Posts tagged ‘DRC’

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!

 

June 14, 2019

Photos from Othy’s Time Away

Here are some photos from the time Othy was in Butembo and Beni.

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Reunion with CBCA English Service Choir

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Some of Othy’s students working on a practical assignment

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Othy and his interns who are helping him with some programming work

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Catching up with work colleagues

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Saying goodbye to family before making the journey back to Kampala to visit

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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

Financial Times article

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 8, 2018

Holding onto Hope

Dear friends;

What a crazy few months it has been! It is hard to believe that I have been away from Beni since August (now away longer than I was there). Although nothing has gone to plan, we are trusting that God has us in His hands and that He wants to use us where we are. We have so much to be thankful for. God provided affordable places for me to stay prior to the wedding, a wonderful and affordable Airbnb for me and my family in the week before the wedding, and now a place for Othy and I to live until mid-January. We are overwhelmed by people’s generosity, particularly many of the staff of EMI.

It has been a period of such highs and lows. The high points have been the celebration of our marriage, time with family and time experiencing God’s beautiful creation, a relaxing and enjoyable honeymoon to begin married life together, and the celebration of the marriage of our dear friends Matt and Jess. But in all of these activities, there is a grey cloud that has been looming over us. Every day we hear news of new ebola cases that are growing in number around Beni. The cases are not being reported soon enough because initial symptoms look similar to other tropical diseases like Malaria and Typhoid. There is also distrust of the health authorities which is causing communities to be uncooperative by not reporting cases, or not following the prescribed burial practices which can feel very cold and distant.

The distrust is warranted because insecurity is at an all time high in Beni with rebel attacks happening every week, often within the city itself and with little to no protection being offered by the Congolese army or the UN. It seems as though the rebels see an opportunity to create more chaos to make the fight to contain ebola more difficult. Whole neighbourhoods have been emptied out because of fear of attack which only gives more space for rebels to come closer and be undetected. Events have only increased the number of internally displaced people which makes tracking contacts of ebola cases more difficult. Vox recently published an article that outlines many of the challenges in containing the virus. Community groups are demanding that the international community help them to end the insecurity as well as the Ebola. They don’t want to survive ebola only to be attacked while they sleep in their homes. It doesn’t make sense to meet one need and not the other.

Another layer to this situation is that elections are scheduled to happen on December 23rd. So far plans are moving forward for elections to take place, but the Congolese population is on edge because the government has decided to use machines to vote making everyone nervous about the possibility of cheating. There are also three major candidates running instead of two, making the possibility for vote rigging easier. Originally the opposition were planning to come together behind one contender, but last minute one of them changed their minds, which makes people wonder what the real motivation was. Kabila is not running again because he is constitutionally barred from doing so, but has selected what many people are referring to as his pawn, a person who they think he will be able to manipulate to continue pursuing his own interests. So in January much could be the same or could be very different. We pray that God will direct these elections and help establish a leader who knows Him and will pull this country out of the deep sludge of corruption and exploitation by political elites.

God at Work

At times it becomes difficult to continue praying for Beni. God’s word tells us that our prayers have authority, and yet it is difficult to pray when the situations remains unchanged or even worsens. One thing we have to remember is that God still hears our prayers and uses us in these times for his purposes. Othy and I were reminded in talking with the rector of UCBC, that Congo Initiative and the university were started in a time of war. The seed was planted in a time of lamentation when enough was enough. And now the university has had its ten year anniversary and has impacted countless lives. And so we must keep working even through dark times, even though we cry out asking why this is happening again. God did not wait until a time of peace to send his son Jesus into the world. Christ came into a very messy situation to seek out the sick and the lost.

Despite the difficulties, UCBC has started classes and has taken measures to give staff and students a safe working and learning environment. They recently obtained a property in town, City Campus, where they have decided to run classes because the main campus is in an area on the outskirts of town that has experienced insecurity. For Giving Tuesday, CI raised a few thousand dollars to purchase tents to set up at the new campus to be able to accommodate more classes. They also had a special service day where staff and students gathered together to clean up the property. Another part of CI that is very active at this time is the Bethesda Counselling Center who are providing support services for grief and trauma resulting from the ebola and insecurity. Although international staff are currently away from Beni, they are still working from afar on their regular tasks, and also pursuing new partnerships and initiatives. One such initiative is being headed up by our friend Ben Lawson to raise money for lab equipment to support the transition of the faculty to active-learning classrooms. For Christmas this year, please consider contributing to one of the items on the Wish List of UCBC Applied Sciences that will help equip future Congolese leaders!

