Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Life in Nyankunde

Tomorrow, Wednesday we begin our long journey home. We are actually leaving Nyankunde earlier than originally planned. Since the hospital has been quite slow the last couple of weeks, we are leaving a few days early in order to visit two other mission hospitals in Bunia. On Friday we fly to Entebbe, Uganda, where we will spend the night and most of Saturday. At 11:59 pm we fly out of Uganda to Brussels, then on to Newark, NJ. Our last leg is to Raleigh, NC and then a two-hour drive home Sunday evening, February 5.

Here at the missionary guesthouse our electricity comes from solar power. During the day, the panels also charge batteries for use at night. Because the sun shines all day, almost all year long this system works quite well. The fridge runs on kerosene and the stove/oven runs on gas. For hot water the house is equipped with a generator that runs the water heater. It runs for about an hour a day yet only gives us about 15 minutes of hot water a day. Down at the hospital the OR is run by a generator that is only turned on during surgeries. The rest of hospital has no electricity anywhere, not even lights. Because of this, the patients bring a little flashlight to use at night. Some of the flashlights are quite creative. Dad saw one that consisted of 4 batteries laid end to end and tied together with a reed. When you wanted to turn it on, you took 2 wires and touched them to the end of the batteries and touched the other ends to a light bulb. Next to the current OR they are building a newer building that will have a new OR and an intensive care unit that will be powered with solar power.

The water for both our house and the hospital comes from underground springs just over the hill about ½ a mile away. From there it is gathered into holding tanks and then goes into a pipe that runs to a big water tank on the top of the hill. Gravity pulls the water down to the houses. Thankfully, the water is quite safe and doesn’t need any treatment so we can brush our teeth with it but we still filter our drinking water.  Down at the hospital there are numerous spickets where the patient’s families gather their water.

With regard to meals, we have a lovely cook named Sarah. We are on our own for breakfast but she makes us lunch and dinner. I’ll go into the food we eat in another post. At night we have a guard and during the day two other men “mow” the grass with a device that looks like a knife on a stick, sweep floors and sidewalks, do laundry, and garden. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Hospital

 Here are various pictures of the hospital where we are working 

The OR
If you're accustomed to American hospitals, you'll notice the absence of an anesthesia machine

The other side of the OR that has a variety of equipment for different operations

Dad spends most of his day working with and teaching the anesthetists

Dr. Cooper and Dad teaching

A hospital courtyard, in the distance you can see a shelter where all the families cook. In Africa the hospital does not provide any food. Consequently, the patient's family must come with them to provide meals

In Africa the hospitals aren't as strict about regulations. As a result, I get to help! Here I am pulling teeth. And dad also lets me draw up the syringes with medicine. 

Dr. Cooper is about to operate on a bilateral cleft lip

An amazing and handsome anesthesiologist, also known as my dad. 

Various hospital buildings

This used to be the front entrance of the hospital but was destroyed in the war. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Saturday Excitement

Yesterday, Saturday, was quite exciting. Two cars drove by (there is only one car that stays in Nyankunde) and we had three mzungus (someone with light skin) and a baby visit for the day! Mzungus are quite rare around here, there are only six, including us, in Nyankunde. One of our friends from home, Jennings, now lives about an hour away from Nyankunde in the city of Bunia. She drove up and spent the day here. There were also some other missionaries that had business up here in Nyankunde and spent the night with us. They had a very sweet 7-month-old boy that Emily and I loved playing with.

Saturday started early (6 am) with a very sick sounding goat bleeting making it impossible to sleep in. Our friend arrived about 10 as well as the other couple. We talked and caught up on life and then had lunch. Doesn’t sound exciting, but after the same 4 people at the table for a week, new faces are quite welcome. It was interesting to learn about the different ministries they are involved with here in Congo.

After lunch, Jennings went with us to the monthly market that is held a couple of miles down the road. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it exceeded anything I did expect. It’s held in a field, with no permanent structure. Some people have a tarp and strings to hang their wares on, others just put them on the ground. The market is organized in groups: new clothes, used clothes, meat, manioc flour, dried fish, shoes, fabric, rice, live chickens, charcoal, potatoes, fermented corn drink, palm oil, and much more. I was quite glad that the owners of the stands did not yell as you walked by to buy their wares.

Emily and I picked out some traditional Congolese patterned fabrics to make skirts out of when we get back to the states. One of the fun parts of the market was the sea of colors. All the women wear dresses that have lots of patterns and colors on them. Another thing that was interesting is they were clearing a nearby field by burning it, at points the fire was only about 5 feet away from the vendors, it didn’t seem to bother them at all though.

In the last couple of days we also broke into our stash of special food that a friend sent along with us. So far we have eaten the mango licorice and chocolate. The chocolate tasted absolutely amazing, it was some of the best I’ve ever had. It probably has to do with the fact that I haven’t had anything sweet other than fruit for the last week, absence makes the heart grow fonder I guess.

