Search Results for “kinshasa”

October 20, 2019

Kinshasa Orientation

For the next two weeks it was a mixture of following up with business opportunities (more Othy, but sometimes both of us), and looking for an apartment. Some days I worked from our temporary home or from a cafe in town (a juice bar and crepe place called Surprise Tropicale) while Othy went on apartment searches or to meetings, and other days we both worked from home. After about two weeks we finally found a place that we thought would be a good fit. Although the construction was slightly shoddy, it was close to town, a good price, and a bit quieter since it was off the main road. Our broker helped us arrange a meeting with the landlord and we wrote up an agreement. In Congo it is common to pay three months of deposit, but to get an even better price we agreed to pay six months. We paid half with the agreement we would pay the other half when the place was finished in about a weeks time. We were thankful and relieved that we would soon get to move into our own home!

Two days later we visited the apartment and met up with the building manager so that I could see the place in person and so that we could give instructions to make sure the finishes were done well. In speaking to the building manager we learned that the person our broker set us up with was not the landlord and that we had been scammed! When we shared our situation with a few of our Kinois friends, they said “Bienvenue à Kinshasa”, as if this was our orientation or “baptême”. I was pretty sad about it as it would mean that it would take us even longer to be settled. Othy was determined to try to get some justice and our money back, and so he went to the police and continued communicating with the broker pretending that we were unaware of their scam so that we could arrange another meeting with them and catch them. About a week later we caught a guy who was with the broker when she showed Othy the place, but we lost a chance to catch the landlord and her assistant because the police decided not to go to the meeting Othy had arranged with them. We were able to get $400 back from the parents of the one guy they caught in exchange for letting him go free. Apparently in Congo, you spend 48 hours at the police station, and once you are sent to prison than it is very difficult to get out again. The parents signed an agreement to give us the remaining amount after one month, but they didn’t honour it. And even though the police could probably track the whole network down using their ID-registered phone numbers, they haven’t done anything.

We have learned our lesson that in Kinshasa nobody can be trusted and there are a lot of people who will go to sad lengths to make a buck. We also learned that we are mostly on our own and the police aren’t all that helpful and many people escape justice. Contracts don’t necessarily stand up because there is no way to enforce them. I think that for there to be real positive change in this country, the public institutions need to be overhauled so that they function properly. I find it fascinating that all of the institutions exist and many people are employed, but beyond paper-work, very little gets accomplished. What’s crazy is that I’m sure many people would jump at the chance to actually be productive instead of moving through the bureaucratic motions. So I challenge the current or next president with this task! I think it would be like pulling off a bandaid and would cause some upheaval, but money would be much better spent and the public would recognize the leader that made a change that improved their wellbeing.

So finally after a month and a half of being in Kinshasa, we have found a place! It was definitely a test of patience. We are thankful for the generosity of our friend who hosted us all that time. So there may be broken institutions that cast a negative light, but Congolese hospitality is some of the best! More to come about our new apartment! And hopefully some photos too!

October 8, 2019

Move to Kinshasa

Last month Othy and I finally made the big move to Kinshasa. This had been something that had been in our sights for a while but finally the timing was right once Othy was finished teaching his intensive courses at UCBC and I had returned from the conference in Nairobi and Othy from the forum in Nigeria. The timing still felt bad because moving to another country is an expensive endeavour, and Kinshasa is an expensive city. But despite not feeling financially ready, we had to make the leap because as long as we stayed in Kampala, it would only be me supporting the two of us, whereas in Kinshasa Othy would quickly find opportunities to do business.

Even though our apartment in Kampala was pre-furnished, we had still managed to accumulate a good amount of stuff. We sent some of it to Butembo when we sold our car  to friends of ours who live in Beni. We only had two larger suitcases and so Othy and I went to Game at Lugogo Mall and bought two storage bins. Unfortunately as we were packing we discovered that this still was not enough. We decided to fill the box that I had brought the keyboard in from Canada because Othy was planning to bring the keyboard as a carry-on (I didn’t think he would succeed in this). What was supposed to be an oversized box but still a manageable weight, became a very heavy, oversized box! We were hoping that they would still take it and just charge us an overweight fee.

