One foolish act

Several stories stick with me from my August trip to Congo. I didn’t write during the trip; there was just too much going on and not much solitude. So, like I do with a detailed dream of which I only remember a snippet, I will honor a few stories that have stayed with me. Here is one.

Three fellow travelers and I spent a full week in the dusty outback city of Tshikapa, in Western Kasai province, where the fourth teacher-training program, sponsored by the Mennonite women of Congo and Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, was being held. Sixty-one people–many of them educators and pastors–were following an intensive course in teaching illiterate adults to read and write.

It was marvelous. It was rigorous. It went well.

Tshikapa is the provincial capital of the region that has suffered the most recent, excruciating violence in that country. Continue reading

Ready, set . . .

I have never been this ready to go on a trip so far in advance. One full day to go and my bags are packed, the last laundry is done, the house is clean. I even sat down with my husband this noon and helped him go over meal plans during my absence. My iPhone is loaded with escapist reading for long plane rides. I just checked us in online with Air France. Continue reading

Travel puzzles

A blogger friend asked his teenage grandson, just back from 6 weeks in China and a veteran of other international adventures, what made him such a good candidate for future studies in international relations.

“I like people and accept them,” Sam replied. “I like to encounter ideas. I enjoy new foods.  It’s fun to solve travel puzzles.”

Sam is a teenager after my own heart. Right now, as I prepare for my next sally into the heart of Africa accompanied by three friends, it is the “travel puzzles” that are on my mind. Continue reading

Hungry to learn

A few days ago I received a follow-up report from some of the adult-literacy teachers trained last spring in Mbuji-Mayi, Congo. Attached were some fuzzy photos, including these.

Centre de Kamiji Kapangu et Kamiji Malenga, andragogue Patrice Yamba 001 (1)

Version 2

My first response was to feel overwhelmed, even at a safe distance, thousands of miles away. Continue reading

Charging my batteries

I have always been a morning person but recently it’s been taking me most of a morning  to get fully charged.

I start with coffee but Vic complains that I’ve been drinking more than I used to, i.e. more than my share. Yet I still drink a bit less than he does. Why is this a problem? Can’t we just make more coffee? Well, the system we’ve adopted to make our artisan pour-over, deliciously strong coffee makes no more than 700 g of coffee at a time. (Yes, we weigh it.) If one of us needs more than our established share, we have to make another pot or partial pot. That’s too much bother first thing in the morning.

But coffee is just the start. I’ve been needing more than my established share just to do the next parts of my charging routine. Continue reading

Kafka before coffee

Recently I saw a video clip of Ellen DeGeneris receiving a multimillion-dollar contribution from Ashton Kutcher for her school in Africa. It was subsidized by a company that specializes in quick and easy global money transfers, and so to give the money Kutcher just gave his smartphone to Ellen and told her to push the button she saw onscreen. She did, and presumably the millions flowed instantly and painlessly into the right bank account.

It’s not so easy for us ordinary folks either to drum up millions or, heaven forbid, send it to Africa. Continue reading

Follow your bliss and get your hands dirty

I dreamed recently that I was giving career advice to young people, but they weren’t listening to me because I hadn’t had a successful career.

I couldn’t blame them because, although I don’t feel like a professional failure, it has been hard for me to describe my so-called career.

I really tried for a while, beginning in about 2004, when I began going to writing retreats, to think of myself as a writer. Continue reading

Candidates, mind your underwear

Indiana has a primary today and I got my first chance to vote in my home state since college.

I am glad I am not a Republican. The three Republican Senate candidates are apparently competing for biggest hater and most Trumpier-than-Trump. It is not a pretty sight.

Some of my fellow liberals are planning to take a Republican ballot and vote for the Biggest Loser, the one most likely to be defeated in November by our middle-of-the-road Democratic incumbent, Joe Donnelly. I’d say that’s waaay too clever and scheme-y to work. Besides, which one would you choose?

When it came to the key race on the Democratic side, candidates for Congressional District 2 to replace current Tea Partier Jackie Walorski, I found myself a last-minute Undecided. I am never Undecided. But I was influenced by a commercial, of all things. Continue reading

Mbuji Mayi

Reflections during the adult literacy teacher training in Mbuji Mayi, DR Congo, April 2–8, 2018

Here is how you get your baggage at Mbuji Mayi. Passengers and guys whom you can hire to retrieve baggage crowd on one side of a low platform and the baggage is carried in through a door on the other side and stacked in a holding area while an agent examines each tag and calls a name. Or number. I can’t get close enough to tell. Continue reading

Going viral

In the adult literacy teacher–training workshop the week after Easter in Mbuji Mayi, DR Congo, was an eccentric woman. Marie-Claire didn’t seem to care much about her appearance. Her hair went every which way. Her clothes were a bit grubby. She peered over wire-rimmed glasses. She crossed her legs. One day she showed up in a baseball cap. Continue reading