This morning we attended church down the road. The first difference from our church at home is the time; it starts at 7:30 am. We went to the French service that has about 40 people attending. Most people go to the Swahili service. Despite their lack of numbers these Congolese can out sing any American church. Compared to here, almost any American church that I’ve attended sounds like the people were woken up at 3am and made to sing at a funeral… Here they sing with animation and loudly while dancing and clapping. I’m not at all saying Americans don’t mean what they sing or aren’t moved by the music, but they sure don’t express it like the Africans!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Random Congo Facts

I wasn't sure how to put these facts into paragraph form so I just made bullet points

  •       When you shake hands touch your left hand to your right elbow, and if it’s the first time you’ve met someone slightly hunch over. It’s a sign of respect.
  • ·      Knees are considered immodest for both men and women. Yet, it’s perfectly fine for a mother to nurse in public with no nursing cover.
  • ·      Women wear skirts that come to the middle of their calves, no pants.
  • ·      Greeting is very important here. If you pass someone you should say Bonjour (hello in French) or Jambo (hello in Swahili).
  • ·      The native language here is Swahili, but anyone who has attended school (most people around here) speaks French as well. Very few people speak English.
  • ·      During the day the high is in the 80s. At nights around 70 or high 60s. It’s fairly dry here so unlike in the south it feels cool when you are in the house.
  • ·      The best way to clear brush from the surrounding fields and hills is by burning. Consequently, there is always a hillside on fire that fills the air with smoke. You can never see far in the distance because of the smoke.
  • ·      The people around here are all famers. There is a nearby tribe that raises all the cattle.
  • ·      Keep the light off in your room at night unless you want it filled with bugs. (I learned that lesson the hard way)
  • ·      Get used to the dust, its everywhere.
  • ·      There is usually ash falling down on you because of the fires.
  • ·      Beware of lizards falling off the ceiling.
  • ·      Carrying a pile of firewood on your head with a machete sticking out when you are seven years old is perfectly normal.
  • ·      I have yet to see a paved road.
  • ·      Children carry a hoe to school since they are all required to work in the field at some point.
  • ·      Most of the electricity comes from solar power.
  • ·      Our water comes from springs underground.
  •     Women carry just about anything on their head, bowls, food, wood, or books.

I have more pictures coming tomorrow. But here is one I took today. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Daily Life

Though our daily schedule changes every day, here is what our days generally look like right now. There are devotions at 7:30am at the hospital that we attend every morning. It’s about ½ a mile away, but it’s a nice early morning walk.. We don’t have to go but it’s a good way to get me out of bed at a reasonable hour. Everything is in Swahili so we have no idea what they are talking about. Thankfully one of the doctors sits next to us and he translates for us. Thanks Dr. Mike!

Emily and I play with the kids at the hospital for a couple of hours each day. In Africa the hospital does not provide food so the family must come with the patient in order to feed them. Consequently, there are lots of people milling around the hospital. There are absolutely no toys whatsoever in the hospital so we have to be creative. Right now we have been teaching them some clapping games. They don’t seem to have done them before and they love them. We get a large crowd watching us do it when we come.

I have also shadowed another missionary here who is a physical therapist. Emily and I also went to a craft group where they were knitting baby outfits for the new babies born at the hospital. I learned to sew on an old sewing machine with the foot pedal you have to beat up and down. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

This morning I went down to the OR to watch an operation. It’s quite different than in America. They don’t even have an anesthesia machine here. Since it is a small hospital there are only cases going on till about 1pm.  Lunch is around 1pm and our cook will have made us something to eat. In the afternoon Dad gives a lecture at the hospital.

Each afternoon a couple of girls come over to the house and help us with our French and in return we teach them English. None of us speak the other’s language very well, so our conversations require a lot of hand motions and looking up words in the dictionary. Since hardly anyone speaks English here, it’s very hard to communicate without speaking French. We can now speak a little tiny bit and every bit helps.

In the evenings we just hang out and read and relax. As the days go on we will probably do some different things but for right now that is what we do. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Faces

"A picture is worth a thousand words"

Most of these pictures don't have captions. They are just pictures I have taken around the hospital and village. Even though most of the people aren't smiling, they usually do smile. Especially when I show them the picture, they just burst out laughing. 

This is a toy that some of the kids play with, its the inside of a motorcycle wheel that they hit with a stick

Young kids watch the even younger kids

This is a typical looking village, this one is quite nice because the dirt road is swept. 

