In crossculture. Peoplewatching. Community in the two-thirds world and other places. About questions too: "Higher up and further in!" with an outreach twist? How?

Posts tagged “My Africa

Installment #2 from old notebooks just after I had turned sixteen. End of sophomore year.

June 1973. Wednesday Afternoon.

” I’m sitting down at the picnic table in the backyard – the sun is late afternoon – filtering down on me through the leaves of the mango trees above my head. The birds are having a symphony above me, twittering and singing and chirping at the top of their voices.

Rusty (the kitty, now with two kittens) has followed me down here and is in the process of rubbing her fur against my pen – which doesn’t work too well when your’e(sic) trying to write!

It is SO beautiful down here, quiet, filled with God. That is something I really miss in Kinshasa; Kinshasa with the trucks ROARING past the hostel, literally shaking it, the horns honking, people yelling, and loneliness. In the midst of over a million people, loneliness.

I don’t think I ever feel lonely here, really, and yet I am alone so much of the time. Probably because I’m right in the middle of my family here.

Advertisements

My Memory of the Simba Rebellion in the Congo, from Cameroun.

IMG_2131When I was seven and in boarding school in The Dorm, the dorm parents would have picnics every friday evening, outside, for all of us 49 dorm kids.  There would be dessert for the meal which, during the weekdays, there was not.  After these outdoor picnics, oftentimes we would gather in the Dorm living room for games and songs and, every once in a long while, a reel-to-reel movie. I saw “Lawrence of Arabia” that way – bored to tears – I thought that movie would never end!

But one weekend it was different.  We got called into the living room on Saturday evening, instead of Friday, and our dorm parents were sober-faced.

They told us that, down the road, in the Congo, many outreachers were being taken hostage and were in danger of being killed, by a group of people called the Simba Army.  They said that a medical doctor outreacher, whose name was Dr. Paul White, had been murdered a few days before – the telegram had just come telling the horrible news. Other people were getting killed as well. We 49 kids were very sad.  We all were asked by our dorm parents to bow our heads and join in prayer for the safety and the rescue of all of our fellow outreachers that had not yet gotten killed,  and all of their children, around our own ages, a hop, skip and a jump down the roads from Elat, Cameroun where we sat in our Dorm.

We did that.

Several years later, when I was a teenager, I found myself in another dorm IN the Congo, and many of my best friends were the very children, now turned teenagers also, for whom we had prayed that Saturday evening at Elat. Now, forty years later, many of us former children have found each other and are in contact once again with one another, sharing our continuing stories and lives, one with another.  I hope some of us are still praying one for another, as well.


What happened in Cameroun when I was eleven…

img_0217It was a long school vacation time.  Our next-door-neighbor family was going away to the seashore for two weeks of yearly holiday.  The mom came up to me and asked me if I would like to earn a little pocket money daily feeding and also daily walking, on the end of his chain, their pet “baby” gorilla.

I happily said “yes” and received my instructions for my new responsibilities with conscientious attention. The particular “baby” gorilla in question was much loved by all the kids and teenagers, lived in a large chicken-wire cage/home in the neighbor family’s back yard, and had a general reputation for being tame. I was a fanatical animal lover, had several pets of my own, though none as exotic as a gorilla, and I thought I already had a great relationship with this tame gorilla.

Well!  From the very first morning, the gorilla, who had been quietly growing from babyhood, and now was eight months old, (I wonder how old that would equivocate in people years?) demonstrated a HUGE mind of his own and, instead of walking pleasantly around the grassy yards on the end of his long metal chain, would PLANT himself in the grass and start getting mad at me, working himself up into a rage, then CHARGING me down the length of the chain, wrapping himself around my bony bare shins, and biting on my legs!

Maybe he was missing his family?  Probably.  Not that used to me, I guess. A few mornings of that and, I’m afraid poor Baby Gorilla didn’t get taken out each day for the rest of the two weeks!  He got fed super well though.


Getting to the Kinshasa airport and other adventures, June 1973. God answers prayers of tenth graders! (verbatim excerpts from first journal notebook)

IMG_1314June 10, 1973, journal entries continued- We are three; two boys and a girl (me), two tenth graders and one eleventh grader.

