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

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

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

Mots de circonstance

Now that I’ve returned from my 15-day trip to DR Congo I’ll be posting more reports. See the “Congo” category on this site.

The Congolese have a sense of occasion, the importance of protocol and doing things right, especially when it comes to programs and celebrations. This places special demands on an introvert like me.

On Good Friday I was front and center in two ceremonial occasions in Kinshasa. The most challenging thing for me as a guest of honor is delivering the expected mot de circonstance, literally, a word about the occasion, presumably fit for the occasion. Continue reading

A Kinshasa pastor’s busy day

In the middle of the week I asked my dear friend Pastor François Tshidimu to do me a favor. Could he buy my ticket to fly to Mbuji-Mayi on Monday? Buying a ticket involves trekking to an office somewhere in this unwieldy city and my schedule was filling up. Yes, of course. He could do this Friday morning while I attended the closing ceremonies for the literacy classes. But he needed my passport.

I had no qualms about giving François my passport and enough money to more than cover the cost of the ticket. Continue reading

Notes from a long journey

O’Hare, 3 hours

The security line is long and slow. I have plenty of time. A baby on her mother’s shoulder smiles randomly at people. I catch her eye and smile. She smiles back.

After going through security I hold my passport and boarding pass in my hand while I put my jacket back on. As I am walking to my gate I feel something scratchy in my sleeve. It is the boarding pass. Continue reading