This older woman loved seeing the pictures

I went into the maternity ward and took pictures of all the babies and mothers. Some of the babies were really tiny and so cute

We gave these girls a balloon, to help the girl on the left use her arm and the girl on the right to cheer her up

Take a picture

And show it to them. 
Its so simple and easy yet you make instant friends and cheer them up

Monday, January 23, 2012

Getting There

Thursday and Friday update

We woke up at 3:45am on Thursday and headed to the airport. Because we had so much luggage (mostly medical supplies) we arrived early to avoid missing our flight. Turns out we were early, so early that we had to wait an hour before we could even check in. Checking in took a while, they were really picky about how much our carry on bag weighed. So we had to take stuff out of our carry-on and into our luggage. I don’t know why since it weighs just as much in my carry-on bag as in my luggage… plus, once we boarded, the flight wasn’t very full so everyone had an entire row (three seats) to themselves!

It was only an hour flight to Brussels, Belgium and I slept most of it. At the airport I even had my passport stamped so I can prove I’ve been to Belgium even though I never left the airport. That way I can add Belgium to the countries I’ve visited. We had a 1½-hour layover in Brussels. Once on the plane there was an hour delay but I was sleeping the whole time. The flight was eight hours and stopped over in Kigali, Rwanda to drop off and pick up some people.

One interesting thing about international flights is the food. For my foodie friends I have an entire post for the food I had coming up. 

We finally arrived in Entebbe, Uganda at midnight. Customs do not move particularly fast in Africa so we waited an hour in line, plus we were next to last to get off the plane. Since we were toward that back of the plane, and were some of the last to exit, we also got to be almost the last people in the customs line. A driver met us at the airport and drove us 10 minutes to our hotel, the Boma. The Boma was very nice (by Africa standards) but seems even nicer when you drive through the town with mud huts. We arrived and by this time it was 2am. I liked sleeping under the mosquito nets too, seems quite exotic.

We woke up to a tropical garden with birds I had never heard before, chirping in the garden outside our room. Breakfast was delicious with fresh fruit, which I was very glad to eat after Paris where we ate well, but not very healthy.

We left at 10am for the airport for our flight to Bunia, Congo where we were told to wait for someone to take us to our MAF flight. Seemed iffy but I guess we stood out being white and having seven suitcases. We waiting for 1.5 hours till someone guided us to our plane that was run by MAF. MAF stands for Mission Aviation Fellowship and it is composed of missionaries who fly other missionaries and supplies to various countries. The plane was a small single propeller plane that could hold twelve people.

I had never flown on a small plane, so I was nervous about it, plus there was no stewardess, lunch, or cockpit door. They have to weigh everything, all your luggage, and you! Never been weighed for a flight before…  Thankfully, I’m not self-conscious about my weight and plus it was in kilograms so I had no idea how much I weighed, which was probably good after all the chocolate croissants I ate in Paris. The flight was 1 hour and 15 minutes long. These flights fly much lower to the ground then commercial planes so you can actually look at what you’re flying over and see all the houses. It was also a much smoother ride than I expected but when you did hit turbulence it felt different because you could feel the shape of the air. So if you hit an air stream underneath, you could tell, unlike in larger planes where it just gets bumpy. The MAF flights also transport various materials; in our plane there were bags of dog food and an extension ladder.

We landed in Bunia and the next adventure was customs.  Let’s just say they do it differently in Africa. Thank the Lord we had a friend meet us at the airport that spoke fluent French and could explain everything to the officials (he’s doctor too so he knew what all our equipment was) and help us get through!! Since we don’t speak any French we would not have been able to speak to them and probably would have had all the medical supplies confiscated. Just last month a missionary had brought medical supplies and had had it confiscated. We finally made it through with every bit of luggage.

We stopped for a quick bite to eat at the “nicest” place in Bunia called the Greek club. But we ate lots of pomme frits (French fries) and chicken, even though the chicken was the scraggliest one I’ve ever seen, I could have eaten two by myself. It also had a few feathers on it, but after our chicken butchering ordeal, we’re more used to that. Then we drove one hour up to Nyankundee, which is above the city of Bunia on a hill.

Bunia is incredibly dusty. The only paved road I saw was the airport run way. The city is quite large, about 800,000. Most people walk or ride small motorcycles. Absolutely everything is covered in red dust.

After lunch we headed up to Nyankundee. The “road” was more of a rocky path, something we would hike on back in America. Along the whole road are mud huts with people milling around and the women carrying things on their heads. There are also many men pushing bicycles with a huge bag of charcoal on the back to sell in Bunia.

We arrived in Nyankundee about 5pm and after a quick dinner crashed into bed.

As the days go on I’ll describe the food, culture, and surroundings.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Paris Day 3 summary

Paris Day 3

Day three started out as usual, by having chocolate croissants for breakfast. We took the metro to the Louvre and made sure to arrive just as it opened in order to avoid lines. There was no line to get in the Louvre, only a short one to get tickets and we could walk right up to the Mona Lisa. Paris in winter is great!

