Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Misty Morning Road from Laputa to Market

Today's blog covers last Saturday's return from Laputa in the early misty morning.  Friday we had driven to Mwene-Ditu for missionary interviews then on to Laputa.  The road from Mbuji-Mayi to Mwene-Ditu is paved but badly chuck-holed.  It dates from the 1960's.  From Mwene-Ditu to Laputa is dirt.  Since it is now the dry season we only had to deal with dust and bad ruts.  The big trucks drive right down the middle leaving big ruts.   Driving too close to the sides could cause a tip-over.

Saturday morning we awoke to heavy mist.     

People live along the road amid palm trees.  These palms produce palm nuts for making palm oil. Our driver said that few people live away from the road and where water is available.  Thus there are miles and miles of virtually uninhabited areas.   

The houses all look neat.  In the cities there is trash everywhere.  

A roadside stand selling beans (I think).  Notice the woman is wrapped up against the morning chill.  Who would have expected chilly weather in the Congo?

Now for the road.  This is indeed the national highway from the capital Kinshasa in the north to Lubumbashi in the south.  During the rainy season it is virtually impassable.  Very seldom are the roads bulldozed flat so deep swells develop from the big trucks.  When it rains it's difficult to gage the depth of the puddles.  Put the truck in 4-wheel drive, reve up the engine, follow the tracks and pray.

Two months ago we had to stop and with shovel fill in some ruts on this hill.  The photos don't show the roughness of the road.  

Transporting loads on big trucks is very expensive.  It's cost effective to put loads on bicycles and transport corn or fish or flour along the dusty roads.  Thieves and brigands are not a problem.  The men push all day, stopping to eat at roadside restaurants and sleeping in the tall grass at night.

This man may have a heavy load of dried fish bought at a cheap price in Lubumbashi for sale in Mbuji-Mayi for a good profit.  The cost:  a month of drudgery along the 1000 kilometer road.  It's not flat.  There are hills and ruts and rocks and dust.  The men are wiry.

The loads are too big to allow biking.

Several months on the road.  The driver said they were Kasai people from the Mbuji-Mayi region.  When the Belgians were in the Congo, they recruited the Kasai to work the mines in Lubumbashi.  In the 1960's, the people of Lubumbashi persecuted these industrious Kasai, killing many and driving the rest back north.  That's why the village of Laputa has a Stake of Zion and over 2000 members of the Church.  They joined the Church in the south but were driven north as refugees.  

To market swinging her arms goes this woman with a heavy basket of cassava roots on her head.  The roots will be prepared and then ground into flour to make Fou-fou, the stable food of the Congo.

Vegetables to market.  We eat this once a week.  A strong spinach type flavor.

Looks like cabbages.  The women carry heavy things on their head.  The men push heavy loads.  

It's a hard life here.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Daughters of Helaman

Daughters of Helaman

The scriptures and sacrament meeting talks have a lot to say about the Sons of Helaman.  Deseret Book and Seagull Book are big on T-shirts with Sons of Helaman logos.  But what of the daughters?  Well, we met some of the daughters this past week.  They were starting their missions from their homes in Laputa.  

None of them were born in Laputa.  They are the children of refugees who fled Lubumbashi and Katanga Province during the revolution in the 60's.  They are the Anti-Lehi-Nephi's of the Congo.  Now they will bless their country, though at one time they were not wanted.  The Book of Mormon is a type for our day.  Read it carefully to see the other parallels for the Last Days.   

Nine new missionaries left Laputa last Friday on their way to Kinshasa for shots, passports and visas before going to Ghana and the MTC.  Half way here they learned that their flights had been canceled.  It being impossible to return home, they continued here.  (The airline had been closed by the government after the disastrous crash at Disangani.  Apparently tower error in inclement weather.  Due to the poor airport lighting Congolese planes don't fly at night.)  They arrived in Mbuji-Mayi at 10 p.m.  The 4 elders were housed with our 8 full-time elders at the missionary apartment.  The 5 sisters came to our home and were housed in the 2 upstairs apartments, arriving at 11 p.m.  

