Culture Shocks

Everybody Loves a Parade

Happy Independence Season! From Columbia’s today to France’s last week, ‘tis the season for national fêtes. On the 4th of July a few weeks ago, all across the U.S. there were probably thousands of Independence Day parades, large and small. Just a few days prior, on July 1st, our friendly Canadian neighbors experienced the same thing. (Though the Québécois may have partied a tad harder on St-Jean-Baptiste Day, the 24th of June.) And just one day earlier, on June 30th, DR-Congo also celebrated their Independence Day.

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Nerd Humor, and other Untranslatable Things

I wore this t-shirt yesterday in honor of NASA’s historic fly-by of our favorite dwarf planet. Something which I most likely would have missed in the weekly news over here if it weren’t for my super smart, scientifically-minded, space-news-following husband. I’m giving it a good try, though. Lately we’ve been settling down in the evenings for our second viewing of last year’s DVD purchase, Cosmos with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Despite watching an entertaining host and a highly-produced extravaganza of color and special effects, complete with cartoon demonstrations for the imaginatively challenged, not to mention having learned some of these things in school once upon a time… I remain utterly, hopelessly lost. The music and graphics oddly put me in the mood to visit Epcot Center, make me hungry for funnel cake, and then put me right to sleep. This science stuff might as well be fiction to me.

Not to say I’m not a nerd; I totally am. Just a capital-memorizing, building-databases-in-my-spare-time kind of a nerd, not a nerd with, you know, the slightest ability to understand algebra or astrophysics. Yet even I can find this t-shirt funny.

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Let’s Talk About Boobs

One of my three amazing sisters-in-law posted an article on Facebook recently about the lingering shame of breastfeeding in public. I agree; I think it’s a strange society indeed who uses sex to sell nearly anything, who maintains a thriving porn industry, who worships scantily-clad celebrities and models and even tries to dress like them while shopping at Walmart… yet who gasps audibly when faced with a mother breastfeeding her child in public.

I think we’ve got it backwards. We’ve oversexualized breasts to such a point that it seems dirty for a baby to actually feed from them. We don’t want to know about it, and we certainly don’t want to see it.

Apparently even doing it behind closed doors is not far enough away. An office coworker of mine Continue reading

Embarrassing Embrasses

“Embrasse” is a great example of one of those French words that means roughly the opposite of what it looks like. A false friend, in linguist lingo. You would think an embrasse is an embrace… but that’s “serrer dans ses bras,” which translates literally as “holding tight in the arms” and doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. Evidently, the French have trouble even translating the word for “hug.” They’re not so much the hugging type.

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Shopping by the Planeload

I wrote last week about our local shopping choices, or more specifically, our lack of them. Feeding ourselves here can be challenging at times, but there is a bright side to this scenario. Three, actually. The first is that since meals here don’t come from a box or a drive-thru window, I’ve finally had to learn how to cook. The second is that since cooking here means “from scratch” and relies a lot on locally grown fresh veg, our diets have improved a bit. And the third is that since our local options are so limited, the company occasionally lets us bum a ride on their Beechcraft just to restock our pantries in the big city, which is hugely fun.

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Village Visit

Written Monday, January 19

Baby Djeni turned a year old this Saturday. Viviane was hoping she’d start walking sooner than her older brother did, which was a week before his first birthday, just to show how Girls Rule. She’s not walking yet, but she is beating him in another way. She’s talking earlier and much more than he did. (Kind of sums up the difference between girls and boys, doesn’t it?) She chants and sings whenever her mother asks her to, and in perfect pitch with her. I think she’s going to be a lovely little songstress.

Djeni at my house just days before turning one. Could she possibly be any cuter? I’m totally changing my name to match hers.

Djeni at my house just days before turning one. Could she possibly be any cuter? I’m totally changing my name to match hers.

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Cleaning Lessons, Take 2

I told Viviane about the story I wrote about her yesterday, and she seemed pleased. When I asked if she would mind me posting a photo for you all, she said, “Why yes, of course!” But in French, of course, not Kansan. (Is it just in Kansas that we start our sentences with the word Why?)

Also, I heard back from my friend Nancy who was my posture teacher in the story, and with her permission I updated the story to include her name. Also took the liberty to do some serious editing.

So please, come back and have a look at the photos and the updated story! Cleaning Lessons

Cleaning Lessons

For my stepmom on her birthday today. She also could’ve taught me a thing or two when I was sixteen and still living at home, if only I’d been willing to listen. Thank goodness teenagers eventually grow up. Happy birthday Carolyn!

“Do you bend at the waist or the hips?” a fellow expat wife named Nancy asked me one day. We were in Uganda on vacation together, getting ready to go white-water rafting on the Nile. Her question about proper posture came while we were bending over to change our footwear for the ride and grease our legs with sunscreen.

“What’s the difference?” I asked, laughing, thinking it was a trick question.

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One Person’s Trash Bag is Another’s Treasure

The garbage bin outside gets emptied once a week, almost as if we were living in a real city with real city services. I’m not sure what the trash guys do with all the bins after they load them onto a flat-bed truck and haul them away, and I don’t think I want to know. But a few hours later they return an empty, semi-clean bin to each house, and for that I’m grateful.

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Introducing Baby Seb

This story is dedicated to my cousin Megan, and her adorable new arrival. May your futures be filled with happiness, health, and all the livestock your hearts desire.

No, the ladies who called me fat the other day weren’t onto something. (Sorry to disappoint, Mom, Dad, and Grandma!) There’s a tradition around here of naming new babies after one’s boss. As a result there are lots of Congolese children running around with American names like Jeff, Eric, or Bob, instead of Swahili names like Ilunga, Mpala, or Lamba Lamba.

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