- I had a free day in Dubai so I went exploring the city. Among the things I saw were the world's tallest building, the world's largest mall, the only 7-star hotel in the world, an indoor artificial ski slope, and a ton of other buildings just as impressive. After living in Africa for the last year without much to see I thought this was an ironic first place to visit.
- I rode the metro in dubai and took buses. I miss and love public transportation.
- On my first bus ride I sat down and went a little ways before realizing I was in the women's section of the bus. I guess I forgot what country I was in.
- I have spent most of the week in another country, who's name I won't mention in this blog. It is in the Middle East.
- Upon arriving here I found it amusing to see people putting on their flak jackets and helmets in the airport parking lot.
- I don't feel afraid being here at all, but in the back of my mind I keep wondering what car, person, or object is going to blow up as I go around the city.
- So far I have not made any major cultural mistakes that would warrant someone to yell "Infidel!" at me.
- I have some pretty cute nephews. One that counts "1, 2, 4, 11, 14" and pees his pants 3 times a day. The other mimics my animal growling sounds and only drinks water out of his sippie cup.
29 August 2011
24 August 2011
- My last week in the Congo was pretty busy. This included a full flight schedule, many visits to the bank, and trying to organize my belongings for the trip home. My last day turned out to be quite annoying, although it didn't bother me too much because I knew I would be leaving the next morning. Although it consisted of 2 flights on the schedule, 2 trips to the bank to sort out account issues and annoying charges that come out of nowhere, being pulled over by the traffic police, airport officials trying to shut down our operations for various reasons, and so much more. Good memories I will take home from the Congo.
- I also had to say goodbye to friends I will be leaving behind. It is one thing to say goodbye to someone when you are moving to a neighboring state or when you know you'll be back, but definitely different saying goodbye to people on the other side of the planet you are not sure if you'll ever see again.
- I was a little hesitant to announce my departure date to some of the local workers because I knew they would be asking for expensive gifts before I left. When I told one of my night guards I was leaving at the end of the week he approached me and said he would like me to give him something. I was thinking the worst and then he asked me if I had a picture of myself that I could give him so he could remember me. I was totally caught off guard. He took a chink out of my cynicism that I had been building up in the Congo the past year.
- On one of my trips to the bank I stepped inside with the bank alarm going off. Piercing sirens and flashing lights. I looked around the crowded bank and no one seemed phased a bit. It had probably been going off all morning.
- As my bags were getting checked by airport security in Lubumbashi a large religious man came and stood next to me. I have no idea what faith this man belonged to but he was large man with a beard wearing a black robe and big shiny cross necklace and some funny shaped religious hat on his head. As he stood next to me he leaned in towards the security guard checking the luggage and with one hand showed him his passport and with the other hand handed the guard a large wad of cash. As he did this he explained to him that he had a special passport and that his luggage did not need to be checked. These jedi mind tricks did not work on the guard as he pocketed the many and began to search the luggage, to which the religious man began to throw a fit. I never found out what was in the luggage that he did not want to be found.
- My flight out of Lubumbashi left an hour and a half early without any warning. Luckily I was at the airport 4 hours early.
- When I made it to Dubai at 1:30am I was almost through all of the security when I got pulled over for a one last random security check. They scanned my bags and then asked me if I had any ammunition in bags. I then realized that the empty bullet shell casing I was bring back as a souvenir was what they were talking about. Apparently that was a no-no and I spent the next hour and a half talking to various customs and police officials. After no explanation or hint as to whether I was in trouble or arrested or anything, they let me go with a warning. I made it to my friends house in Dubai at 4am.
- The weather on Sunday in Dubai was a high of 110 and a low of 95.
13 August 2011
- I have been trying to memorize some swahili phrases that I can yell while playing ultimate this fall to try and intimidate the other teams. Nitakaa hapa toka leo mpaka kesho!
- I have had 2 new house mates the last couple of weeks. They are 9 week-old puppies. Their names are Tarzan and Jane and they are both females.
- A couple of trips to the bank this week. On one trip to the bank the teller asked me if I was a movie star. I asked her if she had seen "The Passion of the Christ". Soon after that exchange another man asked me if I was a member of the Bee Gees. Why does everyone here think I have to be famous?
- There can be a lot of headaches to working in the Congo. Just little things like some rogue military personnel telling me our 4x4 we use to tow our airplane is not authorized (when in fact it is) and giving us a hard time about it before letting us go. Or the airport tower control office feeling that they should be allowed to transport their personal items on our plane for free or low cost. It is just a power control country that can slowly drive an outsider mad. For me it is just stories to laugh about later.
