20 March 2014

Where We've Been...

Dear Readers:

You may (or may not) have noticed that Jill and I have been gone for a bit. Jill managed to catch a pretty impressive virus, which quite literally could not be cured in Congo. So she was medevaced out of here to South Africa. I went along to boss around her perfectly capable doctors and ensure her magazine supply never ran out. Our husbands stayed at home to take care of the children.

The good news is, Jill will make a full recovery. She had the best care possible in Johannesburg. I returned to Kinshasa yesterday, and Jill will arrive in the next day or two.

The bad news is, neither of us will be able to post for a bit because I head to Burkina Faso on Saturday and Jill is on strict orders to rest up.

But the best news is, we have more blog material than one could ever imagine. We don't even know where to begin. One thing we'll always remember is what a man told us in Jill's hospital room -- a complete stranger, no less, who had to come to visit us --

"You don't have to look very hard to find the kindness in people."

8 March 2014

Weekend List!

Jill's (Short)(Sick) List:

Hello, friends.  I've been sicker than ever before this week with the stupidest maladies usually reserved for childhood, including pink eye among other things. What gives?  Mama Youyou said Congo was just making sure I still respected it's power over me...

Awhile ago, some friends of ours Skyped us and said they were subtly reducing their circle of friends in order to be better friends with the people they really liked.  I kind of thought this was a great idea (mostly because we made the cut) for people in their 30s with small, time-sucking children.  Turns out, Pamela Druckerman has the same philosophy for folks in their 40s.
 But you find your tribe. Jerry Seinfeld said in an interview last year that his favorite part of the Emmy Awards was when the comedy writers went onstage to collect their prize. “You see these gnome-like cretins, just kind of all misshapen. And I go, ‘This is me. This is who I am. That’s my group.’ ” By your 40s, you don’t want to be with the cool people; you want to be with your people.

Two different favorite friends posted photos this week of essential book collections.  I love them all.  I love books.  Which books do you love?

Per the forever eloquent S.E.: In the end, these were the books that mattered most: The Complete Works of Beatrix Potter, "Momoko and the Pretty Bird," Three different collections of fairy tales, The Sufi Poets, Yehuda Amichai, Pablo Neruda, "The Prophet," Stephen Warren Moore's "Life Days," "The Secret Garden," My dad's New Testament from high school, "Portrait of a Lady," and a nasty little number titled, "The Story of O." There were others of course that changed my life, but in the end I had to let them go. I'm not sure what this small library I've kept close says about me, but here it is in all its glory. 

The books that L.R. and her kids have read together this year.  So perfect.

Our family doctor has been fasting in Richmond, Virginia this week to protest the government stalemate over expanding Medicaid.  Such an important issue.

Photo: This guy. Backs up his words with action. Good luck with the fasting and protesting in Richmond Greg!

Speaking of the working poor and uninsured, this article about maternal mortality in the U.S. is important.  I was able to participate in 2010's Amnesty International report Deadly Delivery and I haven't stopped thinking about this issue since. 

What do you think about this movie?  Too same ol', same ol'?  Yay! A new Wes Anderson?

Have you already seen this video?  I agree so completely and it makes me so sad.  I want to hug all of my middle school boys and especially my son.

And.  International Women's Day in photos.  Le 8 mars is special here in Congo and around the world.

A long time ago in 2012, the girls had special International Women's Day dresses made and this adorable photo quickly claimed the spot as one of our most popular posts ever.

Sarah's List:

In 2016, I fear going from this passport...

Such tasteful understatement.

...to this one. I tend to agree with this article.

Speaking of minimalism, check out these brand makeovers. And these too.

Why Africa is the most homophobic continent.

Rainbow Flag Gay Pride New York 2008
By See-ming Lee 李思明 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/seeminglee/) (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ellen poses for Annie Liebovitz.

Big image news for bloggers. Thanks Getty

Jeu des Echanges. Probably the most telling piece of colonialist memorabilia. 

PSM V85 D315 Map of european possessions in africa
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My child's name has an umlaut, or trema as we say, because hers is extra special and French. (And they are slightly different.) Check out all of these amazing ways not to use that symbol.

I with Diaeresis
By RicHard-59 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

When non-Americans throw "American-themed" parties.

And thank you to everyone for your awesome comments regarding our move. I promise I won't start linking all things Burkina, but here's a good piece about their current political situation.

Defense.gov photo essay 100503-F-3745E-305
By English: Master Sgt. Jeremiah Erickson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

4 March 2014

We're leaving Congo. Forever.

I hate change. No really, it messes me up. When my favorite websites get a "new look" it takes me a while to forgive them and visit again. When I commute, I have to take the same route every day or I'll be totally off. I do not use an alarm clock. My eyelids just know when to open. I'm the type of person who marries a routine. And never cheats.

But for some reason changing countries always feels exciting. I moved to Egypt and then Congo without visiting either place. And without knowing a soul. When everything changes it's far easier than just one thing being different.

So here we go again. We're leaving Congo after six of the best years of our lives. In June we'll take our last flight from the place we started our family. The only home our children have known. As Mama Youyou has told us over and over, "No one is happy about this." It's true. It's horribly sad and I will probably self-medicate to make it through all the goodbyes.

In fact, last week I wrote about leaving Congo on World Moms Blog and Adam gave me a hard time for writing such a depressing post. Check it out here. I'll be referring to the supportive comments folks left there from now until our departure. (Thank you, World Moms!)

