28 September 2012

Friday List!

Sarah's List:

Really, really glad I don't have to learn how to speak English. If you're a native English speaker, a poem to make you feel thankful.

Anyone ever heard of Hippo Paint? Search a picture of anything, and you can paint it. "The web is your coloring book." I literally had to rip the computer away from Adam painting his search for "big noses."

Nice little slideshow on changing names, from The Last Name Project.

Retronaut. I cannot get enough of slightly old pictures. For example, check out the evolution of Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever. It's amazing what taking out a few Indian headdresses and adding a few bows will do to modernize a book.

Had our traditional Drunken Risotto this week. I know I said the house chef got the night off for our anniversary, but I lied.

Risotto with speck and goat cheese by nebulux76, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  nebulux76 

Totally, totally entranced by these photos. The tiling on the floor, the clunky strollers, the high-tops. It must be 1989.

And I would link to Playboy Magazine's article ranking my alma mater as the #1 Party School, but our employer hosted internet filters out such nonsense as "playboy" and "party school." But I really just wanted to read the article!

Jill's List:

Worked really hard to get this to download.  And it was worth it.  I'm not saying any more right now...

   Shout out to EpiPensThey save people's lives.  If you know you are seriously allergic, or might be seriously allergic to something, GET AN EPI PEN and carry it with you all the time.   End of nurse-rant.  (Thanks, Mom, for shipping EpiPens to the Congo last month....)
 Oh, Goma.
Photo by Emily Cavan Lynch

Some German friends recently told us about these plastic bikes for kids, which they described as "necessary."   Basically, Euro-Big Wheels.
Photo from Babyccino Kids
A fellow teacher brought this magical find to my office (see below) today.  Almost enough to make me start believing in gnomes and fairies.  Ornithology experts - any ideas as to the creator of this kapok-lined nest?
AAANNNND.  Happy, happy almost-birthday to our own Sarah!  Go 30!

26 September 2012

When It's Not Worth It to Go to the Doctor

Sometimes, it's just not worth the trip to the doctor.

Case Study #1:

Last year, Elias managed to gash his head during French class (of all the dangerous places).  He had a neat, inch+, long, gaping wound and instead of going to the doctor...we'll, I fixed him up myself.  Today, he has a pretty little scar right above his left eyebrow.  He loves that scar.

Before anyone gets too worked up, let me just say that this was a well-informed choice.  Had I been in the U.S., I probably would have taken him to the doctor for a few stitches.  But, I'm not in the States.  I'm in Kinshasa.  Where we have perfectly reasonable doctors and hospitals more than capable of stitching up my kid. (And another facility just for serious emergencies.) But...the drama of it (the traffic, the wait, the uncertainty that anesthetic would be used, etc.) just wasn't worth a cosmetic scar.  I had a nurse-practitioner friend come check it out and after a lifetime living and practicing in the Congo, she agreed that my home patch-up job was an okay choice.

Case Study #2:

Neighbor James (remember him?) came over the other night.  At first, I couldn't tell what was wrong.  He still refuses to divulge the dirty details, but somehow, he managed to really screw up his finger.  It was swelling and James was an uncomfortable shade of green.

He was really worried that it was broken.  Over ice packs and deep breathing (and I threw in a Tembo for old-school good measure), we considered the facts:
  • It was late afternoon on a Thursday.  This meant that a.) it was probably the second shift at the nearby hospital with the xray machine, which could mean a long wait and and b.) there was always the option to go the next morning if things were looking bad.  
  • James could easily bend his finger.  This comforted me, or at least convinced me that the finger wouldn't fall off if we delayed.  

I have no idea why Johan is wearing a tie.  Don't ask me.

Now, for my second disclaimer of this post:  I told James I would go with him to the doctor that minute if he would like.  Happily.  Really.

But, I also supported his hesitation to immediately run to the doctor over his finger.  Maybe if it were the States, James would have jumped in the car and tried to make it to his family doctor before the office closed.  But, in Kinshasa, we decided to wait.

I buddy taped that finger to the one closest, prescribed RICE, and told him to check in with me in the morning.

In the morning, we admired the various shades of purple a finger can turn...and looked at it repeatedly from several different angles.  But, James could still move it and the pain was significantly better.  So, we made a splint and wrapped it in a florescent green bandage to soothe him.

The fact is that, living here is way safer for us than most would assume.  We have the luxury of choice in non-life-threatening situations.  We can hem and haw about whether or not traffic and lack of anesthetic is "worth it."  Because, if we really need to, we have the money, the transportation, the connections to get the help that we need. Most people around here don't even consider the option because there isn't one.

