Friday has a nice new rhythm in our office. Last month we inaugurated a Friday midday communal meal. The office pays for rice, I pay a nice woman named Elysee who comes and cooks under the big mango tree, and the rest of the staff contributes the rest. There’s a committee of three that decides the budget for the ‘rest’ and announces the menu the day before. It’s simple but plentiful food. Some are even suggesting we cut back on the quantities so people aren’t so sleepy after lunch (that’s music to a manager’s ears). The food is great, traditional Congolese fare. Even better is the banter, the jokes, the ‘bon appetit!’ and ‘bonne digestion!’. Eating together weekly is great for bonding as a staff and celebrating another week of good work.
Friday night I went with Chase, the summer intern, to the UN base across the road from my building where they have a small social club. There’s an upstairs terrace that was closed for some time because the rising river waters were eroding the pilings. The river’s been pushed back and the deck is reopened. There’s a nice chilled breeze sweeping off the river, good conversation with friends from around the world, the lights from my building up above and the night fishermen passing in canoes and working their nets below. There’s not much on the menu, but they do have a chicken that is world-class. It’s a bit much for me after that noon meal and after becoming accustomed to tiny birds. They have one billiards table and I played a doubles game. I’m not highly competitive but I admit I was pretty discouraged early on hitting the balls so poorly they might as well have been hard-boiled eggs. But then I found my groove half way through the game and sunk them all.
Saturday a whole troupe of friends came over to the apartment. I met the HOPE driver’s kids at our Christmas party and I’d heard that Nambil made excellent marks in school so I wanted to have them over to celebrate and congratulate him. He came with his older brother and two year old sister. She was VERY WELL behaved. I’ll say that kids here on average are better behaved than most back home. She soiled her only diaper and then managed to soil most of the bathroom (not sure how that happened), but her ever-loving teenage brother took good care of her and tended to her mess(es).
Sunday I was invited to preach at the Church of the Nazarene Kabondo 2. They’re in a beautiful far-reaching corner of the city. Unfortunately they’ve had a tough time lately and the structure itself is in bad shape. They’ve built a good house for Pastor Gaspard, but the church lacks walls and its grass roof is coming apart. Now that the house is done, they say that they’re going to put a lot of effort into the church. They’ve got the brick making machine but I’m sure it’s hard to hold onto bricks when selling them brings bread. I told the church that they were an exceptionally good-looking group and that maybe it was because the lack of walls brought in a beautiful light under that awning.
I spoke about being forgiven and learning to forgive and I took some photos to share with you here.
After church I picked up Chase and we went to visit with Jerome and Christilla. They are volunteers from France with Jesuit Refugee Service and they’ve become great friends to me over these months. They’re headed home to France next week and I will miss them. They are very generous with me, sharing their kindness, hospitality and humor. There’s a lot of coming and going, hello and goodbye, in the small community of expatriates in Congo. It can be fatiguing but here in Kisangani we are so few. In this case, I can’t be too upset about a sad goodbye because the friendship has been so wonderful.