Prayer requests

Praises:

  • Othy and I are married and family and friends were able to travel safely and celebrate with us
  • We had a relaxing and enjoyable honeymoon and have enjoyed our first month of life together
  • We have a temporary place to call home in Uganda
  • UCBC found a property in the city to use for classes and the ebola and insecurity has not directly affected anyone in the community

Petitions:

  • Pray for peace and healing to come to Beni
  • Pray for ongoing protection of CI-UCBC community as they continue their work and service in the community
  • Pray for smooth and fair elections to happen on December 23rd
  • Pray for discernment for Othy and I as we decide how we can best continue serving CI from a distance and resolve our finances
  • Pray that we continue to grow in the knowledge and grace of God as a couple and discover how to use our gifts and serve together in this new season of life
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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!

December 3, 2018

Bukavu Wedding

Our friend Blaise who came to pick us up at the harbour brought us to the place we would be staying during our time Bukavu. We were being generously hosted by Mark and Karen who are friends of Matt’s family. It was nice not to have to spend money on accommodations for this part of our trip! We dropped off our things and then took a short walk to a nearby guesthouse where several other friends of ours were staying. We saw Adelphine, Lauren, Mary, and Noe, Bethany and the kids. Othy went to get a haircut with Blaise and Regis and then later in the evening we had dinner with Mark and Karen and got to know them better.

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We took the following morning slow because the wedding was not until the afternoon. We then walked back to the guesthouse where we came upon Matt, Benjamin and Regis, members of Like Christ reunited! We worshiped together for a bit and then Regis and Matt started getting ready. Othy and I went back to our place to get ready and then went to the church which was only a short distance away. We met Noe and Bethany and took Lydia to look after her during the service since they were Jess and Matt’s “Perrain” (mentors) and were therefore part of the ceremony. The service was beautiful! Jessica and Matt both looked radiant. Reverend Dr. Kasali gave a thoughtful meditation on marriage that looked at the example of Mary and Joseph and how God called them, and calls us, out of our respective places and cultures, and at times brings a two people together to serve in ministry together. I also enjoyed hearing Matt and Jess’s vows that they had both prepared in English and Swahili. After the service we joined a procession of vehicles around the block and then went home to rest a bit before the reception.

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The reception was in a large hall that was nicely decorated with white, green, and gold, and had tables surrounding a large square open area in front of the stage where the couple and perrain sat. There were strings of white lights over the open space as well. It was a cool way to set up the space since everyone could see the couple well and the MC called in the bridal party in one by one and they had space to walk around and take time to face and greet each side of the room. Matt and Jess then surprised us all with a dance to the song “A Thousand Years” for which it was obvious they had done some practicing! It was so fun to watch them! The next thing on the program was the gift ceremony. Matt and Jess, the perrain, and the parents lined up, and groups and individuals took turns bringing up their gifts and greeting the couple. Othy and I joined the Congo Initiative group that went up together. Gifts took quite a long time because there were so many different groups who wanted to appreciate the couple and the mother of the groom! Unfortunately Mary wasn’t feeling well and so I took Lydia again for a time until the ceremonial part of things was complete. Finally the tables started going up to the buffet line to get dinner. Near the end of the evening the MC called up married couples to dance in a circle. At first I didn’t want to because I was feeling tired, but Othy convinced me and I’m glad he did because it turned out to be fun! Eventually the bride and groom came into the middle of the circle and the rest of the bridal party and as people started filtering out it was a chance to greet Matt and Jess and her family. It was a memorable day!

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The Texans Lawson and Dawson!