James' finger is still a little weird.  And, as an old arthritic man, he may grumpily curse my support of his decision to not get an x-ray.  And Elias might grow out of his Harry Potter stage and hate his faint forehead scar.  But, the way I look at it (after-the-fact), these details are reminders of what Kin is all about.

25 September 2012

Restaurant Review: Roi du Cossa

Don't get too excited. This will not be a series. Adam and I have long given up on dining out in Kinshasa because it's not worth, well, dining out in Kinshasa. A cheap pizza is $20. A meal for two is almost certainly over $50. And these are not great restaurants we're talking about here.

But it's our anniversary so to give the house chef (Adam) the night off, we went out for dinner. Thanks to the upcoming Francophonie Summit traffic was a nightmare. The kind where everyone turns off their cars and gets out. After we had been sitting in the same muddy pothole for an hour, I told Adam I really wished we had just stayed home and watched Master Chef Australia. Just what every husband dreams of hearing on his anniversary.

We eventually made it those 5 miles down the road to Roi du Cossa, a Portuguese restaurant specializing in, you guessed it, cossa cossa. We were seated between parents of one of Adam's students and parents of one of my students. The perfect, romantic evening.

Cossa cossa are giant Congo river prawns, which are so big they could possibly pass as lobster tails. They're ridiculously delicious and I could eat dozens, but they only give you 6 so you don't embarrass yourself.

Speaking of embarrassing yourself, they tie a bib on you. Without even asking. But not in the novelty beach restaurant kind of way, in the you're-about-to-splash-garlic-butter-all-over-yourself-this-is-serious-business kind of way.

And just in case the bib doesn't do it's job, there's a bathtub in the bathroom. I would like to point out that I know of several restaurant bathrooms in Kinshasa with bathtubs. I feel an investigative report coming up...

In the end, Roi du Cossa was definitely worth the 5 mile/hour and a half trip. That's saying a lot for a few river prawns.

21 September 2012

Friday List!

Sarah's List:

Jewish tailors, Pakistani cab drivers and Senegalese umbrella men. New York's finest.

Skyline Reflections by pennuja, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  pennuja 

Malaria rates in DRC, visually.

Filmed in DRC, this new documentary about child soldiers, War Witch is getting good reviews. My sensitivities can't handle anything heavier than a romantic comedy these days, but won't you watch it and let us know?

F. Scott Fitzgerald buried in Rockville, Maryland? Who knew.

Poor ole Kate. After spending more than enough time on French beaches, I almost, almost believe the French newspaper's defense of boobs not being taboo in Europe.

Jill's List:

After a week spent listening to the ideas Congolese women (Dr. Laure & Mama NouNou) have for Congo, I found this to be a fascinating read.  Thanks, Anna, for the tip! 


Not convinced I will wake up looking like Anna Karina, but...this seems like a great Congo-rainy-season hair tip.

Surveyed my 7th graders today and found out that they each speak, on average, four different languages.  They are so cool.  And research says they're probably smart too.

Good thing a pint of Ben and Jerry's costs $19 here.

While we have not been indulging in ice cream, we have been gorging on Friday Night Lights.  I still can't figure out how something so cliched can be so good.  Even better, Sarah told me about Slate.com's commentary that ran alongside the original airing of the show. (Spoiler alert, of course.)

And.  Happy International Day of Peace

20 September 2012

My Children are Thugs

Or, at least they look like thugs:

I don't even recognize these little truants.

See how cute they were last time we did this:

Thanks a lot, Visa photos.

We take "passport-sized" photographs often.  It seems that everywhere you go in this country (and many others), someone is asking for a "passport-sized" photograph - or ten.  Every chance they get, forms have a little box stating, "Picture Required."

It's a national obsession.  Visa paperwork requires several sets, of course.  Schools all want six copies.  The cable TV people would like your face to be glued to their registration form. 

Basically, everyone should carry around a dozen or so "passport-sized" photos at all times, just in case.  I half-expect the grocery store to ask me to ante up next time I buy toothpaste.

Around town, there are little booths offering to take your passport photos.  These booths are the key to having any sort of document accepted for consideration - so they have a good thing going.  Almost as good as the "Photo Minute" guys who hang around concerts and other events, ready to capture your fun and print it out for 2500 FC.  Kind of like this:

So far, I haven't tried out the passport photo booths.  Next week, maybe.  Instead, we just take the photos ourselves.  There are explicit instructions on travel.state.gov and those are the ones I tend to follow when DIYing "passport-sized" photos.  I haven't had anything rejected yet.  Unlike this guy.  The process is less than fun.  Children hate standing still against a white background and not smiling.  I have determined this after hours of intensive research.  Lou looks so disheveled in the above picture because getting that semi-acceptable photo took four adults, hair-pulling, and sweat.  I think next time, I'm going to take the government's suggestion and strap her in a sheet-covered carseat in order to take the photo.

