Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Congo--the good, the bad, and the sweaty--Part IV--the Ken and Barbie of Kinshasa

I a am theatre director.  Which translates to control freak.  And international adoption takes away all your control.

So as I mentioned in my last post I had a really crappy attitude about the trip once we found out our visas would be delayed.  I was mentally prepared for 2 weeks in Congo, but it was not in my plans to stay for 3 weeks.  It was not in my plans to have a loud and tearful discussion at the embassy office.  I did not like the way I fell apart each night when I saw my kids falling apart on the other end of skype. 

In short, I was not in control of the events before me.  I was going to have to roll with the flow. 

It sure is a good thing that I was staying at the same guest house with such a lovely assortment of characters.  Very few people in this world will ever really understand what a trip like this is like, what raising a family like mine is like, but these people will get it. 

First there was Ken and Barbie....I mean Joel and Kristie, the cutest couple in Kinshasa, and their adorable son Kayden. They were long timers.  When I arrived they had already been in Kinshasa for 5 weeks.  We would spend another 2 weeks together.  On the surface there wasn't a lot to laugh about on our trip, but these two had me rolling on the floor night after night.  We laughed about scabies, and bad food, and how Papa L couldn't understand at least half of what we said.  We laughed about "Bon Soir" ladies, and crazy taxi drivers, and probably a lot of things that would not have been funny if we weren't so sleep deprived and sweaty and bored.  But oh did we laugh.

Is that Angelina?  No, this woman is way prettier.  We're visiting an orphanage and Kristie still looks good!

On top of her great sense of humor Kristie is stunningly gorgeous.  She's tall, has long wavy hair, and a natural glow.  She always looked like one of those movie stars who had come to rough it in a 3rd world country.  I, on the other hand, looked more like the overwhelmed, sweaty, and slightly androgynous tourist who ended up on the wrong flight.  Kristie looked completely comfortable traipsing through orphanages, kissing babies and spreading good will.  In every picture of me I have a ridiculous plastic smile on my face.  Cameras have that effect on me.  I am not photogenic and my inner "cheese" always shines through.

Say Cheese!!!

For a couple of days we got to spend time with Shon and her wonderful mother.  Shon was on her first trip to meet her son.  He was a beautiful and shy boy.  I was so impressed that Shon's mother had traveled with her to Kinshasa.  My relatives would not have signed up for that trip.  They both were sweet and gentle women, just charming to be around.  I hope that we will have a chance to reunite someday.

Our roommate on this trip was Kelly.  That's right we had a roommate.  We shared an apartment with her to save money.  Kelly was AWESOME.  In great part because she put up with our family and never complained for a second (at least not in front of us)  She was a single woman who had adopted Elijah, the boy who would not sleep.  He was sweet and funny by day, but at night this kid could scream for hours.  Kelly could not have gotten more than 3 hours sleep on any night that we were there.  But she was patient and calm, a real super mom.  As big a baby as I was and I had my husband there to take care of me, Kelly was so strong and wonderful.  On more than one occasion she let me vent and cry and I will always treasure her for that. 

Our wonderful roommate Kelly and her cutie pie Elijah 

After Shon left, Amy and Shawny arrived.  Amy adopted Nicolas, possibly the most attractive OFA baby yet.  OMG, this kid is adorable.  And he was the easiest baby there.  Lots of smiles, ate well, slept well.  I might have hated Amy if she hadn't been so cool, so smart, so lovely to spend time with.  Brian especially loved to sit around and talk theology with her.  Nothing like a really smart and spiritual person to lift your mood.  I also admired what a faithful blogger she was.  Amy posted something every night on her blog (while I spent each night googling pictures of rashes, trying to find out what dread disease Manny had all over his feet) and every post was funny and interesting.  I should have just linked my blog to hers so you guys would have had some good reading while I was gone.

What a beautiful mama Amy is to sweet Nic 
 When Shawny arrived I was totally expecting that she was going to have the hardest time of us all.  She and her husband have adopted a beautiful toddler girl named Jovie.  I got to see a lot of pictures of Jovie before we traveled and Brian actually met her on his first trip.  We fully expected that she was going to be the kind of toddler that kicks butt and takes names.  But Shawny was ready!  She charmed that little girl with flowered headbands and pretty dresses and so much love and patience.  I was really in awe.  Jovie was no doubt scared and headstrong, but by the time we left she was so in love with her Mama!  They were a beautiful pair.

Shawny and her pretty girl Jovie

We also spent just a few days with Kori and Jonathon, who had come for their first trip to bring home their second child from DRC.  Their daughter, Lila Ruth, was tiny and sick.  It was a very scary time for this couple, but their faith shined through and they have loved that little girl back to health.  They are also doing amazing work to revitalize a United Methodist Church orphanage outside of Kinshasa.  It has been a dream for many of us associated with OFA to have an orphanage that is sort of all our own and it looks like Jonathan is close to making that happen.  Dennis and his twin daughters were also with us a few days.  H is girls were a bit older and there was a huge language issue because of it.  But Dennis just hugged and kissed and played and tickled right into these girls hearts.  Adopting older kids is not easy, but he was amazing and patient with the twins.  It was wonderful to watch. 

Looks like Dennis wanted to take this sweet boy home

Kori and Jonathan apparently worked hard to avoid my camera.  This was the only shot I got.

In addition to the other adopting families, we spent a lot of time with Jules, our interpreter, gopher, navigator, and all around go to guy.  Jules speaks several languages and was invaluable to our work at the orphanages.  He knew where to go to buy anything and got us good prices.  He held our hands and comforted our children.  He was especially helpful with the older kids that were already speaking Lingala.  I don't know how our families survived this trip before Jules came on board.  He is hoping to come to the US to study to become a pastor.  We certainly hope that dream comes true for him.  He has helped so many families with their dream of bringing home a child.
So to all the wonderful people who helped me make it through the day and some long nights: thank you, thank you, thank you!  We will probably never all be in once place at one time again, but the time we all spent together will provide a lasting treasured memory!

Our new extended family
Coming up I'll be doing a post about the orphanages I visited and where this trip to Congo has taken me.  Thank you to all of those who are out there reading.  And thanks for your comments.  I got a note from someone yesterday who is going to adopt from DRC.  Every night Grace and I pray for all the babies in the world still waiting for families.  I love to hear about one that gets to actually come home!
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