Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas in Kinshasa

Christmas in Kinshasa is much less commercial than we are use to. The streets were decorated two weeks before Christmas with beautiful many lights . They put lights around the huge trunks of the trees that line the main avenue and decorated the starues that are in the roundabouts. Christmas decorations were sold on the street by the vendors. Most people do not give Christmas presents because they can not afford to not even to their family. We received several text messages wishing us Merry Christmas (everyone has a cell phone). We spent Christmas Eve doing a service project at the Polio Victims center where many children stay while they have surgery and then recover. It is very barren without any amenities and they often do not have enough food to eat. We wanted to give them a little Christmas ans were thinking of giving baskets of fruit and a treat with a small toy but our Congolese office staff told us that the Congolese are happy when they have a full belly and we should give beans and rice. So, we gave 50K sacks of rice and beans and a little bag with some cookies, candy and a toothbrush. They were very pleased to get the rice and beans and accepted the bag of goodies graciously. someone brought them big baskets of bread and they were eating it like it was their first meal in days so we decided the advice of beans and rice was good advice.

We then had dinner at the mission home and pretended that we were the grandparents of the mission staff families and had a great celebration.

Got up early on Christmas morning to go to a Church Christmas celebration at a penacostal church, Eglise du Louange. We had our advent celebration at the Tweedy’s Sunday and one of their guests, Julie invited us to come hear her sing with her group. Julie is a native Congolese who is dating an embassy friend of the Tweedy’s. We accepted but about changed our mind when we found out we had to be at the church at 7:30AM and that the meeting would last 2 hours. We felt an obligation to go since we had already accepted the invitation. The Thomases picked us up at 7:15 and took us out to the church. When we arrived we found a large plain bldg on the outside and another building across the street and both were filling up with people. We thought at first it was two different churches but found out it was one and they were televising the program to other buildings. A man came up to us immediately and had us follow him in to the main building where we found hundreds of plastic lawn chairs set up and the hall decorated for Christmas including a stage with podium and a platform with bongo type drums, guitars and an electric piano. Their was a group already singing “Praise the Lord” songs and they sounded very good. We were escorted up to the front of the hall where there were 4 rows of lawn chairs with cushions, all seemed to be reserved. We sat down in the backrow on the end trying to “blend in”. The row behind us smiled and greeted us with Joyeux Noel. After a few minutes when the hall was filled the main pastor entered with an entourage of pastors from the many churches that the congregation represented. They proceeded to the front and sat down on the podium. The grand pastor was seated in a chair that looked like a throne. Immediately a man came down off the podium and asked us to move. He told us that the grand pastor had asked that we move to the front row and sit in the middle immediately in front of the stage where there was 3 clear podiums with neon lights defining the edges. We were not given a choice so we got up and moved up four rows to the front and into the center chairs. By this time we were feeling quite conspicuous as the congregation watched our every move.. As soon as we were seated the 4 rows were filled with people and the meeting got underway.

The program was loud, with lots of audio equipment being dragged around including 3 camera men who would stand in front of us and zoom our faces and our missionary badges. Who knew this because we could see ourselves on the television screens that were set up throughout the hall. We began to wonder if we were being televised on the congo TV and were praying that we were not.

The program consisted of a choir that was all dressed in bright orange print Congolese dresses and shirts. There were several children’s groups that came dancing down the isles and then danced and sang on the stage in front of the podiums and at least 2 feet from us. The dancing was a range from rock and roll to breakdancing. Each group of children were dressed alike in bright color costumes.

We had preaching, and singing, and praying for 3 hours. We prayed sitting down, standing up and kneeling during a very long prayer session. The praying was done by the pastors sometimes and sometimes we were invited to praise the Lord in our own words and then we would have music accompaniment while people prayed aloud and with much ferver all at the same time.

We had a children’s testimony session which reminded us of the Church’s primary program where several children came out and quoted scriptures and gave testimony of their love for Jesus Christ. They had their parts memorized and gave their remarks in loud, clear voices that were enhanced by the fine audio system that was set up in every corner of the building. One little girl told about having a problem and she went to her friends for help and her school and nothing helped so then she went to Jesus Christ and her problems went away. She gave thanks for Jesus in her life.