For breakfast we fed them what we had: cut-up fruit, yogurt and round buns.  Despite having never eaten yogurt, they did pretty well but didn't grasp the concept of putting fruit on the yogurt.  The buns they broke into pieces with their hands

 Although Congolese don't usually eat lunch, we tried to feed them sandwiches made with canned beef.  We made the  mistake of just putting the mayonnaise on the table which they layered think.  Surprisingly, they didn't seem to like the beef.  However half the butter disappeared in thick chunks.  No doubt they all had the same thought: "How strange this American food!"

For dinner they ate foo-foo with the members.

For breakfast Sunday they said hot milk would be good along with buns again.  Again we made the mistake of putting the can of powdered milk on the table unsupervised.  They spooned the powder into their cups and then started eating it dry, even though the teapot with hot water was on the table.  

Sunday dinner: foo-foo with the members.

We finally just bought new tickets (with mission funds) for Tuesday.  Kinshasa will have to deal with the defunct airline.  So Monday night would be a picnic at our house.  A meal of rice and sauces had been prepared by the members and the girls sat down and ate it all gone.  Later that evening they prepared foo-foo in our kitchen (another error) for the boys and it was a mess.  They did clean up (pretty good).  

The airline had overbooked so 5 of the missionaries were bumped, two boys and three girls.  The local brother scavenged up other tickets and they finally had tickets for Thursday afternoon, only the plane was delayed and because of the late hour didn't come until Friday morning.   All left.  High five!

The girls made foo-foo again for dinner but this time outside.  They got up early the next morning and made foo-foo again for breakfast.  We were afraid that our pans would be blackened on the hibachi but no, the pans looked none the worse for wear.

Here ate the 5 sisters, the Daughters of Helaman
Left to right: Mulaji Sabue Christelle, Bukasa Laurette Kabamba,
                     Tshilobo Ilunga Nathalie, Muika Musasa Mayikel,
                     Mukaya Mukadi Ntantine

We too survived the ordeal.

Elder and Sister Moore

Friday, July 15, 2011

African Sandwiches

African Sandwiches

Today Sophie (the sister who buys food for us at the Marche and cleans the apartment) came early and cooked an African dinner for us.  Most of the locals eat only one meal each day: dinner.  And that dinner’s staple is “foo foo”.  [See our earlier blog or “google foo foo” for more information.]  Only one meal is eaten because the people here are very poor and have only money for one meal each day. 
Today Sophie bought the following with Wednesday’s 7000 Congolese franc (divide by 9 to approximate dollars) allotment for food: a few bananas; one papaya; 2 small, flat fish; some small onions; a few green onions (she calls them leeks); a little parsley type vegetable; a bag of okra; a small plastic bag of tomatoes, one sack of cassava flour; and one sack of corn flour.
From home she brought a wooden paddle (for mixing the “foo foo”) and a box of matches and charcoal (fuel in the hibachi outside) but miracles of miracles, we have had electricity all day.  Yesterday the power went out at 6:30 and came back at 17:00 (which is our normal routine).   

First she filled a pot with water (clean water from our pump and filter) and brought it to a boil while she cleaned the fish, which brought the cats.  Sister Ann chopped the tomatoes, greens, onions and okra. 

Corn flour with the knife used to clean the two small fish

Pouring cassava flower into the boiling water and corn flour mixture (no salt or seasonings)

Stir.  Using her wooden paddle, Sophie vigorously stirred the corn flour into the boiling water. 

Stir.  Placing the large pot on the floor between her feet, she then stirred in the cassava flour, making a stiff dough which reminded Sister Ann of “play dough”. It helps to put the feet around the pot and to sit on a water jug.

The finished meal.   The round ball of dough was then formed into softball-sized balls.  Sometime during this process the fish and vegetables were cooked.  The "foo foo" is like uncooked bread dough but Sophie's was not slimy

Wash the eating utinsels = the hands  Finally a bowl of water for washing hands was placed on the table and dinner was ready.

The eating is accomplished by trapping a morsel from the common bowl with a small ball rolled from the larger foo foo balls.
No plates, no utensils.  Just Adam’s fork.  With the right hand we each tore off pieces of “foo foo”, rolling it into small balls (still with our right hands) and dipped the ball into the fish/vegetable mixture.  Voila!  African sandwiches ! “piodi mulembua” (fish in okra) “bidia” (foo foo in the local Congolese language Tchiluba.) 