My favorite passport photos, however, are baby passport photos.  Cannot get enough:

In this picture, I was balancing Lou in front of a white sheet, praying her newly-acquired neck strength would hold out for the duration of the shoot.  Wow.

Also - this exercise in passport photo examination is making me wonder what Africa has done to Johan and I:

I feel that either expat life or florescent lighting has caused aging in the past year.  Huh.

Ah well.  It's a fact of life that my family will be periodically captured in unsmiling, 2x2 form.  All over Kinshasa, there are thousands of similar faces sticking to papers, paperclipped to applications, hiding in envelopes, and printing off in street side photo booths.  Kind of ethereal, kind of creepy.

18 September 2012

Just 3 Mamas with an Idea

On Saturday Jill and I met with our dear friend Laure. You remember her, the obstetrician at the Promesse de Dieu clinic out in the countryside. We've started working with her to draw-up the plans for a maternal education project with her patients. She's going to write a proposal to these guys and hope to secure some funding. We're going to help. Jill's got the nursing expertise. I've got a master's degree that says I know how to plan projects. And Laure's pretty much the strongest, smartest person we know.

 Saturday afternoon found Laure 9 months pregnant with her 6th child. Her husband has just started chemotherapy for a cancer that may take his life. Still, she was insistent we meet and discuss. We sat on Jill's back porch and threw around ideas for a maternal education program similar to the model of group prenatal care. You can read more about it here and here.

Laure loves it. She wants to spend more time educating her patients. She wants safe deliveries and healthy babies. Seems simple enough, but when you don't have much, it's a daunting task.

We also launched a mini-project and handed over some medical donations, thanks to you, dear readers who were inspired by Laure's work and our previous posts. Promesse de Dieu will be stocked with basic supplies to keep babies and mamas a little bit healthier this year.

P.S. If you have an idea or are interested in supporting our little project somehow. Get in touch with us!  We especially welcome know-how regarding group prenatal care and Centering Pregnancy for socially high-risk populations...(expert friends, we know you're out there!)

16 September 2012

Friday List!

Jill's List:

Friends of friends of friends.  To quote one of those friends, "A few small minded people do not represent a country--the US or Libya."

Which makes this article particularly interesting. Thinking about what our U.S. Embassy here looks like.
 There has also long been tension among diplomats over whether the “Fortress America” approach of building imposing diplomatic compounds is less productive than allowing personnel to circulate in the countries where they are posted and permitting visitors to arrive at embassies without off-putting body inspections.

 Totally started watching "Call the Midwife."  Oh BBC and your adorable period dramas.  This show is like James Herriot - except with humans.  Read British gossip about the babies here.  And read about real midwives who advise accuracy for the show.  Awesome.

Thinking about my team.  (Take that, Bears.)  My side of the family was going bonkers. Although - I admit I'm not as dedicated as I could be.  I don't get up at 3am to listen to games in real-time on the radio.  Lots of people do this, apparently. (Like my husband.)

Photo snatched from Laura Greenday.

Go Collicello!  This is what's happening on our American street...

Obsess over details of American neighborhood life here

 Looking forward to a planning meeting with Sarah & Dr. Laure tomorrow.

 And -  Hip Hip Hooray! to the newest person we know: Josephine Aurora.  Good, good work, Mama Daniele & Papa Jon.  Sending congrats across the continent to Nairobi.  My, we love you, little girl...  

Photo courtesy of Jon & Daniele.  And Josephine.

Sarah's List:

For two years I went to Tahrir Square to get to school at The American University in Cairo. It’s really hard to imagine the scene there now. I have mostly happy memories of running to class through (nonviolent) mobs of people and hanging out at this place. Anyone know if Cilantro survived the revolution?

Big week for Congo. We have a new monkey! And the Congolese response is a collective, "We've known about this monkey for ages. Why is it suddenly 'new' because researchers find it?"

"We can read Arabic too!" The US embassy in Cairo calls out the Muslim Brotherhood for tweeting two very different messages in response to this week's events.

French artists from the year 1900 imagine what France will look like in the year 2000. According to their predictions, we're a little behind. Chicken-breeding machines anyone?

Paris skyline, France by Luke,Ma, on Flickr
No chicken breeders here.
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Luke,Ma 

I remember this photo series from a few years ago when it first circulated. Still totally fascinating to look at our global food disparity. I wonder how the Ahmed family of Cairo is doing today. Interested in a similar rundown of Congolese food consumption? Check this out.

Apparently you can "unbaby" your Facebook feed. Why on earth would anyone not want to look at my beautiful children? I pretty much live for Facebook photos of friends' new babies (see Josephine goodness above).
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