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Info for Adopting Families

This page is to answer some of the most common questions I receive from adopting mamas before they visit Kinshasa to meet and take home their kiddos to their forever families.

On the Current Status of Adoptions: I have recently written about some of the changes going on in DRC adoptions…see here and here.  The main question I receive lately concerns those who want to come and wait out the investigation or know that the wait for DGM, at least before they stopped issuing exit letters, would be at least a month.  Questions about bringing whole families and where to stay.  Each family situation is different, so I can’t give a blanket statement here, but I will admit I have not been much help as far as a place to stay long term.  I am not familiar with long term guest houses that fit well with families coming for short term stays (not that there aren’t any, I just don’t have enough information to give) and renting something here is not the same deal as renting something in North America.  Also, most tend to be surprised at the cost of renting (it is about $2000/month for a house outside the city, but it is not move-in ready and does not come with appliances and most likely will not have power or water).  If you’d still like to pass along some questions, I am happy to answer them to the best of my ability.  I would love to help if I can, but at the moment, I am at a loss to be most helpful.

If you linked here, I encourage you to take a look at some of our other tabs to find out more about us and our work here in Kinshasa with Mission Aviation Fellowship!  We were in Kinshasa from April 2012 to March 2013 and loved living in the city and working with the Congolese people.  We are not adopting parents, but keep busy with Levi (4) and Amelia (2).  Our goal, through MAF, is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ through aviation and technology so that isolated people may be physically and spiritually transformed. We are currently in the process of moving back to Kinshasa, attending language school in France and arriving back in DRC in the summer of 2015.

Let me first encourage one thing: while you are here, purchase a malaria home test kit and, even more importantly, a malaria cure.  For around $10, you can bring the cure home with you, and avoid the hassle of trying to find it while you’re feeling to ill to move!  It is called Coartem and is widely available.

Please note that this information is simply my opinion or experience.  Your agency rules and recommendations, as well as that of any lawyer, doctor, or the US Embassy should be be a priority.  Also, I am not affiliated with any agency or adoption organization, nor do I have any Embassy or Congolese connections to assist with adopting.  I am also not familiar with the many orphanages in the city and do not have special privileges with them.

Feel free to link back to this page to share!

Art by Bobi Doman

Art by Bobi Doman

Most popular question: Do I really have to wear long skirts while I’m there?

Short answer: no.  Long answer: It is not culturally required to wear long skirts.  Most find them cooler and the older generation will probably more easily identify with you if you’re not wearing pants.  However, pants or capris are acceptable in the city.  If you happen to venture to a village, skirts are required.  Thighs here are seen in the same way breasts are in the United States, so as long as the skirt comes below the knee, it is probably acceptable.  Personally, I find skirts cooler as they allow air circulation.  However, if you’re prone to sweat, having some tight-fitting shorts or a supply of baby powder may be helpful.

What do I need to bring?

This could be a long answer, but there is so much available in this city now (that wasn’t even remotely available less than two years ago) that you only need to bring what you really need.  The cost of things here is much higher and you may not find the brands you like.  Anticipate paying $1/diaper or as much as $.50/wipe.  If you stay at St. Anne’s, you’ll be within safe walking distance of a store that has everything one could find in Kinshasa, including hot food and a pharmacy, toiletries, and groceries.

I would recommend bringing mosquito repellent, since at the time of this writing, it is very hard to find.  Also, bring any medications or 1st aid supplies you’d like to have on you, especially for children/infants.  Local medications for worms and malaria are available and quite cheap – I recommend buying them to take home with you in case you need them.  Email me for more information about the malaria test and cure and why I recommend getting it while you’re here.

Bring clothes, because children’s clothes are overpriced and lower quality, and a few toys to have in the hotel with you.  Bring snacks, but staying at St. Anne’s will provide with plenty of options to buy if your trip is extended.  Talk to other moms about hot plates, water kettles, and other small appliances that can be left to your name at the hotel’s desk to use and pass on.  Convenience food is not common here, so microwave meals and other on-the-go meals are not easy to find, or are prohibitively expensive.

How do I get safe, clean drinking water?

Bottled water is readily available and affordably priced (well, all things considered).  Usually you can ask your hotel for some if you’re not within walking distance from a grocery store.

How safe is it REALLY in Kinshasa?

We live here and feel quite safe.  The danger here is only different, in our opinions, not worse.  I do not often take my children out, but more out of convenience, rather than fear for their wellbeing.

When out, I would take all of the same precautions as anyone in a large city can recommend: don’t carry valuables (don’t even bring them, if you can help it), keep your purse secure, and be mindful of your surroundings!

As far as health-related safety concerns, the risks of contracting something do seem higher: traveler’s sickness, malaria, commonly vaccinated-against diseases, etc.  These are things you can discuss with your travel doctor before you come.  Since April 2012, our family has had few health concerns since being here!

Is there a church I can visit?

There are many churches in Kinshasa, of every variety.  There is an English service at a protestant, international church just down the road from St. Anne’s that many missionaries and ex-pats attend where you might feel most “at home.”  Feel free to contact me if you’d like a ride to the church and I can contact some missionaries there who do this on occasion to see if they’re available.

