September 1st rolled around an entire month ago, and I failed to point out its significance. It was the sixth anniversary of the day we moved to Congo. I was wondering, does it still count when we’re not actually in Congo? Instead, that day we were meeting up at the airport in Québec City after several weeks apart. Almost as cool!
I had come to the U.S. in mid-August for a month or so of annual checkups, visits with friends and old pets, and luggage-warping shopping with a longer-than-average wish list thanks to our recent move into a different house. Seb was supposed to meet me in Arizona for business meetings, but those fell through, as they often do. We were able to meet in Québec for his 25th high school reunion and spend a week with his family, but then he returned to Africa as quickly as he arrived, and I to the Southwest to finish up the projects I had started.
A couple of days before my planned return, news came that Kinshasa was on fire. Election news — or lack of it — had caused a brief but intense round of protests. Even though our place is a thousand miles away as the crow flies, so far away in fact that we don’t even fly through Kinshasa, AND there aren’t any protests happening in our neck of the woods… here in the U.S. I remain, waiting for the green light to return.
Meanwhile, if you’re a fan of Bloomberg or a friend of my husband’s on Facebook, you’ll know that our company went up for sale earlier this year, and there’s some interesting do-si-do steps still happening there. Will we become a Chinese company? Canadian? Congolese? Will we stay or will we go? We don’t know. Basically, everything is up in the air right now.
Except for me. I’m not up in the air. No, I’m grounded for the moment, about as sea level as you can get. I happen to be in central Florida with Mom & Rudy, exactly where I was one year ago, not realizing I’d be back so soon. It’s fun of course to spend time with them here, but still, my heart is at home.
The highlight by far this past year was our trip in February to Kinshasa, the first and so far only time we’ve ever stepped foot in that city, followed by nine days of boating and camping along the Congo River. If our sixth year turns out to be our last in Congo, this was one helluva sendoff. But I’m still holding out hope for a seventh!
In keeping with tradition, here are a few snapshots of our more miscellaneous moments in DRC during the past twelve months. A sundry of stuff I haven’t blogged about separately, or at least not much. And a few more than usual, thanks to fast limitless internet and a touch of homesickness. Click any photo to get started, and ideally while enjoying the music, Saïsaï by Papa Wemba.
September 2015: “Lipstick Lucy” eating plums in our backyard at base camp
September 2015: Saying goodbye to my English class before a month-long break in Florida
October 2015: Lucy busy welcoming me home
October 2015: The flamboyants, too
October 2015: A repurposed train engine, installed outside the reception office at Bravo camp
October 2015: A disappearing mountain near the former Green Wall, richly colored with malachite (green) and iron oxide (lilac)
October 2015: A conga line of HaulMax trucks on their way from that mountain to the crusher, a 20km haul
November 2015: Harvesting banana flower, which makes a tasty salad
November 2015: Cooking up potjies with friends
November 2015: Returning to the tailor shop in town
November 2015: Replacing the bamboo that lined our fence at base camp, revealing my English-teaching spot just beyond
November 2015: On a mine tour with visitors, on top of a blasting site
November 2015: Overlooking one of the pits, where dozens of artisanal miners work illegally alongside our equipment — a problem we battle daily
November 2015: A cute sight during a quarterly-ish ladies’ shopping excursion to Lubumbashi: A kindergarten field trip to the biggest store in town
December 2015: Packing our luggage full of Christmas gifts for the upcoming holidays in DC, Kansas, Chicago, Toronto, Ottawa/Chelsea, and Scottsdale
December 2015: Signs of economic progress during our 3-hour bus ride to the airport
January 2016: On our way home
January 2016: The Christmas lights are still on at base camp
January 2016: Indifferent friends
January 2016: Seb’s modern core sheds, where he’s also planting tons of fruit trees
January 2016: Celebrating Papa Nzita’s retirement in our backyard
February 2016: Lubumbashi from the air (flying in for another ladies’ shopping trip)
February 2016: This shop in Lubumbashi has fancy digital price tags… but their product doesn’t always look so promising
February 2016: In Lubumbashi yet again for Valentine’s Day and friend Carl’s wedding — our fifth Congolese wedding! Still haven’t learned how to arrive on time.
February 2016: An amazing breakfast buffet friends threw me for my birthday, the day before leaving for our river trip correction: that’s a breakfast buffet “party” they threw me… no food was thrown!
March 2016: A road scene between Lubumbashi and Fungurume upon our return. This is “national highway #1,” nicely paved in most spots but still a hazardous drive. Overloaded vehicles and random potty breaks are the norm.
March 2016: Passing the mattress delivery van.
March 2016: Sundowners at the pool with treats from Lubumbashi, celebrating our safe return from the Congo River.
March 2016: At a catered brunch, a special treat for Easter.
April 2016: Dinner in Fungurume under the stars, at a restaurant we like called Chez Bam’s (formerly Indian-run Roffe Congo, another one we liked)
April 2016: Sunrise over base camp during one of my morning walks
April 2016: Shopping for vegetables at the market in Fungurume with friend Colleen, her last visit before retirement and return to Australia. We never found the occasion (or courage) to try these insects!
May 2016: A cultural event spotted by chance at the National Museum in Lubumbashi with friend Laura. Several tribes represented here, with their Parliament leader in the middle front.
May 2016: Each tribe took turns sending a representative, dancing all the way up and back, to the Parliament leader seated outside the left of the photo to ask for what their village needs most.
May 2016: An atrium at the lovely art-deco museum, built in 1937
May 2016: Papa Wemba, the “father of Congolese Rumba,” had recently passed away. “Peace to your soul,” the sign reads.
May 2016: An art installation at the park outside Parliament, where Papa Wemba was celebrated with live music each evening.
May 2016: On the patio at Bush Camp, a restaurant in Lubumbashi
May 2016: Where Laura and I sampled the Congolese buffet, and I tried caterpillars for the first time! (I decided they tasted like a cross between a dusty attic and bat guano and spit mine out. Laura’s fared better.)
June 2016: Spending a fun weekend with friends at Kisanfu, a nearby exploration camp
June 2016: The cabins at Kisanfu remind us of being on safari
June 2016: Papyrus and papaya growing here. Dinner was a South African-style braai prepared on this patio by a Romanian doctor and served by candlelight, followed by several whiskies and rums
June 2016: Flying over Konkola Forest Reserve in Zambia, on our way to Italy (via Johannesburg, logically)
June 2016: One of many beautiful Tuscan scenes, this one during one of our hiking days
July 2016: Admiring our base camp house for the last time
July 2016: We’ll miss these red tiles everywhere
July 2016: Saying goodbye to Lucy 😦
July 2016: Sunset near Bravo, during one of our many truckloads back and forth
August 2016: Getting the new house set up, including new scratches in the furniture after a rough move
August 2016: Christening the “fire pit” (soon to be properly sunken) at our first Whiskey Wednesday
August 2016: Out hiking in the bush every other morning with friend Laura — a new luxury, something we couldn’t do at base camp
August 2016: We often follow an outer fence line, a housing-expansion project the company started but never finished. All the fence posts were quickly cut down by locals, who are always on the lookout for free building materials
August 2016: On our morning walks we occasionally mingle with tree-cutters, charcoal-makers, and farmers — all of whom still do their work by hand
September 2016: I am beyond lucky to have had the world’s best cat sitter watch my sweet Chyna for the past six years! Now she is back in Arizona with new friends, who I have no doubt will match the kindness, patience, and love he showed her. Infinite thanks to Rob, Stacie, Debbie and Jeff.