It was “ok” (small letters), less slimy than I had feared. 
Pluses: no utensils to wash and only the right hand dirty.  Sophie gave Sister Ann her stirring paddle and a small plactic bowl for making foo foo balls.
Minuses: the kitchen was a disaster!  But since it’s cleaning day I didn’t “get” to do the dishes today. 
We also “get” to have a cheese sandwich for lunch this evening. 

Elder William and Sister Ann Moore
PS  The two cats had foo foo slathered with leftover fish last night and ate most of it

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mbuji-Mayi Missionary Zone Conference

Diulu Branch Building -- unloading the lunch

Conference on the veranda because there was a water leak inside

Missionary Training: Two elders teach a father, President Packer is the blaring TV, the mother and child have not yet been invited to join

Elder Zafi from Madagascar

A picture of the group: 8 missionaries, President Packer and Sister Packer, Elder and Sister Moore,
Elder and Sister Kaelliker (Seventy from South Africa), and Elder Alfred Kyunga (Seventy from the Congo)
We hope this picture will show for you.

Sophie: She does our shopping in the Marche.  (Cheaper and safer for her to buy vegatables and fruits)  She also cleans 3 times a week.  She speaks passable English.  She had wanted to become a doctor and could have if financial circumstances weren't so dire.  While she was shopping in the Marche, she extended her  payment of less than a dollar and someone snatched the money from her hand. 

Sophie's family: 2 month old's name is Grady = Grace de Dieu (Grace of God)

Blog July 4th, 2011
June 30th is the Congo Independence Day, Independence from Belgium in the 60’s.  We were instructed to avoid crowds and to stay away from downtown Mbuji-Mayi and the celebration parade.  Downtown consists of a 2-lane road on the right and a 2-lane road on the left separated by a median and bordered by a very deep ditch.  Interestingly, both roads are marked to have traffic in both directions.  Our gardener Simba (means “twin” in the Bas-Congo dialect not “lion” as in Swahili) went to the parade and wished he hadn’t.  Huge crowd, packed like sardines.  He said some people fainted and were trampled and went to the hospital.  He said some were killed.  The park (???) across from Main Street was dotted with several hundred “widows” to day before.  We never understand the whys?
Last Tuesday was zone conference for our 8 missionaries.  Elder Koelliker (spelling) [2nd Quorum of Seventy from South Africa] had come to create the Laputa Stake and he taught the missionaries about the Holy Ghost and its importance in teaching.  I took him to the airport at 9 am while the conference continued.  Sister Moore had cooked 2 frozen chickens (from Brazil) and made delicious chicken salad sandwiches on short french breads.  Apples, cookies and Sprite rounded out the meal followed by cubed pineapple, the favorite. 
We love these missionaries and think that they are very handsome.  We have heard them teach with power.  One who has been here 9 months (since Mbuji-Mayi was opened to full time missionaries) has over 50 baptisms here.  The branches are filling all of their chairs so we expect more branch divisions in the near future. 
One interesting non-missionary experience involved a man Frere Bobo and I met in the alley coming from giving the missionaries their monthly living expenses.  We were on foot because President Packer had the truck in Laputa.  Most missionaries in the world use an ATM card.  Here the banking system is not reliable so the mission office wires money each month.  A man named Boaz recognized Frere Bobo then asked to visit me.  I set the appointment for Monday but he didn’t show.  Tuesday I found him at the gate after I had dropped Elder Koelliker and company off at the airport.  He was miffed because I had kept him waiting at the gate for 45 minutes.  Sister Ann (home alone fixing the missionary meal) wouldn’t answer his banging on the gate.  Simba wasn’t here yet.  This long story boils down to him being a “trafficker” and wanting to sell me “minerals” (diamonds, emeralds, gold, etc.), not wanting to know more about the Church.  “Just put them in your suitcase when you go home,” was his advice.  What a joke!  I have absolutely no interest in minerals.  August 2012 would find me in jail instead of attending my grandchildren’s baptisms. 
Next week we start teaching English to the members here and begin the temple preparation classes. 
Elder William and Sister Ann Moore