30 August 2013

Friday List!

Sarah's List:

Remember a while back when everyone was diagnosing each other with the ahem, less-than-happy resting face? Check it out. Now there's a cure. All you have to do is hop a plane to South Korea.

Baby resting face.

Along those same lines, science proves: Haters Are Gonna Hate. Researchers asked participants how they feel about camping, health care, architecture, taxidermy, crossword puzzles, and Japan. Note: this is not an Onion article, you can't make this stuff up.

"No word yet on whether playas gonna play 
or ballers gonna ball, but we'll probably find out soon. 
Researchers gonna research."

Okay, okay, everyone's seen this already by now. But in case you missed it, Zen Pencils hits the meaning of life dead on. More great stuff from Zen Pencils here: Ira Glass' advice for beginners, Roger Ebert on Kindness and Confucius in French.

© Gavin Aung Than 2012. Zenpencils.com

I've always kinda wanted to write about my thesis on how raising twins is surely easier than having kids less than a-year-and-a-half apart. But the fear of twin mom backlash was too much to handle. Then my twin mom friends started posting this. You've been outed mothers of twins! Slackers.

With my favorite twins in Dubai. Circa 2008. (Praying I won't have twins two years in the future.)

My favorite character on television. Hands down. (Not that we have television. More like my favorite character on bootleg downloads from friends' hard drives.)

On Being African in China. What happens when a girl from Ghana goes to Beijing. Maybe Mama Congo needs to do an exclusive on those roadside construction crews: "On Being Chinese in Congo."

Charlotte gets ready for her close-up when spotted by Asian tourists in South Africa. Photo credit: Jill Humphrey

Here's what happens when mainstream media starts paying attention to your country. Things get confused and no one really knows the answer. And it's not always about violence and politics. Sometimes it's about fatwas banning croissants.

Croissant - After @ Home by Nouhailler, on Flickr
Leave Syria's croissants alone.
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Nouhailler 

Jill's List:

We had a happy reunion with Madame Sidonie and her classroom today...on the way to meet Loulou and Charlotte's new teachers.  That's right.  Plural.  The "twins" are being separated.  Here's some reading on the topic.

This summer, I celebrated my extremely late-arrival to the world of cute cat videos on You Tube.  It started during Loulou's unfortunate 3am jetlag awakenings and ended up making the early-morning hours almost bearable.  I was thrilled to find out this week that watching such videos actually increases my productivity.  So...get working:

Kids learning foreign languages.  It works!

Image and story from the lovely Mama's Minutia.

In an effort to become sufficiently and appropriately outraged, I've been trying to keep up on Syria.  It began with listening to the extended Parliament debate this morning (good lord, those people are well spoken and satisfyingly rowdy) and proceeded to reading this, this, this, and this.  The Onion article is particularly helpful.

Somewhere nearish to Syria (I think).  From my Turkish Air window a few weeks ago.

Thinking about Andrew Jenner who confessed his illegal milk crates on Modern Farmer this week. What are you storing in your milk crates?

Image by Andrew Jenner for Modern Farmer.

Our hometown of Harrisonburg made the Atlantic.  "City of the future"?

Nostalgic Harrisonburg walk.  Circa 2011.  Red Front to the right.

And.  Joey speaks French.  (Sarah says this classic episode is a watching option on every Air France flight. Bien sûr.)

28 August 2013

My Worst Congo Fear. Came True.

The question we get the most is, "Aren't you scared living in Congo?" Well no, not really. Sure there are bugs, and diseases and an election every now and then, but we have a plan for these things. (Kill them. Don't get malaria. Have an exit strategy.)

Then there's the medical question. In my mind, most minor emergencies and illnesses are do-able here. There are doctors and a hospital. And when thinking of the proverbial appendicitis, I think we'd be okay. At least I've heard of someone who had an appendectomy here and was fine.

Here's what I do worry about: facial injuries and broken teeth. Why? Because I just don't think someone here is going to stitch up my little girls' faces with extra care so they don't have nasty scars. There's no guy they can call in from "plastics" to do it right. (I mean Tina Fey has been mildly successful, but I can't count on my children being funny enough to compensate.)

On broken teeth, the last place you want to go here is the dentist and lord only knows about Congolese cosmetic dentistry, which I assume is non-existent. There are no small, delicate solutions for anything. Example: Remember that gigantic plaster cast Adam got practically to his elbow for a tiny hand injury?!

Yes. Gardez vos dents. As if they are tiny sheep in a meadow.