 

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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November 24, 2018

Goma Visit

We took a an overnight bus called Trinity Express to get to Goma. It was a smooth ride with the only downside (yet significant) being that they played music for the whole ride. I wanted to survey the bus to see how many people were actually enjoying it. Even with earplugs I could still hear and did not sleep a wink. Both border crossings (Uganda Rwanda and then Rwanda Congo) were smooth and Othy’s brother Fabrice came and picked us up along with his friend Marie. They took us to a guesthouse called Bungwe where we rested until the early evening. Bungwe was affordable but had it’s little quirks. Half of it was a guesthouse and then at the very end of the property there is a 6 storey hotel under construction that doesn’t match the rest of the atmosphere. We were on the first floor of the hotel and the first room we were in had a broken shower drain and was very dark because it faced a retaining wall. We then moved into another room facing the garden that had more light. The rooms were poorly designed but one redeeming factor was cool sheets! It is too bad that a building that is brand new already has so many problems. That is why design is always a good investment! Fabrice picked us up at 4pm and took us to visit Othy’s sister-in-law (also Marie). I got to meet Othy’s newborn nephew Johan who was precious to behold! I suppose that I can start calling him my nephew! From there we went to visit Othy’s friends Marie and Anatol and their family.

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One of the main intersections with Mount Nyiragongo in the distance

The following day we went to the harbour to inquire after ferry tickets to Bukavu. We were planning to take a boat called Emmanuel but found out they don’t make the trip on Fridays and so instead bought first class tickets for the Mugote Ferry for $26 each. We then went back to the guesthouse for a few hours and then left again to visit other family and friends including Vital, an friend of Othy and his family since he was a kid. Vital and his wife gave me a beautiful yellow kitenge fabric that had verses about shining light. How appropriate since the song “Shine Jesus Shine” has been often on my mind as a prayer for Congo. On our final day in Goma we took the morning slow and then revisited Anatole and Marie and then Othy’s sister in law Marie. Later in the evening we met up with Othy’s friend Maurice who took us to dinner. When we were leaving the restaurant I asked if we could try to find a good place to see the glowing crater of the volcano. Maurice took us to a road that heads toward Varunga, but because it was cloudy we couldn’t see anything. Perhaps I will get a view of the crater next time! The following morning we took bodas very early to the harbour. It was crowded and chaotic and so I was glad we had our tickets already! To my surprise, first class was a room on the upper level of the boat full of sofas and arm chairs. We were off!

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A view towards the harbour

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My first impressions of Goma is that it is a city full of walls. It makes sense because Goma has experienced more insecurity than most cities in Congo. Although the city is on the side of beautiful Lake Kivu, there are very few perspectives to the lake because of all the walls surrounding the lakefront properties. The two areas where it is possible to see the lake is at the public beach and the harbour. An ever present landmark in the city is the volcano. If it is not shrouded in cloud, in the day steam can often be seen rising off of it and at night a mysterious red glow. The Nyiragongo volcano last erupted in 2002 and the lava flow went through and destroyed 15% of the city. A lot of that hardened lava has now been incorporated into the architecture, especially the walls. Despite all the walls, the people in Goma have the same Congolese generosity and hospitality, and neighbours seem to look after one another. I was glad to stay a little longer in Goma this time and be welcomed by family and friends.

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A soccer field we drove through that was very muddy after rain

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A typical Goma street facing Mount Nyiragongo