The Head pastor of the church is a singer and sang his praises several times. He had a great voice and was accompanied by the band and a back up group. One of the under pastors gave a fine sermon in French which was translated into Lingala for all to understand (except those of us who didn’t understand and relied on Farrell to translate the French for us. He told us we just don’t have a star to guide us to Christ but we have many things that lead us to Christ. At one point he went over the reading assignment for the week and everyone in the audience pulled out a journal and started writing down his comments and references that he was giving them. It was very impressive and made us realze this wasn’t just a Christmas thing, going to church, but they were meeting on a regular basis having Sunday school and congregational meetings.

The pastor said, “Magi brought gifts to the baby Jesus. What gifts did you bring today for Jesus?” Immediately canvas bags were passed for donations. Then a basket was brought to the front and people started coming up and laying down wrapped gifts and placing envelopes in the basket. Plastic baskets with a sign on them saying Mission, were passed and more donations were given and then again a basket was brought to the front and more letters were put in the basket that we think were letters of people pledging their lives to Jesus Christ. Two bottles of cooking oil were placed near the basket and then a man brought up a goat as his offering. The goat was terrified with all the music and the shear number of people. The goat was taken out a side door very quickly.

At the end the pastor went over to the band and picked up the guitar and the other pastors sang with him along with the choir and congregation a final “Praise to the Lord”. The congregation loved this and went crazy with their shouting and singing; Oh and whistles. When ever you have a ceremony or celebration here people bring whistles and blow them without mercy. By the end of the meeting our ears were ringing.

Now the pastor turned to thanking people for coming and they had us four missionaries stand and be recognized, introducing us to the congregation and asking them to welcome us which they did by singing and many coming over to us and giving us hugs and the 3 kisses on the check, Congolese greeting.

At this point a man came down and escorted us out of the building while all the people watched us leave. We were escorted to an office and asked to wait a minute and the main pastor came in to receive us. He was very gracious and offered us refreshment. He thanked us for coming to his church and being a part of their Christmas celebration. We were now three and a half hours into this adventure and were expecting to host a party at our apartment so we excused ourselves. The Pastor walked us out to our truck thanking us again for coming and had his people clear a way for our truck through the throngs of church members who had filled the street.

What a great experience we had sharing our Christmas morning with the Church of Praise. We had not anticipated being treated so graciously and having the experience we had. Julie, who had invited us was so happy we came and thanked us several times for coming to her church and meeting her Pastor. Certainly it wasn’t a worship service we were use to but we were touched that people were focusing on Christ and reading the Bible and that children were being valued as an important part of the church.

On the way home we braved it and bought bread from a lady carrying a huge bowl of bread on her head. She had just left the large Victoire Bakery where all the vendors pick up the bread so we were fairly sure it was clean and had not been handled a lot or had time to gather too much street dust.

We had the couple missionaries and the Tweedy’s to Christmas dinner. It was a little unconventional Christmas dinner of coldcuts, cheese, street bread, bowtie pasta, fruit, roasted chicken, corn mango salsa and a variety of cookies and peppermint ice cream.

We played a game with white elephant gifts that we traded around and then Farrell put on a BYU game that Matt had sent. All the guys spread out on the couches and promptly fell asleep and the rest of us just visited and relaxed. We were going to play games but enjoyed just talking and sharing.

I was very proud of myself for not getting home sick until we started SKYPing the kids. We got to talk to Ben and Tiffany, Matt and Shirlene (all though their video doesn’t work) and then we went to bed.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Former missionaries, the Seiters came to the DRC to do the measles Initiative in Lubumbashi . They planned on a Safari in Kenya on their way home. They invited us to go with them and since we had been told we could take one to two weeks off during the holidays we decided to take the opportunity and go with them. The Thomases came also which gave us a a fun group to be with. The Public Relations missionaries in Nairobi set up the Safari for us and arranged for us to stay with missionaries while we were in Nairobi.
We flew out of Kinshasa on the 31st to Nairobi.