So on Saturday night when Adam told me I wasn't "being enthusiastic enough" during the family jumping-on-the-bed game, I went full-in and Charlotte jumped smack into my face. Chipping my front tooth. My *expletive* front tooth as I've called it since then. And I yelled at him and I cried because what are you supposed to do about an *expletive* front tooth in the *expletive* Congo!? In *expletive* August when we won't have access to Western world dentistry for months and months? In between sobs I told him, "Don't you even begin to think this is just some thing that will resolve itself and I can blog about later. This is forever."

Honestly, it's the type of chip that is barely noticeable and I showed it to everyone so they'd reassure me. But it was there. And if we lived in the US I would have had immediate confidence that it could be fixed. And I would have cried and cursed about one-millionth less than I did here in Kinshasa. In *expletive* Congo. In *expletive* August.

So yesterday I pulled myself together and made an appointment to see the dentist. Remember the guy Eli went to last year? The Greek dentist who I just assumed can't get a license in Europe, so practices here for desperate souls in Congo.

I thought he would take one look, say it's not that bad and tell me to just wait until I had access to the most state-of-the-art technology. Because it's my *expletive* front tooth. How can I possibly express to someone, when we're both speaking in our second languages, how important this is?

But before I knew it, he was drilling away my front tooth. I didn't even get a chance to give my prepared speech on the American cultural importance of nice teeth. I had four Congolese "helper" faces and his Greek face starting down at me. I wanted to scream "Arrêt! I have no idea what you're doing. I don't want this!" But he had a drill in my mouth. I told myself it was okay. I can always just get a fake tooth in the States next year. I was sure when he was done, my teeth would be different sizes and one would have black filling right in front. I counted the months I would have to live in Congo with the monstrosity he would leave in my mouth.

One giant panic attack later, it was over and they showed me my fixed tooth. And it was totally fine. They all laughed at me as I relaxed my shoulders and dropped my scowl. I couldn't even tell my tooth had ever been broken. Then he told me he had used porcelain from the United States. Why!? Why Greek man, wait until afterward to tell me that you're not using counterfeit Chinese carcinogenic filler and that you actually know what you're doing!? But it looks great. I'm happy again. When I left, I didn't have enough money to pay, so he said it was his "treat."

No problem, excellent Greek dentist. I'll come back soon to pay you. Happily.

My real mouth - post dentist.

I mean really, if one can get excellent cosmetic dentistry in the Heart of Darkness, what's left? (But for the sake of our faces, I'm strictly enforcing our new no-bed-jumping rule because I'm still sure there's no "guy from plastics.")

27 August 2013


This past weekend, we all piled into a car and went to the Foire.

What? Didn't you?

Elias announced that we were mean parents because he's never been to an amusement park, so we did the next best thing and went to the International Fair of Kinshasa (FIKIN).  Each year, this fair rolls into town and puts up camp between the statue of Lumumba and the never-to-be-completed iconic tower Mobutu built in 1966.  While it sounds like quite the location we ended up having to pull over and ask people to point us in the right direction...four times.

Original photograph: Tower of Limete in Kinshasa, Patrice Lumumba statue by Moyogo.

Once we arrived, we were ushered in by a team of heavily-armed-but-very-nice Republican Guard and parked our car in an empty lot.  Most folks arrive via public transport to the Foire, not personal SUVs.  After we unloaded our broods, clown-car style, we purchased a couple of FIKIN 2013 paper hats for 200FC (about 22 cents) each and entered the fair grounds.

See how excited the children were?

Charlotte was not impressed to be chosen for a photo op with these two small strangers.

In order to dive right in to the festivities, we had Photo Minutes taken immediately.  This is the requisite memorabilia from any Kinshasa event.  At concerts, weddings, and fairs, "photo minute" guys roam around, ready to capture your precious moments for only FC1500 or so. (Remember the slightly inappropriate one we had taken at the Koffi concert last year?)  It's actually totally awesome.  They take the photo and print out as many copies as you want to buy right there on the spot.  Like this:

Again, the kids were having FUN, I assure you.

Most excitingly, they had a closed-caption large screen that was firmly fixed on Johan the entire time.  Every time we saw the video, it was carefully following my husband's Nordic frame as he picked his way through the crowd.

But the rides were why we really came to the Foire.  Elias has gotten quite good at attempting an effective parental guilt trip with phrases such as, "All I ever wanted in my whole life was to ride one - just one - roller coaster."  So, we went to suss out the place des jouets and found this:

Totally gobsmacking.  

But, more than a little terrifying at the same time for the mother of a child really wanting to ride in it's clutches. This amazing contraption's ancient mechanical joints creaked and moaned, but then flung it's spaceships and their human contents with surprising agility into the air again and again.  Everyone seemed to be having a great time...but I played the mean mother card and only let Elias watch from the safety of the ground.