Photo credit: Jill Humphrey

But as a dear friend said when she left us doubled over in sadness upon her exit from Congo:

This was never meant to be permanent.

And so we can't stay here forever. The time feels right to move on.

After our usual visit to the States this summer, we'll pack up and head to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. And since we're switching countries, we may as well change our careers while we're at it. Adam and I will be the Country Representatives for Mennonite Central Committee, and our children will go to work charming the locals so we can make friends. They can already pronounce the words "Ouagadougou" and "Burkina Faso" so that's one hurdle crossed.

We've seen pictures of our future house, we have a nanny lined up (sigh), and all four of us will visit Ouaga in a few weeks. In some ways, it feels like we've already transitioned. It is truly a weird time in our lives.

I don't know much about Burkina Faso. But unlike the other places I've moved, I have been there before. Strangely, about 12 years ago I passed through Ouagadougou with friends on the way to Mali. And I kid you not, I had a dream about coming back there to live with Adam. Unfortunately I didn't take my premonition seriously enough to size up the place for its functionality of moving there with two children.

Luckily, many expats in Congo have also lived in Burkina. So we've been mining them for information. When we mention our move the most common words we hear are:
  • integrity
  • hot
  • friendly
  • motorcycles
  • strawberries

 Let's compare that to the most common words we hear when we tell people we live in Congo:
  • dangerous 
  • humid
  • potholes
  • Ebola
  • why?

Clearly, we love Congo despite its reputation. But Burkina sure sounds like a great place too.

I know you're wondering...yes Jill and her family are leaving Congo too. She'll write about their change in due time. And no, we don't know about the future of Mama Congo, which feels like another one of our best friends here. Dear readers: Do you have any suggestions? 

But let's get to the most important part of this post - Do we have any readers in Burkina Faso? If so, will you be my friend?

2 March 2014

Weekend List!

Sarah's List:

How armies get fed. MREs around the world.

MRE contents
By Christopherlin (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This week we hosted a dozen or so African presidents, prime ministers, and other VIPs in our little neighborhood. It wasn't disruptive to our lives at all. These guys would never dream of traveling via helicopter back and forth, nor close our roads. And a tank or two would surely be overkill. No, African heads of state are far more humble. (Ahem.) 

Sure hope all this was worth it and you solved Africa's problems.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

Meanwhile their spouses held a meeting of their own. During which they probably did solve all our problems. But I've yet to find any publicity of their roundtable discussion.

Notably, the president of Uganda was here. Probably taking cover from a very terrible decision.

If he had just read this: Don't be an asshole. (I especially like the line about Episcopalians.)

Politics of the Belly. A good guide to understanding leaders in Africa. The title says it all.

How to choose a font. How not to choose a font.

Nairobi readers: Did you know someone's trying to map your transit system? Matatus and all!

Nairobi to Cape Town 09
By Dillon Marsh (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Salif Keita was also in Kinshasa this week. He came to support the project Blanc Ebene, a benefit for Albinos in DRC.

Featuring a fantastic photo exhibition by Patricia Willocq.

See more of Patricia's photos in this interview.

Jill's List:

Moving from developed and developing to fat and lean.  A super interesting argument for changing the way we talk about the world.
As the old adjectives about Africa — “hopeless,” “war torn,” “impoverished”— fade, fat economies must stop assuming that poor countries should mimic them and instead embrace their models for social innovation and efficiency. 

I've been thinking about this article.  Old Yeller.  My Girl.  Sob.  And then, there were the books of my 80s/90s childhood:  Bridge to Terabithia and all of those teens-who-romantically-die-from-terrible-diseases novels by Lurlene McDaniel. Remember those?  What gives?!

Photographer Lynsey Addario happened upon this birth on the side of a rural road in the Philippines a couple of weeks ago.  I sent the article to nurse friend, Ruthie (remember her incredible guest post about having a baby in Kinshasa?), and she replied with a couple of photographs she just happened to have of birth in unusual places: on an Ethiopian Airlines airplane and TWINS in a canoe!  Do any of you have experience with surprise births?

Displaying Miss AboveAddis_ 30May08.jpg

Displaying canoe twins dec 09.JPG
This photo was taken in a remote part of Equateur Province, DRC.  Via Ruthie Schaad.
To get to this location it is a 15-17 hour canoe trip and at one of the stops along the way a woman gave birth to twins with the help of the midwife from the community who came to the canoe to help.

Um. Cannot wait to see Tey.  Saul Williams in Francophone Africa - with one day to live.  (Have I professed my undying love for Williams on Mama Congo yet?  No?  Well.  Consider it done.)

Current favorite app at my house.  Can't wait to show the kiddos that this place exists in real life.

American Museum of Natural History  -  Image from Wikipedia

Seems to me that I used to know this guy...   Kuddos, Konrad.  Check out more of Possessed by Paul James here.

We used to live right around the corner from Ezell's Chicken in Seattle. The smell used to waft beautifully up the street...   Hungry Lion just doesn't compare, Kinshasa.

Nope.  Just not nearly as good.  Sorry.  Image from Wikipedia.

And.  Grand merci to all of the nurses and doctors at Centre Privé d'Urgence (CPU) who helped take care of Lou this week during her "pneumonia adventure."  Our hospital stay included French cartoons, jus de l'hôpital (a.k.a. meds), and really quality care.

Displaying image.jpeg
Our awesome nurse removes Loulou's IV while Papa Antoine, Mama Nounou look on, ready to take her home.

The above experience makes me think more deeply about a 19th-century mother's handwritten record of her babies' childhood illnesses.
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