Saturday, June 9, 2012

You Meet the Nicest People in Congo

Last year when we traveled to DRC we had the wonderful fortune of traveling with several other OFA families.  When you take a trip for an adoption it makes the whole thing so much more wonderful if you have a network of other families to share in the ups and downs.  But this year our travel schedule got thrown off track and we ended up the only OFA family traveling all by ourselves. 

I must admit that I was very sad about this.  My dear friends Kristie, Chelese, and Lauree all started our adoption process this time within just a couple of weeks of each other and yet we ended up missing all of them.  We were the last to be ready and so we had to go it alone.

Well, little did I know that I would meet some of the nicest folks around on my trip to Kinshasa.  I had the great pleasure of being at St. Anne's the same time as this wonderful lady named Britta and her father, Eric.  Britta is one of those people who truly has the gift of hospitality, even though she was far from home.  We spent many meals, beers, and sweaty afternoons together.  She loaned us a million things that I forgot to pack or never even thought I would need, including a roll of nice soft American toilet paper for when Brian was suffering from his dread disease!  She even organized our pizza parties from La Poeta. She was in Kinshasa adopting an adorable set of siblings.  I loved that her dad traveled with her.  Eric was there as assistant baby wrangler, but he was taking it all in like a seasoned tourist.  He was great company, always relaxed and jovial.  A wonderful person to have around when things were getting stressful.

Eric, Britta, and sweet little Nat one morning at breakfast

Eric and Katie enjoying some time in the lounge
There was another couple we met that came just to meet their son to be.  I'm leaving their names off since they are still in process, but they were just lovely and I can't wait to hear from them when their son is finally home.

A lovely couple still in process
This is Heidi.  She had a crazy story to tell about her experiences with DRC adoption and unfortunately they have not all been great.  But that is not stopping her from sticking with it because she knows there is a little girl who needs a home somewhere in Congo and Heidi is going to be her mama!  I really clicked with Heidi.  She has a family about the size of ours with 2 boys about Manny and JoJo's age.  So we really understood each other's chaos.  I also really admired that she had traveled all the way to Kinshasa (which was not a trip that was in her comfort zone) just to make sure she had all the facts straight when it comes to DRC adoption.

Heidi--one tough cookie
Jeremy and Joseph were the sweetest father/son combo ever!  Jeremy adopted as a single (yep, that's right ladies, he isn't married), which is just amazing.  He was so sweet and wonderful with Joseph.  You could see already that some terrific bonding was happening between these two.  Jeremy is also one of my favorite people ever because he loaned us his hot pot every night (our hot pot blew the circuit on our floor the first night)!
Jeremy and Joseph
There were a couple of other US families that arrived just before we left and two Italian families there the same time as us. Apparently, people in Italy do not learn any English in school.  Of course, I don't know any Italian either.  But none of us seemed to be able to give more than a lame "Ciao".  One of the Italian families did give me quite a chuckle.  They had obviously been referred a much larger child than they were expecting.  They got a very robust girl about 5 years old, but they dressed her each morning in clothes that would have fit a smallish 3 year old.  It is always difficult to decide what size clothing to bring for your mystery sized kids.

Below is our feeble attempt at a "red couch" photo.  In China at the White Swan Hotel, there is a great big red couch that every family takes a photo on their last day in China.  We tried to get a shot of all the kids that were there together, but seconds before everyone arrived in the lounge for the picture Katriel dropped unconscious.  Wiggly toddlers do not make great models.

I don't have any pictures of them, but I didn't want to include a few words about the wonderful staff where we stayed, especially the bartenders.  I know, I know, it makes it sound like all we did was adopt babies and drink beer, but the bar was sort of a commons area where everyone congregated when it just got too boring to spend another second in your room.  They sold beer, but also bottled water and Orange Fanta.  There was a bartender on duty at all times so we got to know the gentlemen working at every shift of the day.  One of the bartenders was named "Papi".  He was only in his 30's but he had 8 children of his own and two of them happened to be named Immanuel loke our Manny, and Judith, just like our Katriel Judith.  So every time we came into the bar he would come right over and talk to the babies.  After a couple of days of speaking broken French to him we became friends.  We shared a few beers with him (apparently there are no rules about drinking on the job in Congo), we shared some pizza a couple of times, and we shared some laughs.  He'd hold our babies when our arms were full.  He was just lovely.  On our last afternoon there, just before we left for the airport, Papi showed up at the door to our room.  His shift was ending and he stopped by to say goodbye. I was so touched by this simple gesture. Although we didn't speak the same language and our life experiences were dramatically different, we both had a daughter named Judith and that was enough to start a friendship.

As I've mentioned before, I had a lot of fun in Congo.  I didn't get to see a lot sights or eat at fancy restaurants, but I met some wonderful people and have some memories that I wouldn't trade for anything.
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