In the early afternoon of September 4th we headed to the airport with a special hire. A friend of ours stopped by and picked up the last valuables that we could not take with us like clothes hangers, cleaning supplies, and remaining food items. We got to the airport in good time but it was very busy. The Entebbe airport is under construction and so the parking lot was almost a gridlock. Our taxi driver didn’t want to bring us all the way to the drop off, but we refused to get out early because there would be no way to move our luggage without carts. Once at the drop off we had to push our carts up the large ramp to the second level because we had too many to carry up the stairs. Then after putting all of our stuff through the entrance metal detector, we waited in the long check-in line for Ethiopian Airlines.

Eventually we got to skip to the front of the line because there were two flights waiting to check-in and ours was the earlier one. Ethiopian lets each person take a combination of 23kg and 36kg, and we were both over and had to pay $8 for each extra kilogram which came to $150 dollars. As for our big atrocious box, they were not willing to take it at all. I waited near the check-in as Othy sent the big box back to a friend’s place by taxi, and withdraw cash and then exchanged it to pay the overweight fee for the other luggage (we were shocked that they didn’t take cards or Ugandan shillings). By the time our luggage was checked in, the plane was boarding and they were calling our names on the intercom! When we arrived at the plane, Othy had trouble bringing his keyboard on board (as I predicted!). In the end they made him check it but promised they would put it in a safe place.

It was a relief to finally sit down in our seats. I thanked God that somehow my energy had kept up. The day before I had had a mean headache and I was glad it had not returned. I was also happy to discover they were serving dinner even though it was a short flight to Addis Ababa. Both of our flights and our layover went very smoothly, and we arrived in good time in Kinshasa in the early morning. All of our luggage arrived, though one of our storage bins was cracked and broken and it was miraculous that it appeared nothing had fallen out. Othy’s friend Jon and another friend were there to pick us up. It was wonderful to receive such a warm welcome! They brought us to our friend Dadis’ place where we would stay for two weeks while he was away in Goma. This would give us the time we needed to find our own apartment.

The Kinshasa adventure begins!

 

September 4, 2018

Journey to Kinshasa

Othy and my journey to Kinshasa was an adventure from the very start. Our flight was with Kenya Airways with a stopover in Nairobi. Upon arriving in Nairobi we learned that our connecting flight had been delayed 12 hours for no legitimate reason and instead of the flight departing at noon it would depart at midnight! I couldn’t help but chuckle at the large crowd of frustrated and animated Congolese people surrounding the Kenya airways help desk. They were frustrated for good reason because their flight was probably selected as the one to cancel because the airline would not be obliged to put the passengers on other flights because there were no other flights going to Kinshasa. Othy and I didn’t feel like hanging around the airport for that long and so we inquired about a hotel room. First we had to wait for a form to fill out, and then we had to go into the line for getting the Visa, but no wait… we had to go back and get that form signed, but no wait… the person who was supposed to sign it had disappeared somewhere. He finally showed up again and signed our forms, we waited in line again for the visa, we waited in the baggage claim as they sorted out the hotel details, and then waited again for a bus that would bring us there. What a process! They took us to a hotel called the Tamarind Tree. Our rooms were not ready and so they showed us to the restaurant where we partook of a buffet lunch. The hotel had good food and a nice atmosphere. Finally we were able to check into our rooms. It was a nicely designed suite and so I enjoyed taking a nap, taking a shower, drinking tea, and watching a TV episode to pass the time. We had dinner at the hotel and then at 8pm we caught the shuttle bus back to the airport. We arrived in Kinshasa at 3am only to discover that almost everyone’s bags did not arrive, even though they had twelve hours to make sure they got to the right place! Othy’s friend was there to pick us up and bring us to his place where we would be staying. Few! What a journey!

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First time flying together!

I could not see much of Kinshasa by night and so the next day I got to wake up and discover my surroundings. In the late morning we drove together into the city center. Othy’s friend lives in a neighbourhood called Kingabwa which is a nice spot because it is away from the city center and yet not too far. The first thing to take note of is the traffic. Most of the cars on the road are taxi cars and vans that are painted bright yellow. They stop for people everywhere and so are often the cause of traffic jams. I also learned that they are called “Esprit du Mort” or “Spirit of Death”, likely because of how old and broken down they are, how crazy they drive, and how full many people pack into them. There are also some newer larger buses that were introduced later and were given the name “Esprit de Vie”, “Spirit of Life”. The second thing to take note of is that there is garbage everywhere. It is clear that there is no city infrastructure in place to handle all of the plastic bags, bottles, and steel cans that have been introduced by mostly imported products. The downtown has many interesting buildings that look well designed, though many of them look ruddy from lack of maintenance. Some of the design elements that are common are horizontal and vertical shading, using balconies as a way to offer play and variance in the facade, curves that follow street curves or corners, and interesting uses of concrete which seems to be the most common building material.