What a hassle getting out of Kinshasa this morning.  It was horrible, and I think it’s going to take me the two and a half months of summer vacation to recuperate! (Oh, while I’ve been writing this we have taken off, had our second breakfast of the day and are now descending toward Libreville.  It’s been about an hour.)  Anyways, Aunt G. got us up at 3:45 a.m. today, we got ready, said goodbyes ( me to R.), and left for the airport in the hostel combi.  About halfway there, soldiers with machine guns stopped us and held us there because we didn’t have a certain paper, but after about twenty minutes they let us through.  Some of them were drunk.

Well, all that made us later still when we finally did make it to the airport.  After about thirty or forty minutes we got our luggage through and went on to the formalities line.

Then there was a huge mix up that held us there for at least another hour.  We were not going to be able to go. Both J. and I didn’t have a particular paper and THEN……. it was discovered that J. had no visa – it had run out almost four months previously! I felt real scared, and prayed and prayed and prayed in my heart. Then, THEY LET US THROUGH!

It was a real miracle – God sure does answer prayer!

Now we have stopped for ten minutes at Libreville, and are up again, speeding north toward Douala!


Random Thoughts on Packages and Magazine Subscriptions

I’m a magazine person, but hard-copy.

I mean, yes, being able to obtain and read new BOOKS on electronic readers, because of living longterm in places without public libraries, easy access to,  or reasonably-priced books in one’s own heart language, has opened out my life and given joy in absolutely watershed manner.  KINDLE was a life paradigm shift!

Magazine-reading though?  Uufff!  I’ve tried.  Those large sections of favorite subscription mags that ARE posted online, free to read, have been carefully perused by me with an experimental eye towards hoping that I could adjust myself to savouring online mag reading with the same deep enjoyment that I derive from feeling the smooth clean paper edge, thumbing for the single corner of the page, gently unsticking it from the next sheet, then turning the leaf.

Hearing that satisfying little “swish” as my eyes drink in the thoughtful words, the bright  colors and images of the carefully-crafted article created out of photos and words matched up to make an entity to encourage me or provoke me towards creativity or cause me to think more deeply, or to delight me.

I really tried, but no go.

It would be SO to my advantage if I COULD adjust to reading my beloved mags online.  That’s because, residing where I do, or, in some places in Africa as I used to,  our magazines don’t arrive.

Even if we HAD gritted our teeth, tightened our belts and forked over the check for subscription rates by airmail to our distant and exotic locales, that amounted to 3 to 4 times the sum of a regular domestic rate for a magazine subscription.

No.  These bright glossy foreign magazines in mysterious brown sleeves, piling up in the 3rd-world-nation post offices seldom made it to their destinations (our postal boxes).  They were too tempting, in a context of scarcity and need, or in a context of too many people wanting to practice their english. Christmas cards often did not make it either and one time, many years ago when we lived in Sucre, my best friend from second and third grades, Joelle, from Switzerland, made me a needlepoint wall tapestry by hand and sent it to me from Geneva to Bolivia.  I never got it!

Which sometimes still makes me mad, when my “Good Housekeeping” never comes for a whole year!

Oh well.  Minor annoyances, right?  And, this kind of thing does have its recompenses. Delayed gratification can sometimes be just as good or better than instant or monthly.  These years I’m into CT magazine and, the other day when P. and I arrived at my m.i.l.’s place from South America I was showered with almost a literary Christmas of CT issues from 8 and 6 and 4 months back, shiny and new and still crisp in their wrappers.  They’d been WAITING for me, SAFE on the cardtable downstairs, in hardcopy form – a FEAST to enjoy in the month of May.


Thinkable Quotables #2

“thank God, my suitcase just got delivered to me! smile emoticon The man took it back to the airport, and the airline just delivered it to my parents’ home.” – my FB post from 4 years ago, NinadeSusOjos.IMG_0114


Explanatory note followed by June 20, 1973 journal entry.

IMG_1314My first year at the African-American high school, in the last half of that school year and throughout the next school year I had a fairly serious puppy-love crush, unrequited, on a boy in the school.  Here’s a June 20th, 1973 journal entry I wrote which is partly about that but on a deeper level, about my close relationship with my mother which has continued throughout my whole life so far.  The journal entry is, I think, about three themes, the last of which is third-culture-kid identity issues.

“Last night I told Mom all about S. and it was an unexpected relief to get it all out to someone who would be able to view it from an objective viewpoint.  What can I do except wait and pray? —– but that is about the hardest thing TO do.  Somehow, God is going to work it out the very best way.