After buying our tickets and audio guides we headed straight to the Mona Lisa since we figured it would only become more crowded as the day went on. Everyone seems to say that the Mona Lisa is really small, so I went expecting a very small painting, but she ended up being bigger than I expected. We admired numerous other paintings by various artists that I can’t begin to name, but to sum it up: there were an incredible amount of absolutely enormous paintings by lots of famous artists : ) I personally enjoy the Greek sculptures the best. Other than the fact that most of them have little or no clothing on, the carving is incredible. The museum also displays them in beautiful rooms with flattering natural light, which makes them even more incredible.

We also explored the Egyptian, pre-Columbian, Asian, Greek, and so many other artifacts that I can’t even begin to explain. Everything we saw was fascinating, we saw so much, yet every item has a story of who owned it, who found it, and why it was made.

The Louvre is at one end of the Champs de Elysee (shawn sa le say) so we walked all the way to the Arc de Triumph, which is on the other end, quite a long walk. Along the street are some of the most expensive and famous stores, Mercedes Benz, Louis Vuitton, Dulce and Gabanna, and many others. After walking for 5 hours straight my feet were killing me so we finally stopped and ate delicious nutella crepes. We sat down to eat them and they were warm on a cold day.

We took the metro back to the hotel and I rested my feet and Dad and Emily walked around the corner to look at some stores and eat macaroons. Then we headed to the Eiffel Tower. The sun had set when we arrived so the tower was lit up was absolutely incredible. It’s huge, especially when you walk underneath. We waited in line for about an hour to buy tickets to go up the elevator to the second floor. The view was nice but nothing amazing, the big things like the Arc de Triumph Notre Dame were lit up. It was very cold and windy so we soon headed back down so that we could see the tower ‘sparkle’ from a distance.

From a distance, the Eiffel tower with the lights on is absolutely amazing, it’s like something out of a movie or book. It was a great way to end of Paris trip. Sadly, it only goes on for five minutes every hour. We enjoyed our five minutes and then headed back to our hotel. 

Paris Day 3

Written summary: Day 3

Our third day in Paris was a final day, we visited the Louvre, Champs de Elysee, Arc de Triumph, and the Eiffel Tower

Outside of the Louvre. We can't understand why they put such a modern looking building in the middle of an ancient castle with some of the world's oldest artifacts. Doesn't fit if you ask me. 

Inside the pyramid

Not only are the painting, sculptures, and artifacts amazing, but the actual building is a work of art. The Winged Victory is in the distance

Winged victory 

Bet you can guess who this is! 
Since we arrived right when the museum opened it wasn't crowded in this room so we could walk right up to her. 

Wedding feast at Cana

Cupid and Pysche are in the distance. I didn't take a lot of pictures of the sculptures, and of the famous ones I only took pictures from a distance because most of them didn't have any clothes on... 

Venus de Milo
It was actually found by a farmer in his garden. 

Emily next to the Code of Hummarabi which is an ancient stone that has King Hummarabi's code of law written on it. There are many correlations with this and the Mosaic law. Emily studied this in the past year for school. 

Napoleon's Apartments. I can't even imagine living in this type of room! I would not like it because everywhere else I went would be not as nice as my own room. 

Egyptian artifacts

Various bowls, sculptures, and jars made out of a beautiful blue stone

Sarcophaguses or maybe sarcophagi. I'm not sure which is the plural : )

The famous seated scribe. You can't tell by the picture but the eyes are incredibly detailed, he has a stone for the whites of his eyes that have red streaks in them, he also has darker stone for his pupil, and another lighter stone for his iris. 

More sarcophagi

Some of the sacophagi were stone, wood, or painted. This one is stone and another weighed 18 tons, or 36,000 pounds!

Emily and I outside of the Louvre

Place de'concorde
 The place where the guillotine did Marie Antoinette in. 

Looking down the Champs de' Elysee which we walked to the very end of and then half back. 

Under the Arc de Triumph which Napoleon built for himself. He had wanted it done in time for is wife's coronation, however, when the big day came, it was only a few feet high. He ended up having a canvas top put up. The arc was not completed until after his death. So much for that plan.

After walking for five hours straight Emily and I's feet were killing us. (I couldn't figure out how to say that in proper English)
We finally convinced dad to stop for some delicious Nutella crepes. 

Emily and Dad on the Pont Neuf which is the oldest bridge in Paris

On our last night we finally went to the Eiffel Tower at night. From a distance it doesn't look too big but once you get under it is absolutely huge. 

We took the elevator to the second floor and admired the view of the City of Lights which isn't any brighter than any other. But apparently Paris was one of the first cities to use electric lights, which made it the brightest at the time.While the name is a bit outdates now, it sounds romantic I guess.

Em and Dad up top

On the first level of the tower there is a small ice skating rink

The tower is always lit up, but for 5 minutes an hour it 'sparkles'

Its truly magical and was a perfect grand finish for our trip to Paris