29 November 2012

Shoe Trying.

I remember when I learned to tie my shoes.  It seems to happen at the same time as learning to snap, whistle, and blow gum bubbles.  Six is developmentally monumental.

So - Elias can technically tie his shoes.  He's been able to for awhile now.  But, he hates to do it.  So - his method is to triple-knot the laces and slip them on & off - pre-tied - each day until they eventually loosen to the point of tripping.

Then, he must tie them again.

And, this is how it goes:

Shoe Trying Part 1

Shoe Trying Part 2


26 November 2012

Family Puppets: A Quiz Game

One of the hardest parts of raising your kids abroad is missing out on family time at home. And your children knowing their family. Anyone will tell you this. Since infancy Charlotte's been obsessed with looking at pictures of our family. We've spent hours scrolling through pictures of great-grandparents, grandparents, aunties, auntie's husbands, auntie's significant others, etc. She quizzes us on their names, she quizzes herself on their names, and she quizzes Ani who doesn't usually do so well...

We thought about making one of these books for her, but found an easier and more Congo-friendly way of doing it ourselves. So this Thanksgiving instead of spending time with our family, we put them on popsicle sticks.

Here are our step-by-step instructions for your own long distance popsicle family:

Step 1: Find photos of each family member square-on. This is more difficult than one would think. (Gram, Grammy, Uncle Ryan, please send properly-positioned photo.)

Step 2: Print. Do you see how excited she is already? I wasn't exaggerating about the family photo obsession.

Step 3: Cut. And line-up and count over and over if you are two years-old.

Step 4: Laminate. (Everyone has a personal laminator, right?)

Step 5: Cut out and tape to popsicle sticks.

Step 6: Line-up over and over and over again. Adam tried to teach her how to position everyone in a family tree or even a vertical line. This wasn't as popular as the horizontal line. Seriously, this was the rest of our weekend right here.

Step 7: Quiz yourself and random passersby on the names of your family members. For example, from the Mamas to the Papa who fixed our air conditioner everyone now knows even le petit ami de Annika, Luke.

24 November 2012

Friday List!

Sarah's List:

Lots of buzz in Kinshasa about the M23. Here's the latest. While we're happy for our friends in the Middle East, we're wishing they could just tack DRC onto their cease fire agreement. Those things are easy to amend, right?

Phil Moore/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Looking for a distraction from violence? Then, don't look here. Unless you are interested in seeing disturbing works of art by female artists. Yikes!

Artemesia Gentileschi – Judith and her Maidservant

I love Skymall magazines. I play a game similar to his Skymall game in which I imagine showing any ad to Mama Youyou. And then her uproarious laughter. Take for example for the Mixed-Breed Dog DNA Test Kit. It's only $74.99! What Mama Youyou? You could feed your family for a month for this? But imagine the peace of mind knowing your dog's breed!

Watch what happens when you give thousands of stickers to thousands of kids. Before the first dot. And after.

A Project of Artist Yayoi Kusama

Did you know there's an interactive website letting you know where you're most and least likely to get travelers diarrhea? Oh yes. And it's called Traveltrots.

Image from HowStuffWorks

And remember as you wrap up those Thanksgiving leftovers, the best things come in Cellophane. Even babies.

From the Saturday Evening Post via Retronaut.com

Jill's List:

Look back at Sarah's first photograph.  At the photo credits. Who is this insane photographer?  Seems crazy to go around sandwiching yourself between refugees and rebels on purpose - armed with a camera in countries suspicious of documentation.  But in situations like Goma, a photo means far more than changing words and unreliable facts.  Read more about Phil here.  Or, if you want his latest, real-time, perspective try his @fil Twitter feed.

(Just realized that Phil & I are the same age.  Oh man.  Must up my game a bit.)

Images from Phil Moore's professional website.

Meanwhile, here in Kinshasa, the sisters and the mamas are having their say on the state of the country. The "Sisterhood of Bereavers" have been protesting at the gates of MONUSCO since the 21st.
"M23 bereft us of Goma. And we're here to mourn till MONUSCO restores our beloved city to us!" 
Image from JJ Bola Twitter feed

Amazing photo essay on "la Chute de Goma."  (By Phil Moore - see above.)

Image by Phil Moore for Al Jazeera.

We picked a bowlful of les haricots verts from our little garden yesterday.  Honestly, we had about zero hope of actually eating anything from our garden, as growing things in a rainforest is way harder than you would imagine.  The tomatoes look awesome for now, but I'm betting 1000FC that some scourge takes them down before we get a bite.  Then again, Mupwa is pretty amazing...even Mama YouYou says so.

It should be noted that I suffered approximately 5 black fly bites in the 30 seconds it took to snap this photo.
Oh, how I suffer for art.

Lou's getting a new dress.  Mama Vida about choked when she saw the original price of the dress I showed her an as style example...

Dress photo from Makie.

Lou has suddenly reached the age where watching movies is captivating.  Until now, I actually wished she would sit around transfixed by a screen in such circumstances such as airplane trips.  Her obsession?  Didou.

On the search for fairy lights.  Unfortunately, gaudy and unbelievably expensive are what is available here.  Think $60 for a 10 foot string of multicolored LED lights.  I was thinking something more along the lines of this to get us in the Christmas spirit:

These expensive, but far-from-gaudy, fairy lights can be found here.
Wish they were 220V...sigh.

And, in case you haven't yet visited one of our most popular posts ever...  Go here.  And check out the comments.  Yes, that's right.  Woodward's Gripe Water READS MAMA CONGO.  Folks, this is huge.