At the Kinshasa airport the Thomases were stopped by officials because they didn’t have the proper visa. Apparently you have to have an exit visa and a reentry visa. Farrell ended up asking the agent for a solution and he said it could be arranged. The Thomases paid $100 to the agent and he “prepared the terraine” and got them on the plane with a promise to meet them when they returned to “prepare the terraine” when they wanted to reenter. We had such a visa since we had been traveling to Brazzaville on a regular basis.

We were met by the Sudweeks at the airport with a returned missionary from Kinshasa, Tierry, who was our transport and guide for part of our journey.

The Subweeks took us directly to a MALL (apparently there are malls in some parts of Africa) where all the missionary couples were gathered for dinner. We ate milk shakes and fast food and it was a real treat. We were introduced to our host couple and taken to their apartment and invited to use their apartment as home while in Kenya.

We arose early in the morning to be fed a real American breakfast of eggs and bacon and real milk and then Tierry picked us up to take us to the airport for transport to Masai Mara our Safari site.

As we flew into Masai Mara we saw giraffs lumbering off of the runway as we landed. We were met by a safari Van and a beautiful Masai woman who handed us a cool damp cloth to refresh ourselves from our journey. We were driven to the camp site and greeted with tea time including hot chocolate and cookies.

Masai Mara is a Safari Resort on a game preserve. We were taken to our tent to settle in and unpack. Our tent was a permanent fixture with a wood floor and a tiled bathroom and shower. The bed was surrounded by a mosquito net. It was rather romantic set away from the dining area on a little path that put us right out in the preserve area but we were enclosed by an electrical fence that kept the animals out. We were warned to always keep our tent zipped closed to prevent finding monkeys on our bed when we returned. The tent had windows all around open to the outside which gave a faint breeze through the tent and it was very pleasant.

We went to lunch which was a buffet of breads, cheeses, fruits, meats and salads. And of course we ate way to much. We then went to meet our guide, Rafael, who came recommended to us by the Sudweeks.

Our vehicle was an open SUV with padded rollbars. It allowed us to sit and look out or stand and look out through the open roof. Rafael asked us what was on our agenda for our first trek. I said Giraffes were my favorite and someone else said hippo and leopard. We headed out over the beautiful savanna hunting big game.

With my poor eye site I was always the last to spot any animals but right off we saw a herd of zebras and many gazelles. Then off in the distance someone spotted a giraffe. I couldn’t see it and then all of a sudden I could see this head of a giraffe sitting up high over the horizon. Rafael headed in the direction and there standing on a slight rise was a huge giraffe standing like a sentinel looking out over the terrain. As we got closer we headed down into a gorge and there drinking at the bottom of the gorge were 6 giraffes the large male on top was indeed a sentinel watching for any danger while his family drank and fed on the trees there by the stream. It was a wonderful sight one that filled my soul as we watched these beautiful creatures who in turn lifted their heads and watched us. What a great beginning to our Safari.

This first trek gave us many wonderful sites as we bounced along the open savannah. We were at the end of the migration of the wildibeast and zebras. As the dry season starts these animals, thousands of them, start to migrate down to the Serengeti looking for green grasses. We may have been at the end of the migration but we still saw hundreds of these beautiful animals. They say the migration is a site to behold as these huge herds of animals move south.

We returned to our homebase tent with a plan to meet Rafael at 6:00 am for an early trek. When we got back to our tent our bed had been prepared and a bottle of wine was waiting for us. No we didn’t drink it.

At 5:00 am we were awakened by a Masai tribe member reminding us we were trekking in one hour and he gave us hot chocolate and cookies to warm us up. The savannah becomes quite cool at night and the morning was cold and the hot chocolate was a wonderful amenity (I think the hot chocolate is a missionary thing as everyone else got tea or coffee.)

Our first trek for the day included a bush breakfast. Rafael had picked up boxed breakfasts for each of us and we planned on staying out on trek until lunchtime. Again our guide took great care in finding many beautiful animals for us to see. We stopped within 6 yards of a cheetah mother and two cubs who were feeding on their kill from the night hunt. Once the cheetah were filled then the jackles came and feed and when they were through the buzzards finished off what was left. The site was very bloody but the animals were very interesting and you realized you were witnessing the circle of life right there before your eyes.