Ani and Adam tried out the tank while the bigger girls clung with terror to their parents.  They totally missed out:

Over the summer, Elias was treated to some Virginia country lane driving lessons.  So, he now completely believes that he is an awesome driver and capable of handling any vehicle that comes his way.  Which includes bumper cars, of course.  We waited in line with our FC1500 tickets for our turn on the old-school cars complete with sparking metal stick of electricity connected to a wire mesh ceiling.  Elias made me swear about ten times that I wouldn't try to touch the steering wheel.

And then, we posed for a *Fikin 2013 Wutu Land* Photo Minute.

(Note: I felt like a jerk because at one point, I noticed that my child was the only one purposefully trying to hit other cars.  So, I had to actually say - while in bumper cars - "Okay, so, maybe don't bump the other cars quite so much..."  It seemed that every other kid was simply trying to enjoy a leisurely Saturday drive sans violence.)

At this point, we were all incredibly dirty (it is still the dusty dry season) and hungry - having forgotten about lunch in our excitement.  So, we headed over to one of many impromptu outdoor - and naturally, child-friendly - beer stalls and sat down.  At which point, we were swarmed with culinary options.  Such as (Warning: stereotypical "expats eating in Africa" photos following):

Writhing larvae.  Note the toy machine gun for sale in the background.
Elias knew better than to ask me if I would buy that for him.

And...the actual, for-real, favorite of the afternoon:

Termites with hot pili peper and onions.

While the girl bashed each other with Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse balloons, Elias chowed down on bugs.

The termites really were lovely.  Crunchy, greasy, salty, and protein-ful.  What more can you ask for in a snack food to be washed down with cold beer or orange Fanta?  We also had the old standbys: peanuts, popcorn, and pili-pili eggs.  

I told Mama Vida all about our adventurous bug eating and she literally said, "Why would you do that?"  She wasn't impressed in the least and actually acted a little disgusted.  Again - expats eating in Africa...

We went to the FIKIN fairgrounds around 1pm on a Saturday.  It was full of families, kids, popcorn, and good times.  We have heard that going to FIKIN after dark isn't such a good idea for all the usual common sense reasons.  

You have about 4 more days to catch the fair before they pack up for the year.  

So, get going!

23 August 2013

Friday List!

Jill's List:

How does a blogger decide which social media outlet is best?  Oh Joy! explains...

My hair is back to it's frizzy self, despite this, this, and this.  Sigh.  Garance understands.

Frizzy hair by hoosadork, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  hoosadork 

Looking for an esoteric movie to watch projector-style on our porch this weekend.  Considering these.  (Also, planning on sprinkling popcorn with harrisa olive oil. Other popcorn recipes here.)

Happy to have fancy paprika found on sale at this Brooklyn joint in my Kinshasa pantry.  Made this to celebrate.

The Brooklyn Kitchen by roboppy, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  roboppy 

Thinking of Goma.  It's not good on the other side this week.

Also pondering jail.  Who has been let out and who has been put in and what that means.

Everyone has been taking this introvert quiz.  So, are you?

My old professor on forgiving killers.

Looking for local Kinshasa online news sources for my Middle Schoolers (and myself). I've got this one, but need suggestions for others!  Any thoughts?

Obviously, not this one.

What do you think about this Psychology Today article?

Johan and I had a moment this week when we thought that our daughter was a musical prodigy and had written a beautiful little ditty called "Get Up in the Morning and See the Sun."  Until Elias outted her as a plagarizer.

And. The new African photographers. (Thanks, Mary Hope!)

Sarah's List:

Language learning as an adult really is the worst. Take this experience for example: Or Perhaps You Are Too Stupid To Learn French.

When Adam and I first started our French learning quest, we went here to this school and loved it. Even if our class was made up entirely of European teenagers learning their 4th language and a Don Bosco monk.

San Juan Capistrano, circa 1915 by Orange County Archives, on Flickr
Parlez-vous Français?
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Orange County Archives 

Have you seen this? It's the rest of Europe according to France. And in reference to the above link, if the United States was included, they would probably think we're just a bunch of one-language-speaking fools.

In keeping with the language-learning theme, the first few weeks of American school are pretty rough. Especially when you don't speak English. So we've spent a lot of time reading this book. I Hate English!

I Hate English! by Ellen Levine

How do people who change gender choose a name, you ask? Don't worry BBC's on it.

So Tina Fey says her 2-year-old is a sociopath. Aren't all children sociopaths and our job is to make sure they grow out of by the time they go to school? Or at least by the time they go to college?

