Friday, August 5, 2011

Congo--the good, the bad, and the sweaty--Part VI--some final thoughts

Congo is not an easy story to tell.  It is a very beautiful place, but there is some real sadness and much of it surrounds the stories of our children.  It is a rich culture with a bleak and bloody history.  It is a country with more than its share of problems, but also filled with so many loving people doing so much to improve lives and make change.

So finally, here are some of my final thoughts on my time in Congo.  If you missed my earlier posts you may want to check them out:  Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V

Better Than I Expected
  • My babies--they were healthier and happier than I could have ever hoped for.  They bonded to us quickly and were pretty easy to care for.  They didn't sleep well for a wide variety of reasons, but during the day they were sweet and funny and more than we could have dreamed of.
  • The guesthouse--I was expecting pretty rough accommodations, but the guesthouse was not bad at all.  I had running hot water at all times, electricity most of the time, pretty good Internet access, and much better air conditioning than I expected.  It was pretty clean and felt very safe.  For three weeks it was home and it felt pretty homey.
  • The wildlife--other than some pesky ants that were trying to eat our formula, I didn't find any insects or other creepy crawlies in our apartment.  The mosquitoes were not as thick as we have them here at home and I only ended up with a couple of bites.
  • The company--we met some of the loveliest, funniest, kindest, most wonderful families while staying in Kinshasa.  I know that we have formed some lifelong friendships while on this journey.
  • The flight attendant on Brussels Air that took such good care of the babies and took our first family photo below.
  • Meeting Papa L and Mama J--being in the home where all three of my boys lived and were loved was such an amazing experience.  I will thank God always for that amazing family and the care that they provided to Haven, Manny, and JoJo.

Worse Than I Expected

  • The heat--I live in the one of the hottest parts of the country, but I can always escape to an air conditioned building or car.  But there was no relief in Kinshasa.  Even the places that had a/c couldn't quite keep up.  I was a sweaty mess for 3 weeks straight.  I have heard however that the families that just got back had cool enough weather that they needed sweaters at night.  Not sure I believe them!  We only had rain twice and rarely so much as a slow breeze.
  • The traffic--no traffic jam that you have ever experienced can compare with being in a micro/minivan with no airconditioning, way past the legal limit of passengers, a poopy baby on your lap, your sweaty husbands arm around your shoulder (because there is no place else to put it, short of cutting it off and putting it on the roof), and exhaust fumes pouring in the windows.  The car rides were definitely some of the lowest points of my trip
  • Being away from "the Bigs"--I love Grace and Haven so much it hurts, but I didn't really know how much that was until I watched them start to cry on skype because we weren't home with them. 
  • The food--I was looking forward to a food adventure like I had in China.  I did not get one.  I got some pretty lame attempts at American cuisine, pizza with really bizarre toppings, and a enough Orange Fanta to float a boat.  I did get to try Lebanese food (pretty good) and some Chinese takeout (not so good).  Maybe this explains why there aren't Congolese restaurants in every city in the US.
  • The pollution--thank goodness for the EPA and all the agencies that regulate my world.  The air, water, and land pollution in Kinshasa blew my mind.  There is no public trash collection so garbage just piles up on the streets and in the waterways.  There was a constant smell of burning trash in the air.  On our last day in Kinshasa, as we were driving to the airport, the smog was so thick that you could not see more than 3 cars in front of you. I am not someone who is prone to allergy problems, but the air pollution effected me the whole time I was there.  I was coughing and had burning eyes from the moment we got off the plane.
  • The orphanages--the pictures you see on TV or on other peoples blogs simply do not tell the story.  My trip to our boys orphanage will always be one of my hardest memories.
  • Dealing with government offices--Ours and Theirs!  When they say come back tomorrow your paperwork will be complete, unless the office has burnt down, your paperwork should be complete.  If it is not going to be, don't lie and tell me it will!!!
  • The airline ticket office--almost as friendly as a government office!
  • Despair and Poverty--no amount of media exposure can take the place of actually visiting a place like DRC.  I wish everyone could spend time in a country like this one.  Keeping up with the Joneses would suddenly seem unimportant.
My trip to DRC was no vacation, but I was sad to leave and I look forward to going back. I want to go back someday without my kids so that I can really get some work done.  And I want to go back someday with all my kids so that my boys can meet their foster family, learn about their culture, and get a better understanding of how and why they ended up in my family.  I was thrilled to be home but I feel like there is some unfinished business for our family in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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