We ended up eating breakfast at a table set up by a trading post. We searched the wares of the trading post but soon were drawn across the trail to some Masai women selling jewelry in the dirt. One of the women spoke some English and we had a great time dickering for some treasures. I bought a 5 strand Masai bead neckless. I didn’t realize when I bought it that it was a real treasure and I am sure I didn’t pay enough for it. It is my favorite treasure from Africa.

We were taken to a Masai village that allows tourists to come in to their compound for a price. The village is surrounded by a stick fence with each wife having a hut made from sticks woven to gether and then cow dung plastered on the sticks to make thick walls. There is no light in the huts except from the small windows. There is a room in the hut to keep the cow in during the night. The Masai are herders of cows and goats. They graze during the day and are brought back into the compound at night. The gates are closed to keep the predetors out. You can tell how many male members there are in the village as each has his own gate to the compound. The Masai are polygamists who have as many wives as they can afford. A wife costs 10 cows. Our guide told Farrell he was a poor man if he had 6 sons and only 2 daughters. He would only get 20 cows for those daughters and he would have to pay out many cows to get those sons married off.

The Masai women sang a song of greeting to us and the Masai men did a jumping dance. Farrell, Elder Seiter and Elder Thomas were invited to try the jumping and some did better than others. One of the Masai could jump very high. They jumped flat footed and it was amazing how high they could jump. You must read about the Masai as they are a very interesting people.

We returned to the village for lunch and a rest and then took another trek in the afternoon from 3 pm to 6 pm. We came across some lions who were sunning and they did not seem bothered by our presence in their world. They looked rather lazy and could careless that we were within 6 feet of them.

We found many hippos bathing in a stream and on the bank were several crocodiles. The hippos were making quite a noise sounding like the horn players of the old Taylorsville Elementary School band warming up.

We also came across a leopard up in a tree. A rare site and we were able to watch this beautiful cat come down out of the tree and walk right across out path.

We were blessed to see every animal available including the rare black rhino. When we returned to our homebase in Nairobi (missionary apartments) they were all jealous as none of them had seen a leopard or a black rhino and they had been on Safari a number of times.

We spent Sunday with the missionaries going to church and taking in a bit of Nairobi. In the evening we had a fireside where the DRC missionaries presented a fireside on what was happening in the DRCongo.

Monday morning we headed out with Tierry in a Safari van to Lake Nukura. This is another state park preserve that is famous for its pink lake given it’s color by the thousands of pink flamingos that call the lake home. We stayed in a cottage on the lake and spend 2 days circling the lake and seeing the wonderful wildlife in the area. The flamingos were amazing and truly did give the lake a ring of pink around it’s shore. This park had many type of monkeys and the famous white hippo.

We loved Kenya. It is very different from the Congo but still has some of the same problems as the Congo. Going on Safari is a realization of the wonders of God’s creation. I don’t think we will ever care about seeing a zoo again. Seeing these wonderful creatures in their wild state was breathtaking and made us realize what a wonderful gift we have been given in this world we call our home. This was a life altering experience and one we wish our whole family could experience.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Learning is Eternal

Learning is Eternal
Knowledge is the only thing you can take with you into the next life. When you learn that knowledge is yours forever. No one can take it away. Once you learn something it is yours for eternity.

Meet Frere Bakanjeka – Bakanjeka is the director of the Ecole Scolaire Presbyterian (Primary School) He came to us asking for help with books for his students. We visited his school and found a very clean open school with 500 students. Approximately 40% of the students are on scholarship because of inablity to pay tuition. Tuition runs about $20 for 3 months. The students did not have any books but were taught by teachers writing on the blackboard painted walls and then the students reading what had been written. This man was delightful and looking for a way of helping his students get the best education possible.

