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.