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On Monday we went to the office of Othy’s colleague where we did work for most of the day. We also walked to the Kenya Airways office to submit letters of complaint and ask about how to locate our bags (we didn’t want to have to go to the airport until we had confirmation that they were there). The following day we went to the South African visa application center and then to the airport to get our bags. The journey there revealed just how crazy the traffic is in this city! The road to the airport is four lanes wide on each side. Traffic jams are mostly caused by the taxis who stop anywhere, often in clusters, or attempt to do U-turns to go back the other way. Pedestrians criss cross the eight lanes of traffic; large pedestrian bridges were constructed about a year ago, but remain unused. Young men often step up on the back bumpers of the taxis for a ride or sit/surf on top of them. The stretch of road between the downtown and the N’djili airport is the main artery for the part of the city where more than three quarters of the population lives, primarily urban poor who inhabit a vast area of precarious dwellings. It took about an hour to get to the airport. Apparently before the road was widened it could take up to six hours! The airport was also chaotic but somehow our bags were there after arriving on the previous day’s flight! I was so thankful and happy to be able to finally change my clothes! On Wednesday Othy’s mentor offered to take us around to see a few things in the city. He took us to a housing development that seemed to be struggling. The houses were okay but I didn’t think they were worth the money that they were asking. It seemed like it would have been better if they had found a way to target a lower income bracket with denser, more affordable units. After that we visited several buildings in the downtown including a mall. I was feeling light-headed because it was 3pm and I hadn’t eaten lunch, and so we sat down on a terrace in a large atrium and had pieces of cake and Maltinas. From there we went to the main market. It was a maze of stalls and tables selling anything and everything. The place was bustling and I had to concentrate on not losing Othy’s mentor who was leading us. A large part of the market was beneath umbrella-type concrete canopies but also extended beyond them under colourful tarps and umbrellas. At one point there was a vehicle playing Congolese music and everyone around us knew the song and were singing along!


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The following days fell into a rhythm of work some days at the office and other days at the house. I was glad to be able to take time to focus on E4C and IRI work after being distracted during the last week in Beni and then being on the road. For lunch when at the office we had takeout a few times, and walked to two nearby fast-food restaurants. At the house I reheated leftovers a few times. In Kinshasa food is almost the same price as in Toronto. Most things are imported and so the food is not fresh like in North Kivu. Othy’s friend’s girlfriend generously cooked for us many times, and often we would come home at 6 or 7pm and there would be a meal waiting on the table. Near the end of our second week there, Othy’s mentor took us on another small trip, this time to visit a garbage dump that had failed, and a logging port. The “Centre d’Enfouissement Techniques des Dechets” or “Technical Centre of Landfill Waste” is a project that the EU had invested in, but after a time operations stopped and the equipment was pillaged and is now just sitting there and rusting. It was sad to see. This is one example of many large projects in Congo with foreign investment that have failed. The logging port was another site to see. The logs were gigantic and sitting in large piles. The port is on the Congo river and so we walked down to see the water. The trees are brought here on long metal boats and transferred to shore with pulleys. It made me sad to think that these trees are likely coming from unregulated or illegal forestry. I couldn’t help but think of an article I had read recently from Global Witness called Total Systems Failure about how the government is looking the other way while companies, many of them international, are logging illegally and committing social and environmental abuses.

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I discovered during this time in Kinshasa that this city is where all of the challenges that the country faces can be seen in high definition. It also seems that many people are either powerless to make change or have given up in trying. One Congolese person said to me that the hearts of the Kinois (Congolese in Kinshasa) have been replaced with a mechanical survival mechanism that is pumping blood but has no feeling. I was definitely overwhelmed by everything that I saw. We got on the topic when Othy and I were eating lunch with a friend of ours from Beni who was also in Kinshasa for a short time. How can you not be paralyzed by the overwhelming weight of problems and need? The answer is to start small, do the small things that you can, and over time it will grow and maybe even inspire others. I am not sure yet what my contribution will be if we end up settling here in the long term, but a lot of ideas were beginning to brew in my mind about how to turn waste into construction materials, how to build more with the sand that is the main type of soil here, and what kind of funding/construction mechanisms could be used for upgrading precarious dwellings. Despite all of the many challenges I have presented here, one redeeming aspect of the city is how friendly and welcoming the people are. I felt well received by all of Othy’s friends and colleagues. Another positive aspect about Kinshasa is that it is close to some beautiful natural places. In the next post I will write about two such places that we visited on the two Sundays during my stay. I think that I saw a good amount for only a two week visit!