He had a list of books covering French 1,2,3 and 4, mathematics, history, and social science. The church has an education program on Family Health and Hygiene. We offered him this program for his students and he was so excited he stated they had been looking for a health program to teach their students and our program would work very well.
The project was written up and sent to Area Authorities in Johanasburg for approval. The project was approved and we spent almost two weeks getting the books for his students.
We took the books to the school and presented the studentbody with their new books. When we arrived the students were all standing outside waiting for our arrival. This country is big on ceremony and they were prepared with a program honoring the church’s efforts and allowing the students to show their appreciation. We all sat under a large mango tree in the schoolyard and the program proceeded.
The books were presented to Frere Bakanjeka by the local bishop, then several students recited poems, sang songs and cheered. The students were excused to go back to class and we then sat down and had ate (another traditional part of the ceremony.) We were given the proverbial Orange Fanta, bananas and roasted peanuts.
When we finished the students came backout into the yard for a break and we mingled with them and took pictures.

Frere Bakanjeka was so excited and pleased. He said the books would be used for those students who were very serious about learning and had proven their desire by their actions.
Frere Bakanjeka spoke in the ceremony and said he was afraid that we would not help him since he was of another religion. He was pleasantly surprised when we got excited to help him and found a way to help his school. He said it is not the way in the Congo for one religion to help another. He then said that it showed we are all Christians and understand the teachings of Christ in loving one another.

In all the school was given over 500 books. Not enough for all the students but more than they had before we started. It was a grand day and profitable in that we were able to find a good place to use humanitarian funds to strengthen a good organization.
This sister on my right is a minister. She was so pleased to be a part of this "cooperative effort" between her church and our church. Note the beautiful Congolese dresses worn by these women.
We are ready for more great projects like this one.
Elder and Soeur Barlow

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What is a Pousse-Pousse?

Now we have told you about the commvies that transverse the city serving as the main transportation here for the people in Kinshasa but we haven’t mentioned the proverbial Pousse Pousse, an integral part of the commerce here in Kinshasa as one of the main means of transporting all types of goods from place to place

A ”pousse pousse” is a cart that is sometimes pushed and sometimes pulled, much like the pioneer handcart. It is about 3X4½ foot with a handle on the front and back. People use these to move anything and everything. We have seen cases of detergent being hauled from the warehouse to the stores. The pousse pousse must have had about 30 cases of detergent on the one cart with one man pushing it. We have also seen a pousse pousse with a car body balanced on it and one with a set of living room furniture piled 3 layers deep, a full load of lumber, gravel that is heaped 4 feet high, and 15 galvinized barrells. Some are loaded with a full load of scrap metal, and one with 5 gallon jugs of liquid with as many as 30-36 jugs at a weight of about 1000 lbs. No wonder you see these drivers straining with every muscle in their body.

They travel on the side of the road more in the right lane than off the road and the pusher holds up his hand trying to get you to let them have space to get down the road. Most people don’t give them any space. The side of the road is too broken up to push a cart like this and they try to find the even ground to move along. But remember the roads in Kinshasa are very rough and much like what we call off road trails that we would never travel without 4 wheel drive. They “jay-push” across busy 4 lane highways with cars going every which way and we often see them going down the center of such a road trying to keep from being wedged between the two-way traffic. They often carry more than what you would dare put in a pickup truck. Another interesting thing is they never secure the load. There are no bunk cords or ropes or tarp to keep the load steady. It often rides precariously along but seldom do you see them loose a load.

The men (and boys) pushing these carts are wiry and very strong and I think these men and boys must be a hardest working people in Kinshasa. Often you see one pushing and one pulling helping each other to stabilize the cart. This is necessary especially when going up and down hills. Going up hill the man in the back bears the weight of the cart and going down the one in the front has to bear the weight and keep the cart from running out of control. It seems like a hard way to make a living.

As you watch the men pushing these carts you can see every muscle in their body straining to make this cart go. Considering that the Congolese seldom eat more than one meal at night and a tlight breakfast of bread and tea, it makes us wonder how they ever have enough energy to work so hard all day long. Their body fat % has to be zero.

We greatly admire these industrious people and realize they are one of the few stable parts of the Kinshasa infra structure. They help make things work here but get paid very little for their efforts.

