The Eighth Year

I’ve started off way too many of these posts with the words, “I can’t believe it’s been so long…” But I truly had no idea until just now that my last post was in December! Oh my goodness, what has happened to this year.

Turns out, both nothing and everything has happened.

For one thing, I just returned home after being away from Congo for four months. I spent the entire summer in Tucson, housesitting for friends who made a beeline north for cooler climes. I needed a new passport, plus a round of doctor’s appointments, plus the usual luggage restocking. I needed to catch up with family and friends, which I did with gusto and much appreciation. I also needed to spend time with my sweet cat Chyna, who is quickly approaching her 17th birthday and may not have too many more to spare. I wanted about a month and a half to do all this, but my friends needed a housesitter for three in exchange for leaving Chyna behind in Tucson, so we struck a deal.

The additional month of absence was a deal struck with my husband. To survive three months alone, he arranged a two-week vacation in Malawi at the beginning, and a two-week vacation in Europe at the end. Ah! If I MUST.

Actually the European vacation — seven days of bicycling along the Danube, while a ship-sized “river boat” followed us through four countries — was booked a year in advance. Luckily it coincided well with the summer’s plans that came up later. (And yes, it was as fun as it sounds. But I won’t rub that in.)

Together we returned home only a week and a half ago, to a very dry, dusty, and windy DR-Congo. The beginning of rainy season lies a few weeks, maybe a month, ahead. Seb battled cold symptoms for nearly the whole vacation, and I fell victim to it shortly after returning. As I do nearly every time. Though I wonder if it’s not a cold this time but just the environment. It’s so dusty here you cannot see the ground from a plane, or vice versa. It’s so dusty I’ve contemplated wearing a face mask. It’s so dusty I haven’t been able to stomach the idea of dusting the house, even though it badly needs it. Why bother, there will just be more.

I tell you, this environment makes a mud-brick hut look like a very sensible approach. A big house with lots of objects and crevices and ledges is definitely not.

Before I left, it was this house that somehow managed to greedily soak up most of my time. I wrote earlier about how I’m not a super-organized “white tornado,” like my mother and grandmother are. There’s always something around the house that needs to be done, or at least a lot of guilt associated with not doing it. Actively avoiding chores takes a lot of time, too.

In my defense, I will say that in addition to mastering the avoidance thing I also spent SOME of that time laboring on a few projects, the fruits of which I hope will be visible at some point in the near future.

And we also spent a lot of the past year making the most of our time here, with dozens of little diversions from “work.” Here are a few of the highlights.

On a bike ride in September last year, somehow much greener than this year.

Three babies with three babies (note the little feet!) out working the fields last October.

Homemade pita bread in November.

Pretending to enjoy Morocco in December (more on that later!)

Neighbors’ coffee plantation starting to multiply in January. (We managed to add two whole beans to their bounty — our sole harvest from the original nine trees we planted. Hope they earn us a sip of their home-roasted coffee!)

Grilled goat at a retirement party in Fungurume town in February.

Hosting my first-ever Passover Seder for a friend and 12 guests in March.

And a week later, a 10-course pork extravaganza for my husband’s birthday… who jokingly asked for the opposite of Passover and got it, along with as many bad puns as I could squeeze in.

Pre-birthday-dinner sunset at the golf course on April 6.

Getting ready to host Wandering Whiskey Wednesday in our back yard, later in April.

A Lake Malawi teaser and advert. This is the view from our room, and that is a cocktail sent to my room following the massage that I just had in that there island hut. Yessssss.

Later in May, a visit with the two most adorable kids in the world, Djeni and Olivier.

Later still in May, an example of our mountain biking trails!

After a long summer break, biking again last weekend, this time past a lonely sausage tree.

Last week’s full moon, red from all the dust in the air, framed by our neighbors’ coffee and banana trees.

All in all, a quiet but excellent eighth year (minus a few months) here in DRC. On to the ninth!


  1. Love your pictures, Jen! I also cannot believe it has been 8 years. So sorry we did not get to see you in the US–perhaps next time! Love to you and Seb–Debbie


  2. Hi Granddaughter and Grandson,
    I hope next time you get to the US, we will see you too. I enjoyed the picture of your adopted kids that spent cleaning day with you when they were babies!
    You sure are keeping in shape with all the biking you two do! We haven’t been to the Danube area and never will now but we are glad that our offspring gets to enjoy!
    I can’t believe it has been 8 years in Africa but you do get away alot of the time. We enjoy all of your pictures and your writings. I hope you are keeping these letters. They would make a wonderful book.
    Love to both of you. Grandma and Grandpa Brooks


  3. Hi Jen! I’m glad to hear you made it back to the Congo safely. And also so happy to see your posts again. Miss you and look forward to hearing about your bike rtrip through Europe.


  4. Thanks for the update. I know this is just a small snapshot of the past year, but you have recorded some great adventures and memories. I learned something new from your post: that there is such a thing as a sausage tree! Have a wonderful 9th year. 🙂


  5. Djeni and Olivier are growing up so quickly. Cute kids! Loved spending time with you in June – gotta do it again sometime.


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