Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Week in Kinshasa

Happy Thanksgiving!!
Above you see the beautiful Thanksgiving table just before it was loaded down with delicious dishes contributed by all the senior couples. This is the Mission Home of President and Sister Jameson. We had a very nice meal -- too much good food. So now you know that we really aren't living in a little grass hut in the middle of nowhere with no luxuries around us. We are quite comfortable, especially being surrounded by the great people we serve with.
Here are the hors-d'oeuvres that Elder and Sister Stagg provided. Crabmeat on crackers and little homemade quiches. Very nice, and hard not to fill up on before the main meal.
This picture is out of order, but since you know how inept I am with trying to move the pictures around, you get it this way.
Above is Elder B and one of our partners showing how the water which is collected off the roof during a rainstorm is stored in these tanks and used for handwashing and latrine flushing in our new school latrine (the pink and blue ones you saw in an older blog).
Back to the Thanksgiving meal, here are the pies we provided for the meal. We transported them in this nifty huge basket that was in our apartment when we moved here. Finally found a use for it, aside from looking really cool in our living room. The pies - the first ones I've made here - actually came out great. We bought two huge squashes (like the one that the jack-o-lantern was carved out of in an older blog), cooked them up and made the pies. The middle one is an apple pie. Unfortunately, we had to forego our traditional chocolate silk pies this year -- not safe to eat raw eggs here.
Our apartment complex is getting a paint job. This was taken out our front window on the second floor. The picture below was supposed to be first, but oh well. We wanted to show you an up close photo of the man putting up the scaffolding, then show you (above) exactly where he was. No safety precautions here. Just very good balancers!
Back at the new latrine, this young artist is sculpting the name of the church (in French) onto the front of the latrine -- freehand. It will say, "Gift from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
At a different site, these happy women and Gaston, a partner, are showing us how thrilled they are to have a well close to their homes so they don't have to go so far to get dirty water to drink. Gaston did a great job on this project, and we plan to do another with him next year. For those of you who remember Betty Williamson, mom of Vivian Moses, take a close look at the woman in the middle front. Doesn't she look like Betty?
Below is another of the many beautiful sites as we walk along the Congo River. We have heard this called by several names -- poncianna, flaming tree -- but whatever it is, it is vibrant. We also saw this in Jamaica. The Congo has so many of the same flowers and trees and fruits we knew in Jamaica.
This is how we spend Family Home Evening. Eating. That's Elder Hatch and President Jameson snacking. We had planned to play games this particular evening, but we never got to the games. Just sat around eating and talking. Our favorite way to unwind from the challenges of hot, bumpy roads with crazy drivers and hungry policemen.
At the present time we are enjoying 3 days of 'lockdown' in our apartments because of the presidential elections going on tomorrow. There may be some incidents, and the US Embassy has advised us to all stay home for a few days. We feel perfectly safe where we live, but we all want to be obedient, so we stocked up on books and a few DVDs to occupy our many hours at home. We may have to leave the country for a week or so after the 4th when the results of the voting are posted. There may be some unhappy people around. So if there is no blog next week, you will know why. We will be flying to Johannesburg, So. Africa. Another adventure!
Please don't worry about us. The news reports make it sound worse than it really is. We are loving this place and the work and of course, the people. Have a wonderful week, and thanks for visiting the blog.
Elder and Sister Bingham

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Election week, no ceremonies week

Happy Birthday, Jennifer Kelly, beautiful daughter of ours!
This week held some disappointments, namely that our closing ceremonies had to be postponed due to the political unrest. Postponed, but not cancelled, so you will be seeing those ceremonies on the blog in the near future.
We begin this blog with a few random, but unique photos. Below, you see another example of the resourcefulness of these wonderful Congolese people. Elections are coming up. There are hundreds and hundreds of individuals running for office. When you are running for office, you have banners made. Lots of banners. Hundreds and hundreds of plastic banners. Then you hang them everywhere. This huge electrical transmission tower serves very well to display some of those banners. We feel that if you want a going business during election time, you should start a banner-printing business. We thought our son-in-law Brad Huskey would enjoy this....he works for PG&E and has climbed such towers....but not with banners, we'll wager.