So know you know what a pousse-pousse is and all you children remember, many children in this world work very hard just to eat. The children we see helping push these carts cannot afford to go to school. They work side by side with their dad or brother surviving here in the DR Congo. This world may be harsh by some standards but we never pass anyone that doesn't return a smile for a smile and a Bon Jour for a Bon Jour. There is a lot of laughing and singing and a lot of hard work.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Neonatal Resusitation --A Major Humanitarian Initiative

According to the World Health Organization, nearly one million babies die each year due to birth difficulties. Of all newborns, as many as 10 percent have breathing difficulties at birth and require some assistance. With proper training and minimal equipment, many of the deaths of newborns due to breathing problems can be avoided.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints works with national health organizations and ministries of health from countries around the world to identify areas where training in neonatal resuscitation is most desperately needed. The Church then sends volunteer physicians and nurses to instruct birth attendants in these areas. These local attendants are then able to train others. This Church program has trained tens of thousands of birth attendants at a cost of $5.9 million (USD).

In 2006, the Church conducted training in 23 countries, including Albania, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Egypt, Ghana, India, Jordan, Lesotho, Mongolia, Namibia, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Thailand, Turkey, and Ukraine.

This sounds like such a wonderful project and it truly is. Here in Kinshasa this project was done last year and the training went very well but the perpetuation of the training did not happen. The idea is to train the trainer. The church trains professionals and gives them training equipment including a resusitation kit and a baby training manniquin. These people then commit to go out and train others in the procedure to help the training spread to all surrounding birthing facilities. It was decided to do the training again trying to reach new participants. The project was planned for here in Kinshasa and across the river in the Republic of Congo in Brazzaville. Dr. Michael Preece came last March and worked with the Christensens, the couple we replaced and put together a plan for this training. We started working on the program as soon as we came. This was like putting to gether a training conference and right up our ally as I have participated many times in such conferences and even planned a few. Farrell was an expert in working with government officials and getting commitments from people so we were off and running. We had several meetings to finalize plans and involved the Health Ministers from both countries in our planning.

Meantime back in Salt Lake City, Dr. Preece put together a team of physicians to come and do the training. He had Dr. Adly Thebaud, a psychiatrist from Orlando Florida and his wife Dr. Josette Romain, a general practioner, Dr. Steven Grover an OBGYN from Denver Colorado and Dr. Steven Preece, presently in Medical Training at John Hopkins. They were accompanied by Dr. Preece's wife Merilee administrative assistant and Adly Tabou and Geoffrey Grover sons of the doctors.

The dates were set for Aug 6, 7 in Kinshasa and Aug 9,10 in Brazzaville. We worked hard to organize and make all the many preparations needed for here in Africa. We knew that doing things here are different and that we had to do it the Congolese way and we felt we were covering all the bases.

I must first say that the team was wonderful, the participants were eager learners, the program is generous and brings great hope to practioners struggling with less than ideal conditions.

That said I have to just give you a flavor of our struggle and some things we learned about planning a conference in the DRC.

*Just because shipments have arrived in the country it doesn't mean that you can get them out of customs in time for your conference. First the materials for the training were shipped late and did not arrive in time to clear customs and a national dignitary died requiring custom officials to take 3 days off to mourn the deceased.

*Don't count on a hotel being adequate if you haven't stayed there yourself. The hotel arranged for the team was less than adequate not even having the rooms serviced when we arrived with a tired team that had been traveling for 24 hours and were in desparate need of a shower and sleep even though we had gone to the hotel earlier that day to verify reservations and let the people know that the tearm would be arriving late in the evening and we didn't want any problem with them giving away their rooms etc.

*You shouldn't worry about offending the Minister by pre writing an invitation and asking him to sign it and then send it out yourself. The Minister of Health in Kinshasa sent the invitation to the participants but changed the date on the invitation causing us to have to delay our training one day and eliminating our travel day between conferences.

*The opening and closing ceremonies are much more important than we gave them credit for and the dignitaries plan to arrive late and make an entrance and we were unaware of this cultural issue and did not factor this time element into the schedule

*In the Congo even though they have bathrooms with toilets and sinks they don't necessarily have running water in them and you have to bring your own paper towels and toilet paper and pay a fee of $50 a day for cleaning. You have to flush the toilets by pouring a bucket of water in them. You have to wash your hands in a communal bucket of water.