- Paul Schiess' Bullet Points are the inspiration to my Weekly Wraps. You should really check those out for a much better read.
- Here in Congo we have measles and cholera outbreaks all over. Now there is a potential Ebola problem not far from here. It really is sad because thousands of kids are dying and most of the world will never know.
- Speaking of epidemics, our flight schedule for next week (my last week here) is packed to the max. In the next 5 days we have 7 flights on the schedule already. 6 of them being for Doctors Without Borders responding to the measles epidemic.
- This time next week I'll be in Dubai on my long journey home to the USA. Comprehension of my time in Congo finishing has not hit me yet.
07 August 2011
- Kids here in their final year of secondary school received their final grades this week. If they passed they celebrated by covering their heads in white chalk dust and dancing around town blowing whistles.
- As annoying and infuriating as the traffic police here can be, they still make me laugh quite often. I can't help but think of CHiPs everytime I see the goofy motorcycle cops here.
- I think one thing I am going to do as soon as I get back Stateside is eat a big bowl of Cap'n Crunch and 2% milk.
- I am considering moving to Scotland just so I can listen to people talk in that silly accent.
- I hopped on a MAF flight on Friday. I got on the flight thinking that it might be my last time to fly around Congo before I leave. We were flying low over some ridges and come across this amazing waterfall going over some cliffs. I'm still amazed by the beauty this country has and not many outsiders get to experience it.
- 90% of my days are consumed with thoughts about ultimate frisbee.
01 August 2011
- MSF (Doctors Without Borders) has been flying with us a lot lately because of a measles epidemic in the Katanga province. Apparently the local help hired by MSF, to help give out the vaccines, started complaining about not getting paid enough. During their complaints they started threatening to eat expat MSF staff starting with the ones with more meat on their bones. I think MSF got it all sorted out...I think.
- I went out the gate the other night to check something to find my night guards practicing their break dancing.
- There is a young woman at the bank here who always wears this low cut shirt. It bothers me every time I see here. The part the bothers me is that she might have as much chest hair as me.
- I decided last minute that I really needed to Victoria Falls before I left Africa so I took the first chance I got this week when there was a slight break in the work schedule. I left early Thursday morning and got back Sunday afternoon traveling via taxi and bus. It was 40.5 hours round trip travel to spend 42 hours at the Falls. I think it was worth it see one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
- On my taxi drive from Lubumbashi to the Zambian border I got in a nice taxi van with comfortable seats, a mini-television in front, plenty of space. I was excited about a nice quiet comfortable trip to the border. As soon as we pull away from the city the TV goes off and the driver, apparently a passionate evangelist, starts yelling a 30 minute sermon in Swahili to the passengers in the taxi. So I started off my trip with a headache.
- As I was waiting in line to Bungee jump off the bridge between the Zambia/Zimbabwe border a man approached me and offered me 50 trillion dollars. For a second I thought I was going to be the hero of the world and solve America's debt crisis. Then I realized he was offering me 50 trillion Zimbabwe Dollars.
- These are the tourists I met at Victoria Falls: 9 incredibly loud drunk Irish med students. A South Korean who has been teaching in Ethiopia for 2 years. An older Australian couple doing a tour of Africa for several months. A girl from Kansas serving in the Peace Corps in Zambia A young English couple which has been driving all the way from London. Their destination is Capetown and they left in December. A young Swiss business man who is also driving from overland from Cairo to Capetown. A Swedish biochemist and his wife on vacation.
- Currently reading: King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild
24 July 2011
- Apparently a Congolese government official died this week. Something equivalent to a senator I was told. They flew the body back to Lubumbashi and for some reason the greeting party decided to gather very near to the MAF hangar. The greeting party consisted of 4 motorcycle cops, a couple trucks full of police, a truck full of guys in funny green uniforms, a marching band, 50+ cars, and hundreds of foot traffic. Oh, and an ambulance made a brief appearance and then left, which I thought was a little cruel. Anyways, just utter chaos, but Congolese people just love a good funeral.
- I think I may have suffered a case of Giardia this week. It grosses me out just to even think about that.
- I started my first SNERTZ this week. Brutal, but it felt good.
- I guy shows up to the office at 6pm wanted to send a package on one of our flights. I asked him if he could come back the next day. He said he'd be there in the 7:30-8am in the morning. He shows up at 5:30pm. "Sorry I am a little late". Classic "Congo Time". I will not miss this aspect about Congo.