Just working the sociopath out of 'em.

14 words that are their own opposites. Can you think of just one before looking? Oh man, it's no wonder they make entire children's books about hating this language. 

And a very happy birthday to my first favorite newborn, my little sister. You remember her, of Mama Congo fame here and here and here. Katie doesn't waste her time on silly blogs, but her husband is our biggest fan, so maybe he'll tip her off to the mention. P.S. Katie, you married well.

20 August 2013

While you wait...

Jill and I are spending some time this week sprucing up the site. If we do it right, you will notice nothing has changed. In the meantime, we've come across some oldies, but goodies.

Remember these?

Mupwa claims he's actually been recognized on the street from this post. "Hey you're the guy who makes the tiki torches!"

Go Mupwa!

I'm still not even sure this really happened. It seems totally outrageous, but at the time I never even thought to question the laser boob treatments. That's what postpartum haze will do.

I LOVE these  baby wearing tutorials. And I swear it has nothing to do with the irresistible baby model. Don't forget Part Deux: The Front Sling.

When Mama Knows Best and That Mama's Not Me. Yeah, some things never change.

Were these girls really this little?!

This is still quite possibly the strangest thing that's happened during our time in Kinshasa.

And like clockwork, as soon as I got back this year the Mamas told me how good I looked. (Read: How fat I looked.)  Remember when I made the collarbone photo faux pas?

More new, original posts coming back tout de suite!

17 August 2013

Friday List!

Sarah's List:

I might regret sharing this trick with everyone, but from now on I'm using the kindly brontosaurus.

See, who wouldn't want to do a favor for this guy?

Did you know there are websites for swapping and buying for-cheap nice kids clothes? It's like an online yard sale. If only we didn't live in the Congo...

From Moxiejean.com.

It's true. Spoons have no place in public. Please read if you agree

These guys are just asking for trouble.

Last night we had an intervention and convinced Jill to "read" her 18,000+ unread emails. This reminded me to check that weird "other messages" folder in Facebook. It's been a few years since I last looked and among the garbage I found a nice note from an old friend of ours in Lebanon, someone offering to publish my Master's thesis and someone calling me a "slt!!!" I think only one of these messages is real.

PSA: Check your "other" inbox. Credit: Matt Elliott.

Even when you leave Egypt, you never really leave Egypt. Do you? Nobody wins.

And guess whose children told the Mamas that syrup is honey? And that it must been eaten on everything. Back in Congo less than 2 weeks and we're down a bottle of freshly imported Aunt Jemima's. We'll just call this Charlotte's first translation error.

The baby benefactor when "syrup" is lost in translation.

Jill's List:

This week's exciting South-African-import score from Shop Rite was Baby Brinjals.  Don't know what those are?  It sounds much fancier than it is, but you can turn to this informational page from Woolworth's (source of all fancy South African things) if you care to learn more.  Best yet: these babies were only 5000FC!

All of the middle school teachers met together to discuss a very important topic this first week of school: handwashing.  Or the lack thereof.  Turns out that our student post-bathroom handwashing rate is pretty gross.  I'm positive that this unfortunate trend persists in middle schools throughout the world.  Now, what's a school nurse to do?  Lobby for liquid soap (the kids say they aren't going anywhere near those dirty-looking bars) and laminate some reminder posters, I guess.  Do you know how hard it is to get people to wash their hands?!  Hospitals can't even seem to figure it out...

Image from here.

Following Sharif Abdel Kouddous on Twitter for news on Egypt.  Like this:

1hPolice and army firing heavily at mosque minaret. Mayhem inside. Loud booms. Absolute chaos.

Check out this IndyKids article on why he became a foreign correspondent.

Image from Sampsonia Way.

Sarah outted me about, but it's true, I did have 18,0002 unread emails in my inbox.  Want to clean up your life too?  Here's the tutorial I used.  As part of my therapy, I've been reading up about others with a similar digital hoarding tendency.  But, really, I think my issues aren't very deep seeded.  I'm just lazy.

Yeah.  Why is it that U.S. moms are missing out?

In 1776, many of the "founding fathers" ages ranged from 18 (James Monroe) to a ripe, old 25 (James Madison)!  Bonkers!  Granted, life-expectancy necessitated early success in the 18th century, but still...


Here's to a much-deserved weekend after a wild first week of school! We had breakfast for dinner to celebrate.  Do you have any back-to-school traditions? Also: are you smarter than a 1912 8th Grader?

Awesome shirt from the best place to buy boys clothes (in my opinion), Bobinette.

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