*Just because you schedule rooms and tables and electrical outlets and lights it doesn't necessarily mean you will get them as there may not be tables available or outlets that work or lights that have light bulbs in them.

*In Brazzaville you can reserve a good hotel (for a price) and eat safe food at the hotel (for a price) but it will not fit into your project budget (at that price).

*If you want to loose weight when you are on a mission just schedule a large conference for a large amount of money and have everything go wrong and you can loose 23 lbs. in a very short time. (Farrell not Marilyn)

Oh my, what a great time we had. The training was wonderful and as you can see the participants received great practical experience. While one doctor teaches the group in a class setting the other doctors take the other half of the participants and demonstrates the procedure and have them do return demonstration. By the time the training is finished participants have been shown the best practice and many of their old wives tales have been corrected and replaced with good procedure.

These practioners are working under very primitive conditions and work hard providing a place for mothers to come and have their babies. They were greatful for the information and touched that doctors cared enough to take their time to come and train them. Just to put the need for this training into perspective consider what one of the nurses told us that in the main hospital in Brazzaville in the past 12 months they have had 1467 infant die in the first minute of life.

Geoffrey Grover planned on doing his service project for his Duty to God Award and brought newborn kits to share. We went to two different hospitals and shared the new born kits with the new mothers. When we went to the King Asani Hospital the mothers of the preemi infants were so pleased with their gifts they sang and danced for Geoffrey.

Pascal one of the mission employees and our great friend and our keeper went with us to the King Asani hospital to help transport the team. While we were visiting the preemie unit he asked the nurse if his wife had been in that day. It seems they are trying to adopt a baby. The nurse said yes she was, as a matter of fact this is your baby and handed him this precious little boy. Pascal nearly fainted and had a hard time holding the baby properly and so Farrell instructed him in how a father is suppose to hold a baby.(picture)

Well our experiences continue. This NRT project was a wonderful experience. We learned so much and will be following the participants for the next 6 months to evaluate how the training is perpetuated through out the area here in Kinshasa and through out the whole Republic of Congo as the participants in the RC came from all over the country at the expense of the church. They committed to take the information home and train the centers in their area. This was the first time that the church has covered a whole country in one training.

We are already thinking about where we might take the NRT program next year. We would love to see it go to the other side of the DRC to Lubumbashi but we will have to see if we can put it in our budget next year.

Meantime we are on to other projects and just got our cassava food project passed this past week. We will have to travel to the center of the DRC to Laputa, a remote farming community. More about that program in the future we get started.

Another thing we have learned about our mission is there is never enough time and never enough money to do all the things we see needing humanitarian help. Just know that all your money you give to LDS Charities goes to the people you intended it to go to. The criteria under which we work to spend those monies is very strict and much consideration is given to where the monies are best spent. It is a great trust we feel in having this opportunity to serve in humanitarian service.

The other night when we were in Brazzaville Farrell said he would really like to go home and sleep in his own bed. I was shocked and told him I never thought I would hear him say that while we were on our mission thinking he meant Salt Lake City home. He laughed and told me no, he wanted to go home to our apartment in Kinshasa and sleep in his Congolese bed. I guess we are settling in pretty good.

As they say in Africa " Safe Journey!"

Elder and Soeur Barlow

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Transportation a problem? Or not!

