yet attempted to drive downtown.

The rest of the week I have been out meeting lots of new people. Ian works with the Anglican church on his street kid project so we went and visiting the site where they will be building a new project house for the kids to stay at, as well as met a lot of the people he works with at the Anglican church. I also have been getting to know Binene and Patrick, 2 of the national staff that work for MAF and that I will be working with a lot. We also had a BBQ where I met a handful of missionary people, teachers, and other expats working in the city. It has been hard to keep straight who everyone is. I've also been going around to visit some of the organizations in town that MAF flies for such as World Vision, World Concern, Doctors without Borders, and some mining companies. Dan and Nate were really busy the first week I was here doing tons of flights for different people. It is good to see that we are busy here.

Besides that I have been out shopping a few times downtown. I haven't really bought much yet but it has been good to get downtown several times to see where to go to buy certain things. I also went to church on Sunday with the Carlsons and Birkemos. We went to an International community church. I really enjoyed it and the pastor seemed to be a really good guy. It was also in English, which was nice. So far that language has been my only frustration. My lack of french is obvious and really limits a lot of the things I can directly do. I will be studying a lot of french while I'm here and be working with our local MAF staff on french conversational lessons as well. So hopefully my high school french will come back to me soon and I can manage a little more on my own soon enough.

I am really looking forward to this next year now that I am here in the city. I'm excited to see the work that MAF is doing here and how I will be apart of it, as well as other opportunities and ministries that I may be able to be involved in. So far it has been a good transition and I am not homesick yet.

31 August 2010

1st week anniversary

I have made it through the first week of living in Lubumbashi. It has already been quite an experience and I am even more excited about living here for the next year. I will hopefully have a more elaborate update for you on here in the next couple of days of how my first week has been.

Tonight I went out with the roommate to a nice restaurant and had a cheese burger and coke and watched Justin Bieber music videos in the background. It was a pleasant evening and a great way to mark the first week in Lubumbashi

27 August 2010

Travel Summary

A little travel summary of my trip from Boise to Lubumbashi.

They trip went very smoothly. Met a few people on the flights but the most memorable was probably on my first flight from Boise to Denver. I sat next to Mary, who quickly announced she had a great fear of flying. She is a mother of 5 (2 of whom are adopted) and was in Boise because she was adopting a girl from there. She was returning to her home in Springfield, Missouri. She sat in agony with her eyes closed for most of the flight. With every jolt of turbulence she would grip the arm rests and yell, "Oh sweet Jesus"! I felt bad but it was very entertaining. As soon as we landed in Denver she called her husband and told him she would see him the next day because she was not going to take the next flight and would just take the bus the rest of the way.

As Mary arranged for a bus, I took another flight to Washington, DC, where I spent the night at a hotel. I got the the airport 3 hours early the next morning, thinking I would need plenty of time to get through the airport for my international flight. It took me 15 mins to get to my gate. If only LAX could be that easy. So I then had an 8 hour flight to Rome. We arrived at midnight local time and were not allowed off the plane, as we were only there for an hour to refuel. So my first time to Italy was not very exciting. From Rome, we flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This flight took 5 and a half hours and I was very surprised at how nice the Addis airport was. I spent an hour in the airport before catching my last flight to Lubumbashi. The itinerary that I received said I would be flying through Malawi before arriving at my final destination. Apparently, the airlines route changed and I flew directly to Lubumbashi. This was fine, except that I arrived 2 hours earlier than expected and I wasn't sure if anyone from MAF would be there to pick me up. I made my way through customs and worked my way out of a $10 "fee" charged for entering the country. I used my skills of ignorance and lack of language to get out of paying. I then made my way to the baggage claim, where I was happy to see my new roommate Ian. Thankfully, he had been in the airport to see some other friends off and just happened to see that my flight was coming in earlier so he was there to pick me up. Otherwise, the MAF guys would not have been able to come pick me up at that earlier time. I managed to get one of my bags, but one did not arrive with me so we had to report it. It did come in on the next flight 2 days later however. From the airport we drove to the house and live in Lubumbashi began.

21 August 2010

Boise, Minneapolis, Phoenix

Well the departure date is coming up soon and things have been hectic in the final weeks. I was lucky enough to get a couple trips in before my BIG trip to the Congo. I treated them as a warmup trips before my long flight overseas. I did the math. In the last week I have done 11hours 54mins of flying. My total time flying to the Congo will total 24hours 31mins!

My first trip was sports related. As you may or may not know about me I am actively involved in the sport of Ultimate. I have mostly been a player of the sport and in the last 7 months I have also started coaching youth. I was given the honor of being asked to help coach a youth team (under 19) from Boise, which was traveling to Blaine, MN to compete in the Youth Club Championships. This tournament is the national championships for youth club teams and the first year an Idaho team has been invited to play. Participating at the tournament was the best youth players in the country representing teams from Seattle, Denver, Boston, North Carolina, Nebraska, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Pittsburg, and Delaware Valley. Our team did very well and finished 3rd overall! The whole team had a ton of fun and really enjoyed the experience of playing on a national level.

My second trip was family related. My brother Mark, his wife Heidi, and son Elijah are currently living in Phoenix, AZ. It had been a year since I had seen them so I made a trip down to see them before I head off for a year myself. I was only able to spend 2 days with them but it was well worth the trip. It was especially fun hanging out with my nephew Eli, who is a bundle of entertainment.
Me and Heidi

Me, Eli, and Mark

Eli enjoying the water slide

Eli quickly learning how to work the water guns

Now I'm back in Idaho frantically trying to figure out what I need to pack for the next year. It is weird to think that in 4 days from now I will be unpacking everything in my new home in the Congo. Amongst all the packing and tearful good byes with friends and family it has been starting to set in that life is about to turn upside down. I hope I'm ready for the ride.

10 August 2010

Pretty Good But Not So Good

In 12 days I embark a new journey to an unfamiliar place. DR Congo. I did spend 4 years of my early childhood in the Congo, but 17 years have elapsed and my memories from then are faded. Unfortunately I did not write a blog back then to try and capture my experiences and emotions I took on as an American child living in Africa. I'm sure it would have been very deep and full of insight. For example, I actually have an excerpt of a letter I wrote my cousins as a child in Africa:

"I am having lots of fun since grandma and grandpa have come here. Well it's getting a little colder. Grandma is teaching us how to knit. I am pretty good but not so good."

Powerful writing to say the least. But now, focusing on current times, I have decided to start this blog to keep all you family, friends, supporters, and curious internet drifters entertained and updated on my new life in the Congo. I'm not sure what all I will include in this blog, but hopefully I can give maybe a glimpse of my experience here for the next year and hopefully I will be faithful enough to update it every so often. I'm really excited for this next year of my life. I'm guessing it is going to be "pretty good but not so good".