September 21, 2019

Kampala Reunions/Goodbyes

We would soon be moving away from Kampala, but before leaving we had a few reunions with friends. I’m not going to write much, but here are some photos from the various gatherings that we had.

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We had a wonderful reunion with the Vitslawmbe’s! Lauren and Ben were passing through on their way to Goma, and Matt and Jess were staying in Kampala for a short time before moving to Burundi. It is sad that we have all gone our separate ways, but we decided we should try for another reunion in Kinshasa in August 2020!

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To conclude my Swahili class I hosted my teacher and classmates for a pizza night. The idea started when, during class, our teacher asked us what we prepared for dinner on the weekend. I responded with pizza, and teacher said that I should make pizza and bring it to class. I said that instead I should make it at home and invite them over at some point. So for my last class, everyone came to our place for pizza, and Othy got to meet everyone.

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Two days before we flew out, we met up with our friend Patrick. His wife Linette couldn’t make it, but she was with us in spirit! We are thankful that we got to meet this wonderful couple at KIC church.

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The evening before moving we visited our friend Joella and her mother who was visiting.

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Our friend Joel visited the day we flew out to help us gather the few valuables that we could not take with us. He is the first of Othy’s friends that I met in Kampala. He helped drive my family around when they came for our wedding. So it was cool that he was the last friend we got to say farewell to.

Goodbye Kampala! I will miss the ease of getting around by boda (motorcycle taxi), swahili class, the nice apartment that we found with the open concept kitchen, trees and the big balcony, and the abundance of fresh and affordable produce! I’m sure this will be far from the last time we find ourselves passing through this city.

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August 18, 2019

Plastic Nave

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A few months back I submitted an entry to an architectural competition hosted by Young Architecture Competitions (YAC) called Plastic Monument. It is a proposal for a monument meant to embody the problems that plastic waste is having on our oceans and planet. The project brief as well as the selected winners can be found on the YAC website.

I thought I had a chance at winning, but my entry was not selected. I think once again I was probably too ambitious. The winners were either meshes filled with plastic waste to make a desired shape, or else a representation of how plastic is filling our oceans or how many plastic bottles are produced each minute. My project was a nave constructed using a plastic bottle space frame detail that I developed. The bottles are easy to assemble and disassemble making it easy to involve the community and recycle the bottles afterwards. The nave is a an open space of awe and light and side aisles host a photography exhibition about plastic and our planet. The space frame structure is paired with a scaffold that holds a clear modular container that is suspended above the nave and collects the plastic waste collected during the monument’s tour. The container is designed to be lowered and new wall extension pieces added so that it can hold more over time. It can even fill up so much that the whole nave is full and the visitors can only walk through the side aisles.

I think that my proposal is more impactful than others as it would involve the community in the collection of bottles and construction of the nave, impacting their perspectives and using local plastic that may otherwise end up in a landfill. Secondly, a monument that changes physically and takes away the light and beauty of the original construction has more meaning to visitors than a metaphorical sculpture. And finally, the space frame detail, if developed further, could become a construction detail used to make improvements to precarious housing, for temporary constructions like pavilions during festivals, or for refugee housing, a construction that has practical uses in many parts of the world where there is no infrastructure for plastic waste. Even though this competition has ended, I am super excited to develop this prototype further on my own. In a few months Othy and I will be moving to Kinshasa where I hope to collect more used bottles and build a larger prototype.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this competition proposal and the prototype. Feel free to leave comments below! Check out lifesectionstudio.com for more of my design work.

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Prototype

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Process:

March 30, 2019

Challenges and Joys This New Year

It is hard to believe that it is already mid March. Life has started to take on a familiar rhythm which I am grateful for. In January we moved to a new apartment in the neighbourhood of Kiwaatule in Kampala and it has become home and is serving us well. Othy and I are both working from home. I am working part-time remotely for the same architecture firm I worked for in Toronto along with some of my own projects. Othy has been developing an application that he has long been wanting to push forward. So although we are very tight financially and living month by month, we are thankful that we always seem to have enough and that this is the ideal time for Othy to pursue this work. We are still experiencing the odd feeling of being displaced but are finding that God has us in this place for a reason.