21 November 2012

Cooking with the Mamas: Escargot! Escargot!

In honor of Thanksgiving I asked the Mamas to cook up some escargot. One by one they recoiled in disgust. It turns out our gardener Mathieu was the only one brave enough to show me. You can find snails the size of kittens all over Congo, but it's really just people from the province of Équateur who eat them. And the French.

I had escargot on the brain because the girls have been singing non-stop their favorite prématernelle song entitled -what else- Escargot. Here are the words:

Escargot! Escargot!
Montre moi tes cornes
Ou sinon, je te mets 
Dans la casserole

Translation: Snail, snail. Show me your horns. Or I'll put you in the pot.

Yep. And that's exactly what we did. Here's the recipe for Papa Mathieu's Escargot.


Serves 40 squeamish people or 1 hungry gardener

20 large snails
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil 
1 tomato
1 onion
a couple of spoonfuls of peanut butter

Place 20 snails freshly plucked from the ground, walls or tree trunks in a pot of boiling water.

Let them boil until they start to come out of their shells.

Drain. Then scoop them out with a fork and separate the nasty stuff from the rest of the body. (I was a little unclear about the difference here.)

Wash them and put back in the pot with salt and oil.

Cook for 5 minutes.

Then add onion, tomato, peanut butter (!) and a bit of water.

Let cook for 10 minutes. Serve to your children.

Who will immediately drop it on the floor.

Force them to eat it anyway.

Guilt them into eating it by explaining the cultural importance. They will eventually enjoy it.

But not as much as this guy...

Next up, Mathieu asks if he can cook us some frog. "Oh frog legs?" I asked. Nope, the whole thing.

19 November 2012

Au Courage, Goma

Goma is 1,500km or almost 1,000 miles from us - here in Kinshasa.

A flight, days of driving, an impossible trek.

But, the news of escalating violence and photos of families trying to flee rebels and militaries - again - hits a little close to home.

Au courage, Goma.

Photo credit - AFP - Michele Sibiloni
Photo credit AFP - Michele Sibiloni.

Image found on radiookapi.net

Read more here, here, here, here, here, and here.  The stories are important, but a little hard to find.

17 November 2012

Friday List!

Sarah's List:

Simplified Public Figures. No faces necessary.

Image by Ali Alsumayin

A few days ago, this started circulating, and it's been called one of the best restaurant reviews in modern times. Or the "review heard round the world." You have to feel a little bad for the guy. Or not. He is a little ridiculous.

Photograph: Food Network

This just goes to show that you can't send me an interesting article without it showing up on Mama Congo. (Thanks Josh.) So is it possible to learn Lingala in 22 hours? Possibly. Especially if you mix in a bunch of French words to compensate. Or vice versa. Which is how most people speak in Kin.

Photograph: Christopher Lane for the Guardian

Did you see this? Venice under water?

Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images

Yep, here's what happens when you try to be too cool. A man follows all the New York Times trend stories and just ends up kind of weird.  Man buns? Really, is this what's happening these days?

Mark Veltman for The New York Times

Woke up to this crawling out of our drain yesterday morning. These are by far my least favorite Congo creatures. I have no idea what it is. Mamicho says they're poisonous, but she also thinks birds are poisonous. Adam says he would rather have one of these in the bathtub any day over a snake. I say no way. These things are like snakes and spiders combined into one awful creature. While we were busy debating snakes vs. spider-snakes, it almost escaped. Last time I found one, our gardener chopped it in half and then we just had two spider-snakes crawling around. Can anyone identify it?

This one was nearly twice the length of my hand. But I was unwilling to put my hand any where near it for perspective.

Jill's List:

$2 Million = cost to raise 1 child?  So says Nadia Taha from the New York Times.  She's considering no children as a way to preserve her bottom line.  Okay - I get her point, but she also adds this assumption into the equation, making me think she's a little crazy:
And since we would probably not cut off our child financially once he or she reached the age of majority, I added the cost of the basics (housing, clothing, food, transportation and health care) between age 18 and 25. 
Also - this is quite different than the $300,000 the Wall Street Journal estimates - but they don't include college and assume that after 18, most kids won't be total freeloaders.

Thinking about Thanksgiving recipes.  (Yes, we do it up right here in Kinshasa.) These crazy hipsters make me want to blast the A.C., put on holiday music, and mull some wine.  Despite the fact that I just got home from a pool party...

From kinfolkmag.com

Really want to shop here.

From stephmodo.com

Just war?  Our familes are full of pacifist-leaning theologians and philosophers, so this is a particularly interesting mainstream read...especially this week as we watch the escalating events in the Middle East.  Is there such a thing as moral violence?  

Image from here.

Thinking about a friend of Mama Congo who had her stomach removed this week.  Say what?!  Really.  And her mother, brother, and sister are all stomach-less now as well.  They say that stomachs are overrated anyway.  Read more about the hereditary cancer that has impacted this amazing family here.

My beloved Canon 50mm 1:8 lens BROKE.  I am quite disturbed.  Now, the debate: to replace it with the same or upgrade to the 1:4...

Sweet soap.

Thanks to bleubirdvintage for the beautiful photo.

And.  I'll share another Kinshasa bug photo.  One of my favorites.  At night, the sky sometimes is full of these...until the chauve-souris come out and eat them all up.

While my Canon is out of commission, the iPhone is not to shabby a fill-in..

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