- 27 days until I leave Congo. 40 days until I arrive in Boise. But who's counting?
16 July 2011
- The boat ride up and down the river. Beautiful large river in the middle of the Congo. Surrounded on every side by think jungle. African grey parrots and other birds flying all around. Amazing. And to do the boat ride in a dugout canoe just makes it so much more better.
- Trekking through the jungle. They had already been hacking away at the jungle in previous weeks to make some small paths through or else trying to walk through the jungle would have been miserable. Beautiful though just to stop and hardly be able to see any sky because the vegetation is so thick.
- One day we were there their was a man just digging on his own. He called us over because he had found some diamonds that day. He had a handful of about 20 tiny stones. All diamonds. So crazy to see real raw diamonds freshly plucked from the earth.
- The night before we left the small village there gathered and sang some songs for us. Everyone in the village joined in from the little kids to the mamas and papas. Everyone singing and dancing and worshiping in the middle of nowhere. Just another surreal experience.
10 July 2011
- Last week was Congo's Independence Day. Ironically, my friends from the Belgian School left the Congo for the summer. This week was the American Independence Day. Symbolically, I moved out of the house with my British roommate. USA.
- While on the way to the airport for a flight we came to a road block, in which soldiers were saying the airport was closed. It was closed because the president had left from the airport earlier in the morning but they would not open up the airport until the president's car had exited from the airport as well. So basically they closed down the airport for VIP car.
- I have been trying to figure out all week how to put bed sheets on a water bed.
- We pulled up to the hangar in the middle of the day to find 5 naked military soldiers taking bucket baths on the side of the military hangar which is next to ours.
- 44 degrees the other morning. I was freezing my buns off. This does not bode well for winter in Idaho.
- I got pulled over by the traffic police again. After a lot of wasted time and much arguing over an infraction resulted in me paying $8 for a $50 fine. I think I might hug the first police over I see when I get back to the US.
- This morning's church service concluded by the pastor asking the congregation to give "a big crap offering". Those "L"s can be tricky to pronounce when English isn't your first language.
- Currently reading: "Blood River" by Tim Butcher
06 July 2011
- The plan was to arrive in Uganda Monday and leave Friday. We were doing an engine swap on our plane. We had a loaner engine in our plane and needed to put a new one in. However, the engine got stuck in Belgium somehow while it was shipping so we had to wait an extra week for the engine. Another week in Uganda so I can't complain.
- Walked around downtown Kampala. Big city. Big buildings. Lots of people.
- Saw some kids playing Ultimate in a small grass field next to where I was staying. Upon closer observation I noticed they were doing Ultimate drills. Awesome! I just sat and watched for awhile. I was impressed with the skill level and the fact that they were playing ultimate instead of soccer.
- We ate dinner several times at a restaurant called Coffee At Last. It was great food and the price was very reasonable. It was quite a luxury from Congo. We went there so often that we became friends with the owner. It was a perfect place because we could sit on the balcony overlooking the street and be entertained by the things of Africa.
- Another long flight home Saturday flying at 14,500 feet with our oxygen masks on. Kind of weird to fly a long flight on an airplane that didn't have an engine in it 2 days prior.
- After arriving home in Lubumbashi, I went straight from the airport to a little animal park. Met up with some friends and walked around with the animals.
Currently reading: "The Shack" by William P. Young
- I got up bright and early to fly our airplane to Uganda with my coworker Nate. Our aircraft have to have a maintenace inspection every 200 hours of flight time. We do not have the proper tooling and facilities here to do the maintenance so we fly to another one of our bases in Uganda. It was about a 6-7 hour flight up. Barrels of fun.
- Flying in the Congo during the dry season is not much fun because of the dust, smoke, and pollution that is in the air. You can hardly see the ground. I though Uganda would be different, but is we flew in over Lake Victoria, one of the largest lakes in the world, it was quite disappointing. The pollution in the air was just horrible. It is quite a shame because the terrain on the ground is quite beautiful.
- Met some MAF pilots and families living and working in East DR Congo and Uganda. It was nice to meet some fellow MAFers working in other parts of Africa and see some of the work they are doing there.
- I was put to work in the hangar doing some small maintenance items on the plane. I am not a maintenance guy at all so I felt like I was more of a liability. But I think I helped out a little. Took off the tires and greased the bearings and changed out the breaks. Took off some paneling on the wings and landing gear. Put together some new airplane jacks. Repainted the prop.