We are still closely following news from Congo. The elections were very controversial. The month of December gave hope to many Congolese as the presidential candidates ran their campaigns. The opposition leader Martin Fayulu had considerable popularity across the country and particularly in the East while Joseph Kabila’s choice for successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadari  was clearly unpopular. But then one week before the elections were meant to take place on December 24th, there was a fire in one of the warehouses in Kinshasa where voting machines were said to be kept. There were many questions and little evidence surrounding the event, but the government used it as a reason to postpone the elections by one week. Then a few days later the government announced that elections would be postponed in the regions experiencing Ebola and insecurity which included Beni, Butembo, and a territory in the west called Yumbi. The result would be over a million votes that would not be included. It was very suspicious that the postponement in those regions happened after the election postponement. It shocked me how the democratic process was blatantly removed from these elections, but somehow kept the international community satisfied enough not to interfere. It seemed like a very strategic move for Kabila.

News from BBC about postponement of elections

December 30th was election day. There were some reports of violence and tampering, but overall the day went fairly smoothly considering the challenges. Although they were inherently told that they could not participate in their rights as citizens of their country, the people of Beni decided to host their own paper-ballot elections to show that there was no reason to postpone in their region. This made me very proud! To prevent the spread of ebola they set up handwash stations and took voters temperatures. I think that the process of making a vote, whether or not it would be heard or counted, gave people a feeling of closure.  People were still hopeful that Fayulu could still manage a victory. The announcement of the election results was supposed to be on January 5th but got pushed back to January 10th which was another suspicious postponement.

It came as a shock when opponent leader Felix Tshisekedi was proclaimed the winner. Most thought that Martin Fayulu would be the clear winner. Fayulu claimed that the elections had been rigged and that he believed that Tshisekedi had made a secret power-sharing deal with Kabila. The Catholic Church had sent 40,000 witnesses to polling stations across the country and said that their data did not align but showed another candidate as the clear winner (not specifying who). Fayulu appealed to the supreme court against the result asking for a manual recount, but the court decided to uphold the results despite the controversy. The Financial Times obtained a percentage of leaked data and ascertained that Fayulu was the clear winner. Most people in the east believe Fayulu was the real winner of the elections and do not recognize Tshisekedi as president. They think that when Kabila realized that his successor was unpopular, he decided to find a plan B to retain power. I don’t think Tshisekedi will ever be able to visit the cities of Beni or Butembo without mass riots breaking out unless he makes some significant moves to improve security in that region.

News from AP News about mock vote in Beni

News from The Guardian about the delay in the announcement of election results

News from CNN about surprise win of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi

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There was another shock this month when Kabila’s party won 2/3rds of the seats in the senate, meaning that Tshisekedi will be unable to act independently and that Kabila will still retain a large amount of power within the government. Several candidates reportedly withdrew from the running because of demands for large bribes. This entire election hints of corruption and sets a bad precedent for how presidents in Africa have succeeded to fake the democratic process. The Congolese and international community wanted Kabila out, but he is still there, a puppeteer manipulating government from behind the scenes. Sadly I wonder if much progress is going to be made in the next five years. I try to remember that with God anything is possible. He has the power to change hearts.

News from Africa News about Senate Elections

Few! Enough about politics! Onto another difficult topic… Ebola! The fight to contain Ebola in eastern Congo continues since the epidemic was first announced last August. The epicenter has now shifted from Beni to Butembo and numbers are still increasing by a small amount every day. The virus was almost contained in Beni and no new cases were reported for 21 days, but numbers have increased in Butembo. There has been significant community resistance to containment efforts because of a mistrust of health officials. Some people who have contracted the virus and start showing symptoms are not bringing themselves in for testing and treatment. Oftentimes cases are being discovered after a death in the community and when many people have already been in contact with that person while they were contagious. I try to remind myself how much progress has been made and how much worse things would be if not for the ongoing response efforts. There are many stories of hope in the midst of the many challenges. More effort needs to be made in how health workers engage with communities so that trust can be established.

