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Congo Village Christmas

December 31, 2015

25 hours of travel time, 7 nights in the village, countless and memorable river swims, games played, meals eaten, topics discussed, and one goat that fell off of a truck: the summary of our week in Vanga for Christmas.

We had a lovely adventure.  After realizing that flights to Vanga during the week of Christmas would not work out, we decided to drive there.  We wanted to spend Christmas as a bit of time away as a family, plus our dear friends there were really hoping our presence would at least make Christmas more special for them (at least, that’s what I THINK they meant…ha ha).

We had recently found the perfect vehicle for us – and the perfect vehicle to tackle the road to Vanga.  While the first half is lovely pavement, the second half makes us question the definition of the word “road.”  It is mostly sand, with scary moments of clay and swamp thrown in for fun.  Matthew was up for the challenge of the drive, the kids seemed excited, and our friends recommended a protocol – someone who could help us through the checkpoints and navigate any strange situation.

We loaded up and headed out at 4:45am.  We made it across Kinshasa in 20 minutes (in normal, daytime traffic, this can take anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours).  We left the city, turned right, and were on the road.  There are many villages, both big and small, along the route and we enjoyed the scenery, napped (well, not Matthew), and ate the snacks we brought.  Each checkpoint was a bit frustrating, because each one required us to hand over our passports (with our protocol handling the logistics) to be registered, then waiting while they filled out the forms while our vehicle was slowly surrounded by the curious.  A bright yellow truck full of white people is not exactly a common sight in remote places in Congo.  The kids and mamas loved seeing our little blond children, and the vendors tried to sell us a wide variety of things, some of which I could not name.  But, thanks to our awesome protocol, each checkpoint was less than ten minutes and didn’t require more than a few cents as a thank you Coke.

The main problem we encountered was that my memory was failing (pregnancy brain, ya’ll, is serious) and our protocol gave distances in very cultural ways – whenever we asked how much farther, it was always the same answer…another 30 kilometers, or so.  Ugh.  But, after 12.5 hours we made it to Vanga, exhausted and happy to finally be out of the car.

The days in the village were a lovely collection of relaxing, naps, good food, great company, and really hot, sticky weather.  Christmas was fairly traditional, with a Christmas Eve dinner with our three families plus one other Swiss missionary family that lives there, including singing Christmas hymns and reading the Christmas story.

Christmas morning the kids opened presents and we had a big dinner with our three families plus two doctor couples and their sweet babies.  It was a fun mix of French and English and they brought local food while we served a traditional Christmas ham with all the normal fixings.  Matthew and I brought two large bins of food along as our contribution to the week, especially focusing on things that are not available in the village – like apples for apple pie, whipped cream for said pie, and two flats of eggs, frozen chicken, etc.

Sunday they hired a boat to float the river.  Most took a hike to the meeting point, but one of the wives and I, along with Axel, opted to ride the boat up and back.  I have never been to a rural, African village river port before.  As we stood for several minutes waiting for our boat (a dug out tree, of course), again the curious lined up behind us to stare, mostly at the blond little boy and his rather pregnant mama.  Some people were bathing (with necessary clothes on) and others were doing laundry, some were collecting water to take home (of course, on their heads), some were waiting for a taxi to cross the river to the village on the other side, and many others were just there to visit and watch.  I love the opportunity to experience difference slices of life in this vastly diverse country.

I also had my mid-pregnancy check up, complete with ultra sound, gestational diabetes testing (using a chai tea with 50g of sugar, since the normal Glucola drink is not available here), weight, measurements, and just overall health exam.  I got to see the labor and delivery room and we talked about what the next 14 weeks would look like.  My OB, Shannon, is one of my closest friends (we also attended language school together) and she will deliver her own baby (with a visiting doctor from the US) there in just a few weeks – I’m glad she will “test the waters” for me, ha ha.

Finally, it was time to head home and get back to the busy-ness of starting 2016.  We began the drive back at 6:30am, with two extra passengers – our protocol’s wife and Nancy, the daughter of the couple we stayed with who was coming back to Kinshasa to visit friends for a few days.  It was so great to have the help with the kids in the car, though.  All three kids had a quick 24 hour fever, which, as sad as it was, was actually quite helpful on the drive since all they wanted to do was sleep.  They are all fine as of this evening.

The check points went very smoothly this time since it was almost New Year’s, the biggest holiday for the Congolese.  They wanted a bit of Coke money to celebrate, but nobody wanted to check our passports.  Eight smooth stops.  The funniest moment of the trip was watching a goat, piled high on top of an over-loaded truck, which is a normal sight on the road here, suddenly go flying off and onto the side of the road.  It got up immediately and the truck managed to pull over as we went zooming by.  It was quite surprising and hilarious – it fell from at least 20 feet in the air, going 45mph or so!

We hit a bit of traffic heading back into the city.  We dropped off our protocol and his wife, then Nancy at her place to stay, and finally got home at 7:30…after a quick dinner, we all hit the hay, exhausted.

Now to get on with 2016.  We are ten minutes in and I’m ready for bed.  Happy New Year!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2015 0829

    Thankful your trip was uneventful accept for a few fevers at the end. My prayer for you is to have a very peaceful new year with many good blessings. 2016!!! Love your blogs.

  2. ricetd permalink
    January 1, 2016 0829

    Great introduction to a wonderful Newsletter. Tim

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