- Uganda is one of those crazy places with millions of motorcycle taxis everywhere. They are called "Boda Bodas". They are all weaving in and out of traffic or carrying ridiculously large loads. We nearly killed one Boda Boda driver as he was driving too fast down a dirt road and swerved to avoid us but couldn't avoid the tree stump. His two child passengers were alright, but the driver busted up his knee. We took him to a clinic and paid for his medical bills even though we were not at fault. He showed his gratitude by calling the next day to say that he would be calling the police to demand more money from us. Cool.
- The whole week I was singing the song, "Boda boda boda boda boda everywhere!" in my head.
- Spent a day with my UN friend from Lubumbashi who was passing through Entebbe on his way home for leave. It was good to see him one last time. We went bowling in a mall, which seems like an insane idea when you living in Lubumbashi.
- I went white-water rafting on the Nile River on the weekend. I had been hoping I would get the chance to do this while I was in Uganda and I am so glad I did. The river was just amazingly beautiful. Spent 5-6 hours on the water. There was mostly Class 4 rapids. A couple Class 5 rapids that we missed because of the wimpy tourists I had on my boat. 2 Class 6 rapids that we avoided thankfully. Rapids were tons of fun but enjoyed just floating in the river on the slow parts and just taking in the idea that I was on the Nile River in Africa!
- I think I had a serious case of culture shock on the 1.5 hour bus ride to the Nile River. I sat in front of 6 American college girls. "Like OMG, I totally want to take a baby goat home with me!". I had forgotten that this crazy species of humans still exist.
Currently reading: "The African Dream: The diaries of the revolutionary war in the congo" by Che Guevara
- We flew a baby chimp back to Lubumbashi on one of our flights. It had been bought off some hunters and is being taking to a Chimpanzee sanctuary. So now I can say that I helped save a baby chimp in Africa.
- Went to the "Bush Camp" restaurant in town for Tim's birthday. One of the nicer places in town that is full of African decor. Good food too. I think I will go back someday.
- Lunar Eclipse. I think everything seems more amazing when you experience it in the Congo and this was no exception.
- Political campaigning season here. Lots of politicians flying around the province campaigning for people's votes. Often there is a mini-parade with banners and a marching band waiting for some political figure as he steps of a plane. It is all quite ridiculous and humorous at the same time. I am still not quite sure what their jobs are, other than eating lots of food and making lots of money. Crazy place.
- Went to a concert at the French Cultural Center in town. Some girl and her band down from Kinshasa. She was apparently pretty popular and the place was packed. I showed up late and felt really awkward when there was a crowd of people trying to get in and the security guard sees me and my other white friend and personally escorts us in. The perks of being white? Awkward. I did enjoy myself once inside though. Awesome group. I even bought her CD and got a picture with her backstage. Silly.
- We had a good-bye party for my friend who works with the UN and will be moving to Kinshasa after he takes leave. The party was at my house and we had a huge bonfire in the front yard. Lots of laughs and dancing with good friends.
- Another good-bye party the following day for the volunteers who have been helping out with my roommate's street kids project (Kimibilio). So we had a bbq at a river just outside town with the Kimbilio kids and the volunteers. Good group of people.
- Observation of the week is that I noticed a lot of the people who work for MSF, who we fly for, are smokers. Just seems ironic and confusing. Seems like strange example to have as you are trying to solve the health issues in Africa.
30 May 2011
18 May 2011
17 April 2011
11 April 2011
25 March 2011
18 February 2011
15 February 2011
This day of the year is often characterized as a solemn day for me. It was 4 years ago this day my mother passed away after a long struggle with a neurological disorder. Definitely the most difficult thing I have had to go through in my life so far. It was hard to see someone I cherished so much go through what she did. I was blessed to have had her as a mother and I look forward to the day when I will be able to embrace her once again.
In the last few months there has been several people around me as well that have lost ones they loved. I just want to recognize those people because they are just as important as my mother.
A national worker I work with everyday here lost his mother.
A friend from college lost his father.
My pastor here lost his mother.
My house helper here has lost a relative.
The president of DRC has lost a couple relatives.
An MAF pilot in Indonesia has passed and left behind a wife and child.
I lost a new Congolese friend, Josue, who was even a closer friend to my roommate.
I am sure there are others that I have forgotten or not heard of and their lives were just has precious as the rest. It is sad to see people go, but it is great to remember the time spent with them and the impact they made in your life. Love you Mom!