Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Independence Day

Today is Independence Day in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I took advantage of the day off to meander through the neighborhoods outside the center of town. There is no symmetric grid system here, so it was an adventure in ambling. I walked out one direction for a mile, then turned down a small road and followed the mountain back to the compound. I think I did a full circle at one point :)
As always, everyone was very nice and accommodating. Occasionally, I have some refuse my offer of a photo, but no one has ever been cross or mean. Often, when I am taking a picture of children, the parents or older children will help me corral them and get them to smile. It was a nice way to relax and to take a break from the nonstop schedule I have been keeping. A few glimpses of Zongo:

Preparing for the parade

Jules and Gedeno watching the parade

Heading over for the lineup

My favorite hardware shop

In my opinion, the world's greatest fort!

My shoe salesman, a tough negotiator 

Kids :)

I will miss these walks, the smiles, the hospitality. I will miss them, but I won't forget them :)

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Very Cool Day!

Today has been a very cool day indeed! Let me work backwards - When I got home tonight I discovered that I had chicken and rice for dinner, one of my favorites. When I wandered over to the bed, I noticed my pillow was different. It had been stuffed with many pieces of foam, not too comfortable. Today I have a proper pillow somehow and I am testing it out now :)  On the way home, I noticed that they are now using the road equipment and there was a half mile stretch already repaired. Thirty two more miles to go - I doubt I will see the end result before I leave. At the camp, things are coming together nicely for our July 4th celebration. The various groups are practicing their skits, poems, songs, game, and presentations and our big dress rehearsal is Friday. I managed to round up the tailor (Irving) and Christine and Benjamin to get going on their dresses. He measured them and then we went down to the market to pick out the material. The girls looked a little bit stunned and Teddy explained that they aren't yet sure if they believe this is happening. Wednesday, Scholastique and Yaya will take them down to the local village to get some shoes. We had a big rainstorm in the middle of lessons today, so we sat around and sang songs. Teddy, Saint Fort, and Juliet are really clicking and have become a great team. When I got to the camp, I was told the national education inspector from Bangui (the Central African Republic presides over the curriculum in the camp) wanted to see me. He was very nice and we had a good chat. It seems that he wants me to talk to the Minister of Education in the CAR about creating similar programs there - a big compliment. He has been very impressed with the work our team has been doing in the camp. I will look forward to seeing what they have in mind. Even as I am composing this paragraph, I received an email from Matt Smith, the principal of my old high school, asking that I come back and work with them again. I am very excited about the prospect! It is such an ironic honor that I can return and be helpful to a place that probably saved my life.  A few weeks ago, another hometown friend, Lena, invited me to be the keynote speaker at a Junior Achievement conference in Northern Indiana. The theme will be Educate and Rejuvenate. It is so nice to see the work you do come together; to see others buy in to a vision and help create it; and to have friends and colleagues recognize the value in the changes you help bring into the world! A very cool day indeed!

Today's lesson - I tease them about their obsession with neatness and the time it takes, but boy does it look good!

The program is exploding in a good way - there are so many people interested in English now

Our blind students are coming regularly now, I was even able to find some special paper for their Braille pads

English is a multi-generational affair

The rain is coming!

 The rain is here

What do you do when it is pouring on a tin roof? You sing of course!

Pounding cassava leaves and having fun

Irving measuring Christine and Benjamin for their dresses - I think I am as excited as they are

The leadership team (from left to right): Yaya, Yvon, Levy, Scholastique, Yvon's wife, Juliet, Teddy, and Saint Fort (doing what I don't know) down front

Sharp dressed folks in all this rain and mud

Yaya, the patient one! He is a great driver and a great friend!