November 19, 2018

Wedding Day! – Reception

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We arrived at Bwerenga Estate close to 5pm. Vikkie quickly adjusted my hair in the house and then we went out for photos. It was an interesting sequence of getting some personal photos as well as photos with all of the guests which is a Congolese tradition. Somehow it worked out and we had a good mix of both. When they weren’t in photos our guests were socializing and enjoying some snacks and the beautiful lake view. At dusk everyone was directed to their seats while Othy and I took a few last photos together. We walked up to the reception area and the MC announced our arrival and everyone stood and clapped as we walked to find our seats. The MC introduced the different groups of people who had come and invited them to stand one at a time. Then Othy and I stood together as people came and presented gifts to us. In Congo it is tradition for people to come up with their gifts and at the same time wave and greet the couple. Following the gifts Othy and I led the procession to get food. There were a variety of dishes and the food was delicious. Just when we had started getting food, swarms of small moths showed up. They were attracted to the lights and falling all over the place. They got in the food, down my dress, and I even accidentally sat on some getting bug guts on the back of my dress (after which a few people came to me discretely and informed me about). Fortunately the moths were short lived and started thinning out as the evening progressed. I was thankful that they were harmless however annoying. While people were eating Othy and I went table to table to visit and personally greet our guests. For dessert there was a beautiful table of fruit that was cut and presented in a creative way and even included our names! The time also arrived for Othy and I to cut the cake. The evening’s program ended with speeches by our parents. There was a beautiful bon fire near the reception area and my family set up a station for people to roast marshmallows and make smores. While some people headed out, others danced and socialized a little bit. The evenings festivities ended just after 9 because many people had taken a bus to get there and had to take it back to town. It was probably for the better because I was running purely on adrenaline by that point! Othy and I said farewell to people as they left, and finally we were just a few. Lauren and Ben stayed and prayed with us over the gifts that we had received, and finally we were alone! What an wonderful and full day this had been! Below is the speech that my parents gave. I am so thankful that they and my sisters and friends could be there to celebrate the start of this next season of life.


 

“On May 19, 1988 two of our beautiful daughters were born. The words that were on my heart the first time I held them were “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works your hands have made.” Those words bring to mind the Psalm of David that speaks about how we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And so Elisabeth came into our family.

One anecdote we’d like to share about her is that she took her time learning to walk. She was very content to stay put wherever we set her down. When we would check on her she would be sitting in the same place surrounded by her toys and look up at us with a big smile.

As many of you know, staying in one place is not what she has done – Elisabeth became somewhat of a world traveler – France, Alberta & Quebec in Canada, Italy, Switzerland, Uganda and the DRC here in Africa.

And so here we are. We have witnessed today the joining of two hearts and lives. We are glad to be with all of you in celebration of Othy and Elisabeth’s wedding. We have met some wonderful welcoming people and thank them for their hospitality during our time here. To all of you gathered here. Thank you for celebrating with us.

Othy, we welcome you into our family and pray that the love you have for our daughter will grow deep and that together you will experience much joy and laughter, serve one another, respect one another, and keep communicating well with each other.

When we were married just over 35 years ago my grandparents were unable to attend our wedding. They did however send a letter that ended with a blessing that we would like to say over you. Othy and Elisabeth The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace, Amen.”

November 17, 2018

Wedding Day! – Religious Ceremony

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The veil is on!

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When our car arrived at the church, the place was already fairly full of people and the choir was singing. Vikkie helped me to put the veil on, and then we got out to arrange ourselves for the procession. We went down the aisle Congolese-style with Othy and his parents coming down the left aisle followed by Ben, and me and my parents coming down the right aisle followed by Lauren and my bridesmaids. Othy and I took a seat in chairs in the centre that faced the pastor. The Like Christ Kampala choir came up and sang Great Is Thy Faithfulness and The Joy of the Lord, then Light Choir performed, and then we heard a message by one of the pastors of BCCA. At this point I still had the veil on and was overheating! Rev. Dr. David Kasali was then called up to begin the marriage ceremony. He invited up both sets of parents and asked them for their blessing and support of our marriage along with the congregation, then gave Othy permission to remove my veil, and then had my parents take my hand, put it into his, and then together place it into Othy’s hands. He gave Othy and I an opportunity to say our own vows to each other, and then we exchanged rings. We signed the church’s wedding document along with our mentors (perrain), Lauren and Ben, our parents, and Rev. Kasali. The pastors and our immediate family and close friends came up and congratulated us. After that some music started an a group of women from the church came dancing down the aisle carrying blue fabric. They presented Othy and I with gifts of the fabric, a large wooden spoon, salt, matches, and an egg. The wooden spoon represented hospitality since it is used in Congolese cuisine to make fufu, the salt and matches represented flavour and light in our home, and the egg represented the gentle care that Othy should have for me his wife. The fabric was a good fit for us because it had an image of the world with several bible verses. Rev. Kasali also presented us with a bible and with money taken by the church in the collection. Light Choir came back up and started singing and dancing, and Othy and I stood up and joined in! It was a lot of fun and my parents and others joined in too! That marked the end of the ceremony and Othy and I led the procession out of the church. From there we went straight to Bwerenga Estate for the reception.