News from Reuters about involvement of Ebola survivors in patient care

The New Humanitarian: Story from a doctor on the ground about establishing trust

News from MPR News about infection control in health clinics

Despite all of these heavy thoughts hanging over our heads as we follow the news of what is affecting our communities in Beni and Butembo, life goes on and we find joy in the day to day. I thank God daily for Othy and for our second temporary home. I am thankful for time with friends and for everyone who has set foot in our home. A month or so ago our good friend Élisée was baptised and we took time to celebrate this new direction for his life. We hosted an alumni of UCBC who is starting to help Othy with his development work. We hosted another alumni who was in Kampala to take the TOEFL exam. Three men from Egypt and Saudi Arabia moved into the apartment next door and we quickly became friends. They were very hospitable and hosted us for dinner and introduced us to Arabian coffee and “carcade” which is hybiscus tea. We enjoyed learning about their cultures and now have places to visit if we ever travel to those countries. We have been going to a new church in the area called Mavuno. This past month we heard a good and challenging sermon series on prayer. It challenged me not to give up praying for the insecurity and the ebola even when I feel discouraged. God listens to us and answers prayer, but we need to trust His timing and purposes that are different than our own.

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth”. – Job 19:25

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Like Christ reunion!

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Élisée’s baptism

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Our neighbours Atallah and Ayman

December 4, 2018

Around Bukavu

While most of our friends left Bukavu the day after the wedding, Othy and I decided to take one more day to explore the city since neither of us had been there before. Mark and Karen surprised us with a delicious Sunday morning pancake breakfast, complete with locally grown strawberries and close to real tasting maple syrup that they make with maple extract (this is a Canadian saying this). While we enjoyed breakfast they gave us some tips on places to visit. Othy asked me what I wanted to visit first, and I chose ITFM (Institut Technique Fundi Maendeleo) because we weren’t sure what the weather was going to be like and the school offers one of the best views of Bukavu. We hired motos and began the winding journey up the hill. At a certain point the paved road ended and the dirt road was extremely muddy. My driver in particular was having trouble getting through it (Othy told me later it was because he was short) and I wondered if we would fall. Thankfully we did not, though the drivers wanted to charge us more because of it! The motos in Bukavu actually put tarps on the back of their bikes to prevent mud from flinging up and hitting their passengers. We walked through the ITFM campus and were shown around by the guy we met at the gate. Then we exited by the gate that faced the edge of the hill, and found the view that we had heard about. It was beautiful! Bukavu has such a unique landscape with the changes in elevation, the lake with islands in the distance, and several peninsulas, one of them taking the iconic shape of a boot. But with the change in elevation and rains are dangers of erosion and mudslides. Just across the road from the campus, the earth was a large eroded area that in only a few more years might actually reach the edge of the campus and the buildings there! Kids were playing there and standing on the edge of it and even climbing up it!

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The same moto drivers waited for us and we asked them to take us to the boot that I described above. On the way down the hill we passed houses that were built rather precariously on the hillside. We passed by the main roundabout Place de l’Independence. We also passed another roundabout with one of the traffic lights invented by Congolese female engineer Thérèse Izay and manufactured by Women’s Technology, although this one is not in the shape of a humanoid like the one I saw in Kinshasa and Goma. Once at the boot the drivers stopped at a parcel with a large tent. We asked the person at the gate if we could see the place, and upon entering we discovered it was an event space. They were in the middle of preparing for an event, and Othy ran into an old acquaintance! The tent faces the water and offers a beautiful view back to the city.

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Our third destination of the morning was to visit a hotel called Orchids that is supposed to be another beautiful spot in Bukavu. We first went to the restaurant and took tea, and then went for a walk to explore the gardens. It was an absolutely stunning combination of gardens, architecture, and another amazing view of the lake and Bukavu. The path meandered its way down to the water and there was something beautiful to see around every corner. The gardens were well landscaped and included many different species of orchid. I loved the simplicity of the clean white-walled buildings with rich wood windows and doors. There were a few larger buildings and then some smaller private cottages. Finally we reached the water where there was a swimming area and sitting area. I noticed that this was the place that Jess and Matt had gone to take their wedding photos because of one photo that they had posted standing on a pier by the lake.

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This time we decided to walk back to the apartment since it was only a few kilometers away. We rested for a short time and then went out again, this time to visit another school called ISP Bukavu (Institut Supérieur Pédagogique). The university has been around for a long time and is where some of the leadership at UCBC attended. Upon approaching the gate we discovered that we couldn’t go and see the campus for the sole reason that I was wearing pants! From the gate we could get a glimpse of the building blocks which have an interesting form. We walked for a bit from there, thinking that we might find a place to get some lunch, when Blaise called and we arranged to meet him at a restaurant called Le Gourmet. He didn’t make it in the end, but a friend of Othy’s called Beni joined us and we had a nice time hanging out. It was coming towards late afternoon and we had talked about the idea of going to Mark and Karen’s church called Le Phare (the Lighthouse) that starts at 4:30. Surprisingly Beni also attends this church and offered to take us there since it was only a short walk away. At this point it was only raining lightly and so we went for it. The service was on the top floor of a newly constructed building and so had a very raw atmosphere. I felt refreshed and challenged by the worship and the message.