Kinshasa has a very unique transportation system. There are some city buses and they are getting more all the time but they are few and far between. There are many buses on the side of the roads that are broken down and it seems very difficult to keep them running in a place where they must maneuver in heavy traffic and the roads are so potholed that the buses breakdown often. We don't know what the price is to ride these buses but people fight to get on them. When the city bus stops, people run to the door and start shoving and elbowing each other trying to get on'. They stack them in as tight as possible and then they don't stop any more until they let someone off. When you see these buses on the road they are usually so full that another body could not be fit anywhere on them. It looks like a mass of humanity. We have not got a good picture of the stuffed bus yet as we don't want to be rude and take a picture that might offend someone. Most people choose to ride commvies. Commvies are a unique form of transportation that at first look like total chaos but actually is a well oiled machine that services a large population and makes it possible for people to move around the city. Keep in mind that there are 9 million people in this city and although the traffic is always very congested most people do not own cars and depend on the commvies for transportation. Commvies are large vans, mini vans, old VW vans, station wagons or just old cars. The drivers of these vehicles may own the van but most rent the van for a set amount of money per day and then hope they make more money than they spend so they have an income. Gas is $8 per gallon so profit margin can't be very good. They also have a partner that rides the van with them and collects the money from the riders. The regular seats in the van are removed and the van is rigged with 5 rows of seats, actually benches that hold 5 people per seat. It is not uncommon to see many more people loaded into these vans as they open up the back doors and set people on both sides of the back bench or set them with their legs hanging out under the back hatch door as they sit on the floor of the van. Unusually they leave the side sliding door open and two or three people stand in that doorway and hang on half in and half out of the van. We have also seen two or three riders standing on the back bumper which is just rim and holding on to the lip at the roof. How they manage to stay on is unknown to us as they are swerving in and out of traffic, hitting these huge potholes and bouncing along the road. The most precarious rider is the one who hangs on to the roof rim on the back and balances on the Ball hitch on the back of the van. When you drive behind such a van you are fearful he will fall off and you will run over him before you can stop. We try to stay out of the right lane as this is the lane most of these commvies drive in so they can stop and pick up passengers whenever they are hailed from the side of the road. Most commvies are very beat up missing lights and sometimes doors. Several times we have been driving along and the van in front of us looses their sliding door. The passengers just jump off and pick up the door and hold it in place as the van gets back in motion. When the commvies break down or stop passengers will get out and push the vehicle along until it starts up again. They don't want to lose their ride they have already paid for. We wondered how the drivers know when to stop and pick someone up. Usually there are many people on the side of the road waiting for transport and they seem to be waving at the commvies. We finally realized that they are waving in a certain way. They may wave their hand up and down or sideways. They may wave with three fingers or four. They may extend their thumb or just put their thumb up or down. Each gesture means a different destination. Sometimes the driver may even wave out the window to show where he is going. Most cars have drivers on the left side of the car but it is not unusual to see someone driving from the right side of the car. During commute time in the morning and evening competition for transport is high and people run, shove and push trying to get on one of these vans. You can imagine how hard it is if you live on the outside of town and want transport and a van pulls up that is full and you desperately want to get home so you just shove your way in. When they stop sometimes many people have to climb out to allow the person getting off to get out of the van. All this is happening as the driver maneuvers around many, many cars and other transports and the money changer is trying to keep track of who is getting on and making change for these passengers. It looks like total confusion but the system works and millions of people are transported daily around the city. It is interesting to see how many people can get in to one of these vans. I wonder if they know they might be making the world record for van stuffing. We have counted 27 people in one VW bus. That is our record. You may have an appointment with someone but often they are late because they couldn't get transport or many times families have to choose who will go to church on Sunday as they cannot afford transport for everyone to go. The cost for riding the commie runs about $.40 and this is out of the range of many people. Another form of transport is hitching a ride on a truck. We assume that when a truck is going somewhere for a price they will give people a ride. We have seen huge trucks stuffed full of people; men, women and children. Sometimes the truck will be loaded with big bundles of kasava leaves or other goods and the people will just sit on top of the pile. The pile may be tipped precariously but the people just hang on and hope for the best. Last night we were going out to the airport to pick up our new mission president and his wife and we drove behind a pickup truck that had so many men in it we couldn't count them all. I counted 17 but was unable to see those in the front. They were straddling the tailgate and everyone was hanging on to someone. We got laughing at them and gave them a thumbs up and they laughed and to ask why we only had four people in our truck, couldn't we give someone a ride. We have decided that the transportation in Kinshasa is an amazing system. This system moves millions of people every day and without the system the city could not function. An example of creative necessity. I want to ride on a commvie but Farrell says mission rules prohibit my riding mass transit. Oh Well. Where we saw chaos we know see ingenuity. Where we saw lack of order we now see creativity in the making.