Can my husband wear shorts?

Yep!  No Congolese men wear shorts, except the occasional youth, so he might feel less conspicuous in public in pants, but around the hotel and walking in the neighborhood would be just fine.  Even in public, he would commit no obvious offense.

What about those bugs in wet clothes?

If you’ve done your research, you’ve heard of these little bugs that can get into wet clothes and hatch their eggs under your skin once you wear the clothes.  This is true.  It is a real thing.  Fortunately, if you dry your clothes inside, you run little to no risk of encountering this.  Also, if you iron or run your things through a dryer, then you’ve killed anything left on your clothes.

However, if you really want to know, the mango fly does lay its eggs on wet clothing (or in dirt, so wear your flip flops!) and once against your warm skin, the eggs hatch and burrow under it to grow.  The itchy, red bump is much like a mosquito bite, but looks like there is something in there.  Don’t panic!  If let go on its own, it would grow for about a week, hatch, emerge and go away, leaving you with a small hole (and a little pain).  I know, disgusting, isn’t it?  Well, if you’d like to avoid that, you can pop it like a pimple and the little worm will come out.  (Have a friend do it if you can’t stand the thought!)  Otherwise, use some Vaseline and suffocate it, once its little head pops through, then pull it out.  I’m not sure which would be more tolerable, but if it helps, our family has each had one or two and we’ve survived the horror!  You can read about our first experience here.

I want to bring gifts to my child’s orphanage – where can I have them shipped?

Our mission agency has decided that the lack of mail system, the corruption, and the hassle of figuring out the logistics of shipping here is too much for whatever we might get shipped, so we have no way to get packages ourselves (except through generous adopting families like yourselves!).  So, I cannot recommend a shipping method here.  You are welcome to ask around to your various connections here in country and someone might have a better method, but sadly, I cannot help you there.

What do I need to know about connectivity – phone, internet, power cords?

Phone: Phones here are cheap and minutes are even cheaper.  Even a call to a US number is reasonably affordable.  Check with adopting moms who travel just before you, or with your agency’s rep, to see if you can just borrow or buy one of theirs once they’re through.  Buying credits is the easiest thing to do in Kinshasa – your hotel or representative can help you if you don’t see some immediately available from a stand.

Smart phones: Plans are available, and sometimes you can access the internet through your minute credits.  Email me for specifics and I’ll try to point you in the right direction!

Computers, tablets, wi-fi devices, etc: Your hotel will probably have internet, but be prepared for things to move quite a bit slower.  Streaming or downloading is a sanctifying (frustrating) experience, so bring movies on DVD or a hard drive, rather than plan to download or stream.  Skype does work, but it, too, can be too slow for video, and often voice even can quit.  FaceTime for video calls (available on Apple devices) or GoogleTalk for voice calls has been known to be faster, but be prepared to learn patience!

Cords: Remember to check all of your devices to be sure they can handle 220v power (it will say somewhere on it or the power cord) so you don’t cause them to explode!  Then, grab a two-pronged converter and you’re good to go.  If they only accept 110v, you’ll need an inverter to help you.  This is where I get lost, so good luck to you, but if you email me questions, I will hand them to my husband and he’ll be able to answer them for you!

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What vaccinations did you have to get?

Yellow fever is REQUIRED for entry into this country, along with the yellow card that says you have it.  Other than that, your travel doctor will probably recommend a few others such as typhoid, meningococcal, pneumococcal, hepatitis A & B, polio, and anything else you may have missed during routine vaccinations.  I am not a medical professional and this is not “real” advice, but it is a question I’ve been asked previously.  Also, for being here a short time, I recommend anti-malarials (prophylaxis) and perhaps some antibiotics to bring with you just in case you develop a case of traveler’s sickness.

Is there a doctor, nurse, or other Western medical service there?

Check with your agency first to see what they recommend, but most missionaries I know have found the medical facilities to be adequate for what you might need.  Obviously, each need is different, so let me know and I’ll see what I can find for you!

What is with the money here?

US dollars are accepted here, but most merchants do not accept $1’s (the practice to accept $1’s is growing, however) and any little rips or tears in any bills, no matter how insignificant they seem to you, will probably be rejected.  Also, they don’t like bills dated prior to 2006.  Anything under $5 should be paid for in francs, something that is easy to get here.  I also recommend bringing smaller notes (many $10 and $5).  There are ATMs here and you’ll usually only pay a small fee and perhaps an international fee.  There is one near St. Anne’s at the grocery store (Hasson & Frerr’s), but it occasionally doesn’t work.

How much money should I bring for souvenirs?

Only the amount you want to spend!  I cannot recommend an amount, necessarily, but I do recommend sticking with smaller bills and bringing at least 5000fc (about $5) to help cover the “change” when the cost is between 5’s.

A bolt of fabric (6 yards) is around $15-$20, a local necklace is around $10, a Congolese doll is $20, and local art can be picked up for around $20 a piece – though all of the prices are subject to change at a moment’s notice, depending on your bargaining skills!

If you think of any other questions, feel free to email me at mlind@maf.org!

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