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After the service I had made arrangements for us to visit Dachiku, a friend from UCBC and sister to another friend Butoto (we had seen him last in Kinshasa and now he is in Europe). Beni offered to come with us since it was dark and the road to Dachiku’s place is very muddy. Dachiku came and met us at the Eglise Ararati and from there walked to her house. We had to use the flashlights on our phones because the power was off across the city. What a strange feeling to be in such a big city and yet so dark. We went down some narrow steps that opened to what in the the daytime would be a view over the city. Their house was built into the side of the hill. It was so good to see Dachiku again as I was just getting to know her better during my time in Beni before the Ebola outbreak began. I think their family was also happy to meet members from the UCBC community where two of their siblings/children had gone to study. Dachiku and her siblings offered us some whole milk and bread (the milk was like yogurt). As we chatted, more of their family arrived until her parents and all of her siblings were there to greet us (they have a big family)! Othy sent Bututo a picture on Whatsapp and he was so pleasantly surprised! It was getting later and so we soon had to go. The family generously arranged for a driver to take us back since transit at night in Bukavu is difficult. What a full and interesting day it had been!

November 24, 2018

Mugote Ferry

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And we were off! We quickly started exploring the boat and found an observation area at the front of the first class lounge and then some stairs that led to a platform on top of that where the captain’s cabin is located. The boat was spewing out some pretty nasty black smoke that clouded the view from behind. From the lake the volcano had an even larger presence and steam could be seen coming off of it! The view of the surrounding landscape was stunning. We stayed inside for the first while and had some tea, and when my tracker showed that we were approaching the islands, we went out again. The view of the islands was particularly breathtaking. From that point on we spent most of our time out on the deck taking in everything.

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I loved the layers of the foothills and mountains that follow the lake.

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I would like to blow this up into a big artwork! I love that the water and sky almost merges and the delicate texture of the water and clouds.

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When we were about halfway through our journey we decided to explore the highest deck since there were no signs preventing us from going up there. We decided to go and ask if we could see the cockpit and ended up having a nice conversation with the captain. He had been piloting boats for 29 years. He pointed out Idjwi to us which is 70km long and the second largest inland island in Africa. We also passed a tiny well-groomed island that he explained belongs to a wealthy man from Goma. It made me think of Ontario cottage country! We also passed a very small shallow island that had nothing but goats there. The captain explained that people bring them there to graze. No need for ropes or fences there! I enjoyed using my zoom lens to pick out interesting buildings and boats near the shore. One of the sub-captains pulled out chairs for us and so we had a nice private shaded spot to sit and enjoy the rest of the journey.

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I would love to make this into a large artwork too. I love how geometrical it is.

We had good weather for most of the journey but the sky started getting dark as we approached Bukavu. We were excited to see the city from a distance but it was shrouded in cloud for quite a while. Eventually a pretty amazing view opened up as we got closer, and thankfully it was only raining lightly. It was a much more dynamic city to see from the lake than Goma because the city is built on the side of foothills. The boat pulled into the dock and we waited for most people to disembark before we followed. Matt’s brother Blaise was there to pick us up. It was so good to see him! I was excited and ready to experience my sixth Congolese city!

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October 13, 2018

Nomad 2.0 – Lubowa and Konge

The next part of my nomadic journey was my stay in Lubowa at the apartment of an EMI couple who was away in the US on home leave. I was very thankful to have some certainty of where I would be for the next three weeks, to have some time alone, and have an opportunity to cook for myself again. Another blessing is that the apartment was close to where Larry and another couple live and so several days a week I would carpool with them to the EMI office to have a different space to do some work. The first week I went almost every day and in the proceeding weeks went less and less as I had more outings that I needed to do for wedding preparations and calls to take for E4C. A few days into my time in the new apartment, Othy and I came to the difficult decision to move the location of the wedding from Butembo to Kampala. This meant that there would be a lot of work ahead in making/changing travel and accommodation arrangements for family members, and planning the wedding in a new place with few people around to help. During those same days I injured my back while walking up some stairs. It was probably caused by a combination of sleeping for the last month on mattresses my back didn’t like, the lack of usual exercise, and increased stress. Healing probably took longer than it should have because I was often having to take matatus and bodas to get around town which are not so gentle on the body! My first big outing was the following Saturday to search for a wedding venue. I am planning to write about it in my next post because I saw some beautiful spots around the city! Another outing was to go and buy fabric for my wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses which I planned to get made.