I never thought I’d REALLY miss TASOK (the American School of Kinshasa) for three months of summer vacation but I am.  It is so great to have so many beautiful people, friends, around you all the time.  Anytime you want to, almost, you can go talk to somebody, or goof off and act like a spazz, or just go and be quiet or listen to music or something.

I made my own life when I went to TASOK, (sic) when you go to a boarding school or something like that, you have to make your own life.  While at the school, it’s kind of like, it’s COMPLETELY your own.  In other words, you are what you make yourself to be when you are at a place like my school with no brothers and sisters and your parents far away.

Then you come home for summer vacation, full of independence and pride in yourself, convinced that you’ve changed an awful lot, that you’ll be pretty cool at home now.  But when you’re home, you suddenly realize you’re not so cool after all, but regarded just the same by your parents pretty much and by your brothers and sisters and all the other people on the station. – and your balloon deflates!  You’re fighting with your sister and taking the head off your little brother and lazing around doing nothing and making no use of yourself at all.

Oh well, I guess that’s part of coming home.”


Prayer for my day

God,

Good morning.  Thank you for your presence with me and in me, through your Holy Spirit. Thank you that you promise your children your mercies fresh and new for each of them every morning.  Thanks for your faithfulness to us, the children of men, and  for the fact that you are good, and for the fact that you never change. Thank you also that you are love.  Lord, there are so many needs around us all, millions of needs.  Some of the needs and hurts are more visible and others are of the heart, hidden, but not hidden to you.  People need you, Lord.  You’ve chosen us to be your hands and feet, to be your light in darkness, your salt to lend savor and healing to your planet, earth, and to the hurting children of men.  Help us, your children, your chosen ones who know you, to walk closely with you this day being good salt, being good light.  Amen.IMG_6839


Getting to the Kinshasa airport and other adventures, June 1973. God answers prayers of tenth graders! (verbatim excerpts from first journal notebook)

IMG_1314June 10, 1973, journal entries continued- We are three; two boys and a girl (me), two tenth graders and one eleventh grader.

What a hassle getting out of Kinshasa this morning.  It was horrible, and I think it’s going to take me the two and a half months of summer vacation to recuperate! (Oh, while I’ve been writing this we have taken off, had our second breakfast of the day and are now descending toward Libreville.  It’s been about an hour.)  Anyways, Aunt G. got us up at 3:45 a.m. today, we got ready, said goodbyes ( me to R.), and left for the airport in the hostel combi.  About halfway there, soldiers with machine guns stopped us and held us there because we didn’t have a certain paper, but after about twenty minutes they let us through.  Some of them were drunk.

Well, all that made us later still when we finally did make it to the airport.  After about thirty or forty minutes we got our luggage through and went on to the formalities line.

Then there was a huge mix up that held us there for at least another hour.  We were not going to be able to go. Both J. and I didn’t have a particular paper and THEN……. it was discovered that J. had no visa – it had run out almost four months previously! I felt real scared, and prayed and prayed and prayed in my heart. Then, THEY LET US THROUGH!

It was a real miracle – God sure does answer prayer!

Now we have stopped for ten minutes at Libreville, and are up again, speeding north toward Douala!


What happened in Cameroun when I was eleven…

It was a long school vacation time.  Our next-door-neighbor family was going away to the seashore for two weeks of yearly holiday.  The mom came up to me and asked me if I would like to earn a little pocket money daily feeding and also daily walking, on the end of his chain, their pet “baby” gorilla.

I happily said “yes” and received my instructions for my new responsibilities with conscientious attention. The particular “baby” gorilla in question was much loved by all the kids and teenagers, lived in a large chicken-wire cage/home in the neighbor family’s back yard, and had a general reputation for being tame. I was a fanatical animal lover, had several pets of my own, though none as exotic as a gorilla, and I thought I already had a great relationship with this tame gorilla.

Well!  From the very first morning, the gorilla, who had been quietly growing from babyhood, and now was eight months old, (I wonder how old that would equivocate in people years?) demonstrated a HUGE mind of his own and, instead of walking pleasantly around the grassy yards on the end of his long metal chain, would PLANT himself in the grass and start getting mad at me, working himself up into a rage, then CHARGING me down the length of the chain, wrapping himself around my bony bare shins, and biting on my legs!

Maybe he was missing his family?  Probably.  Not that used to me, I guess. A few mornings of that and, I’m afraid poor Baby Gorilla didn’t get taken out each day for the rest of the two weeks!  He got fed super well though, and petted through the chicken wire, and talked to a lot each day.