This little guy below is just an average-size grasshopper we found on the ground of one of our project sites. Unfortunately, he lost his back hopper legs as the man holding him tried to situate him for the photo. Poor little hopper-less hopper.
Today was Stake Conference in the Kinshasa Stake. Afterwards, we had the privilege of meeting little Gabrielle, the daughter of one of our service missionaries who also works at the Temporal Affairs building with us. She just was not sure of that whitey holding her, and we never were able to coax a smile out of her.
We were very impressed with out new camera's ability to take long shots. We were on the other side of the valley when our engineer pointed this out to us. We could barely see it with our eyes, but look at the detail! These are the hollow cylinders that are formed with concrete that are gradually dropped on top of each other as the well is dug. One meter wide, one meter across. Most of our wells are about 20 meters deep, so that means at least 20 of these are sitting on top of each other from the bottom of the well to the top. And one guy gets to be at the bottom digging with a short shovel and filling a small bucket on a rope that is lifted out, emptied, and sent back down empty. We think these people are amazing for their hard work and creativity.
We know we have posted other pictures of our wells being pumped, but this is our favorite. And in case it looks like Sis. B is struggling to pump, SHE IS! It is hard work to prime the pump, and I almost didn't make it without help. This is why the Congolese people have such muscles! They snicker over our weak ones. This well has just been completed and we asked that the contractor allow the villagers to go ahead and begin using it instead of expecting them to wait until the closing ceremony. They need the clean water NOW.
Last week we told you of the colorful latrines, but neglected to take a picture of the blue (boys) one. Here it is! That's Brother Kadi Kadi in the great hat, and President Kiembwe, President of the organization we are partnering with to do the work. He is also a counselor in his Stake Presidency. They are wonderful men and we love working with them.
The rainy season is upon us, and the roads are atrocious. Every rain storm destroys the roads more and more. The potholes are bigger and deeper. Elder B loves the driving and dodging!
We did have one exciting police experience. For background, the couples get hassled a lot by the police here, because they want us to give them money in order for them to let us proceed. So much hassle that President Jameson, our Mission President, had been stopped one too many times, so he called the Police department and made an appointment with the top guy. The interview went very well, the General was very kind and interested in our plight, was very impressed with the work we do here as volunteers, and he offered to give each of us his personal card to use with his phone number if we had trouble with any of his men. Elder B has really been looking forward to using that card....As we were driving down the main street in town one day this week, the policeman up ahead looked down the line of cars and saw us, the whiteys, coming toward him. So he stepped out in front of our car and demanded us to pull over. We do not pull over. That's asking for trouble. We stay in the lane blocking traffic so the other motorists get mad at the policeman for holding up traffic. With doors locked and windows up, he tried to tell us that we had done something wrong. Of course, Elder B tried to tell him that we don't speak French. Using sign language, the policeman demanded to see our driver's license. Did that, through the window. He still wasn't satisfied. Finally we had to pull out our trump card -- the business card of General Olako. Then Elder B casually swerved around the policeman, squealed his tires, and took off. However, this policeman didn't like that, so he had his partner on a motorcycle chase us down. We were at a stop light, so he came up beside us and demanded us to pull over. No go. I was a little panicky by then, but once again the General Olako card was displayed, Elder B asked, "Do you want me to call him?" and the motorcycle cop just sort of faded away. We love this place!!
That's all for this week. Have an outstanding week -- we know we will!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Halloween and a Pink Latrine!

Happy Sabbath to all of you!
This week has been a very busy one -- not enough time to do everything we needed to do, but still enough time to take a few pics to share with you.
We begin, and end, with our projects. Below is Aime (pronounced Emmeh), who is an employee of the Mission, and an excellent driver if you need someone to find absolutely any place in Kinshasa in a hurry. He is also a great one to take the sisters shopping when the husbands refuse! His connection to one of our projects is his shirt. His wife has been going to the Stake Sewing Project classes, and learned how to sew, and here is her first completed item -- worn very proudly by her husband. We are thrilled at her progress, she is thrilled with her accomplishment, and Aime is thrilled with a new shirt! This sewing project has been an amazing success!! This picture was taken on Oct. 31, which leads us to the next picture....