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Apartment in Lubowa
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Wedding fabrics matching the fabric we found in Kinshasa on the left

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A view from when I walked up to the top of the hill in Lubowa to see the sunset. A Ugandan family decided to come out and watch me watch the sunset.

After the three weeks were over I made arrangements to move to the house of Paul and Sandra in Konge which is a neighbourhood closer to town. They are a Ugandan couple who hosted me through Couchsurfing two years earlier and this time were willing to host me like an Airbnb. They have two daughters who have grown so much since I last saw them! I stayed with them for two and a half weeks. I was glad to be closer to town because by that point I had many more errands to do such as go to a chiropractor, visit the seamstress, find wedding shoes, visit the Congolese embassy, you name it! Along with these tasks I was working to wrap up my work for E4C. I was thankful that Sandra always made enough food for me to be able to join them for dinner in the evenings. Othy arrived from Beni and was around for a few days, then went to a conference in South Africa for a week, and then came back a few days before both our families would arrive one week before the big day! Few! What a month!

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Street in Konge near where Paul and Sandra live

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Food tasting! A mix of Ugandan and Congolese fare.

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Table setting demo

September 8, 2018

Nomad in Uganda 2.0 – Kajjansi

After two weeks in Kinshasa Othy and I returned to Uganda. We parted ways immediately after arriving because I had plans to visit EMI before joining the other CI international staff, and Othy had plans to return to Beni to take up his work responsibilities. It is frustrating that he could go back and I couldn’t, that I somehow got released from a level of my work obligations (I am doing what I can remotely), but he is not. This time in Uganda feels like a bit of ironic deja vu despite the fact that it is a completely different experience this time around. I was a nomad in Uganda for two months in 2014 when Othy and I were just getting to know each other, and now here we are, less than two months away from getting married, and once again I am a nomad in Uganda. I am thankful for this country. It is a place I have gotten quite comfortable and familiar with from my travels through and extended visits over the years. I have been to Uganda every two years since my internship with EMI in 2012. This time I feel more like a “nomad” rather than in a group of “nomads” because this time I am on my own instead of in a big family of international staff. Because we arrived quite late, I stayed the first night at a hostel called ViaVia that had been recommended by a friend. It is a nice spot. I arrived in the dark but the reception was a warm space and burning lanterns along the path guided me from my dorm to an open air restaurant with a nice atmosphere. I ordered ugali and beans and then caught up on some work before turning in.

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The following morning I took a boda with my biiig bag to Entebbe road, took a matatu (taxi bus) to Kajjansi (I paid for two seats because my bag was so big), and then another moto to the EMI office. Every time I visit EMI there are fewer and fewer people that I know from my internship in 2012, and yet I easily become acquainted with the new people because the office has such an open and welcoming culture. They allowed me to move around and work at the desks of people who were temporarily away from the office for the coming days. I stayed for the next week in Kijjansi at the EMI intern house while I started asking around about a longer term affordable place to stay. The interns are a very fun bunch and I enjoyed getting to know them. We had nice evenings of conversation (often over lemon grass tea), and on the Friday we attempted to make banana bread and then watched a movie. Our original plan was to watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, but then because of my upcoming wedding we got on the topic of cross-cultural relationships and then Benji said he had a movie called “Qu’est-ce on a fait au Bon Dieu?”. It was a cute french comedy about a traditional french couple who’s three daughters all marry men from different cultures. On Saturday we made pancakes and then a few of us went for a nice run/walk to the nearby quarry. On the Sunday I went with the interns to their church called KIC Lubowa (Kampala International Church). The church meets at a place called Mildmay that has a beautiful view of the surrounding area. On the Sunday night, Larry, one of the staff from EMI, picked me up from the intern compound and helped me move into the home of an EMI couple who were away on home leave and willing to let me live in their apartment. Their generosity astounds me and I was glad to know that I could stay in the same place for the next three weeks until they returned!

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The EMI office is such a beautiful place to work. This is the view from one of the offices I worked at when I took the “boss’s” desk for a few days!

 

The EMI intern compound had a pair of adorable baby goats! The photos on the right are from when I went with the interns to KIC at Mildmay.

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