Our own President Jameson being a grandpa to the prematurely - born Ariel, son of another of the Mission employees, Thierry (pronounced Teery). Ariel is three months old, and a whopping 8 pounds almost. Look at those fat cheeks! President J is loving his 'grandpa duty' while parents are busy elsewhere, which leads us to picture #3........

Halloween is not celebrated here in the Congo. But some individuals, who will remain unnamed, wanted to know more about our strange customs on Oct. 31. So the Hatches and Jamesons hatched up a plan....have a Halloween dinner/party for the couples and mission employees AND their children (whoops, not the couples' children -- sorry), and introduce them to Halloween!
Binghams were given the assignment to find a pumpkin. But there really are no orange pumpkins in Kinshasa. We looked high and low for a large round squash. We finally found this interesting squash and hoped it would suffice. The Jamesons were thrilled, and as you can see, Mr. Green Squash made a delightful jack-o-lantern, cut by President Jameson himself. The children were amazed what that squash turned into, and then when Sis. Jameson inserted the candle and turned out the lights, their amazement turned to astonishment. The next activity was to go Trick or Treating down the Mission Home hallway, stopping at each doorway and yelling "Trick or Treat!!" First these little Congolese children were taught by Sis. J to say "Trick or Treat!" in English. They learned VERY fast. Then they were off down the hall with their parents in tow. Guess who had the most fun??? (Elder B and I gave the parents a little secret lesson on how to "taste-test" their children's Halloween candy after the kids went to bed...a tradition in our home. Is it in yours, too?) Finally, a loud game of "Don't eat Pete!" with peanuts. We learned the next day that one of the children used her candy-filled bag as a pillow that night, and another said, "Can we go trick or treating tonight?" AND a dad did a great job snooping in his sleeping son's candy bag.

Now on to the latrine (toilet). As you know, most of our projects are hand-dug wells, and we combine those with a school latrine and rainwater catchment project. As the latrines are constructed, we check on their progress. Below are two of the latrine stalls. Yes, those are merely holes in the floor. Your feet straddle the hole and .....well, you get the picture. That's what is used here. But take a look at the tile on the walls!! This is a palace-
On this particular latrine project, I jokingly said, "and the girls' latrine you'll paint pink, the boys' you'll paint blue, right???" JOKINGLY. Color is not gender-based here. Boys wear pink and flowered clothes. Baby boys are dressed in pink as often as any other color. Pink shoes, too. So the color thing was an unknown to them. However, this sweet engineer made sure my wishes were carried out. When we arrived at the project yesterday, the engineer and workmen were dancing they were so excited to show us the painted latrines. The boys' was the brightest blue you can imagine, too. (sorry, Elder B forgot to take a picture in all the screaming (mine). Do you see why we love this mission? It is a blast!

This picture just had to be taken. She was sitting on her mom's lap, and her grandma was nearby. Grandma asked if we could please take this picture. (She doesn't have an extra ear, that's her brother right behind her.)
Below is what became of our beautiful Waters of Mormon spring. It's moving along, almost finished. Just wanted to give you a different view since last week. Notice the little girl hauling her water away. She'll still have to do that, but the water will be clean and unpolluted when the spring is completed and running normally again. The open box is where the water will be collected from the hillside. It will be covered. The two pipes at the bottom of the picture will be the pipes from which the clean water will flow. The runoff will be diverted to form another Waters of Mormon pool below the spring so the children will still have a place to play, swim, and bathe.
Next Saturday will be our first official Bingham project closing turning-over ceremony for one of the projects. The following Tuesday will be two more. We are on a roll! Hopefully a video will be taken with our amazing new camera and we can attach it to this blog. Until then, have a wonderful week. Here's a great thought to think about:
"Every one of us is more beloved to the Lord than we can possibly understand or imagine." Elder Robert D. Hales, Oct. 2011 Gen. Conference