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April 23, 2010

What I need to remember for living in Congo

Thought you might like to read some notes to myself for when we return after coming home for a bit.

1. Bread dough only takes about 20 minutes to rise (never let it sit for a hour before checking on it, impossible to clean up)

2. Always add double the amount of water you think you need to cook dried beans in a pressure cooker. (again impossible to clean)

3. Always carry a safety pin when riding in a skirt, it can get windy at a moments notice (good thing I always wear boxer shorts under my skirts)

4. Always bring a water bottle with you when you leave the house, you never know what sort of sticky situations you may encounter (there is a fruit here that is called mock mango that is like super glue inside)

5. Always pay attention to how much water is in your purifier (cause if someone else fills it you will be mopping your floor again) This happens on a weekly basis (not always my fault)

6. Always pay attention to the water bottles filling at the purifier (the good news is my kitchen floor gets mopped often)

7. When moving said purifier remember to see if someone has filled it when it is supposed to remain empty for cleaning (sigh you get the picture)

8. Always carry French/English dictionary with you. You never know when you want to ask what it is you are trying to buy, that you think you know what it is and find out once you cut it open that you have no idea what it is you bought.

9. Always safety pin your panya or you may be showing off the basketball boxers you are wearing to people you would prefer didn’t see them.

10. Always keep a bucket full of water next to the shower so that when the water runs out you will be able to rinse the soap off of you and out of your hair, so that you don’t have to get dressed, and go outside with shampoo in your hair and pump one at the cistern.

11. ALWAYS know where your fly swatter is!

12. Keep roach biscuits fresh and on hand at all times!

13. Know where your matches are, and the candles and the flashlight at all times!

14. Write down and memorize how to tell the housekeeper that toilet paper is not for cleaning the bathroom

15. Write down and tape to the back door how to tell the people trying to sell smoked money heads that you don’t buy smoked meat (should have taken a picture cause it is creepy looks like a shrunken head)

16. Tape to door instructions on telling people no snakes!!!!!!!

17. Keep kerosene burners full at all times, somewhat hard to make dinner when they are dry and there is no husband around to refill said burners, and once you do fill them you also are once again cleaning your kitchen floor this time cause of something you only wish was water.

18. Don’t buy regimes of Bananas or Plantains that are fluorescent green (they never get ripe and then attract really really big black biting ants).

19. A dead ant is just extra protein, especially when dead on a sucker or piece of chocolate (you might not get another one for months)

20. Always wear clothes that won’t fall off when they get wet, just because it is sunny out now doesn’t mean it will not be a torrential rain storm in about 5 minutes.

21. If you are on your bike and it starts to get windy and black out, don’t kill yourself trying to get home before getting wet, it’s a lost cause.

22. Remember to flame your bread when you get it, need to get all the ants to come out so you can burn them off before eating.

23. If there are less then 50 live ants on/in your food it is fine any more then that you might want to rethink eating it, before picking them out, then it is fair game.

24. Always keep mosquito net down on your bed, praying mantises, geckos and other various creatures can get in if you leave it up and fall on you during the night.

25. Big brown flat spiders are your friend no matter how big and ugly they are.

January 22, 2010

Crazy Busy

I really do try and keep up with this blog, but life has a way, of getting in the way.

Things are going well here, though it has been really crazy with all the arrivals of short-term missionaries over the last 2 weeks. We now have a pediatrician, a ultra-sound tech, a Physicians Assistant, a ER Nurse and a second set of hands for Art. In 2 weeks we will be getting another Dr then 2 weeks after that yet another Dr. It is amazing to see the team growing so quickly. We got a couple of AWESOME answers to prayer this week too. Rachel is leaving in April and her position really needed to be filled. The woman we were hoping to have come has been praying for a long time about it and made the step in faith to come here as soon as her support is raised. Her name is Monique so please pray that she will raise her support quickly and arrive here in time to be trained by Rachel before she leaves. The Marsh family has also been given the go ahead to come!!! We can't wait to have more of our LaGrange family here in Congo with us. Of course that means we need to finish their house ASAP.

The new PA is now part of our family. As most of you know we have an apartment that is attached to the end of our house. Rachel lives there now and Joan has also moved in. It is fun to have people around all the time and helping her to settle into life here is rewarding as well as entertaining. It is also nice to be the ones helping instead of needing help. I think I have finally figured out most of the cooking here. I don't have as many hmmm well that doesn't work with the ingredients here moments. I have to admit though I will enjoy not having to make bread everyday when we are home in June. I will love going to the store to buy things rather than making them. I will have to be careful not to gain back all the weight I have lost. Ok so you want to know how much I lost. I am grossed out to think when I got here I weighed 220 and a size 18/20 I am now down to 155 and a size 10/12, I can't believe I have lost 65 lbs!!!! I am continuing to loose weight, so pray that I will be down to a very healthy size when I get home even if not too skinny so I have room to enjoy food while I am there.

We are starting to try and get some speaking dates while we are back. We fly home from here on June 20th and will arrive at Dullas International in Va on June 21st at 7:15 am. We are not sure if we will get in a car (after getting a shower somewhere) and head to NY or if we will stay with our supporters at Mt. Hope in Va for a bit then head home. We will just have to wait and see what the Lord works out for us. Why are we heading home you ask? Well as most everyone knows we are not fully supported, we were given the go ahead to come here based on what was in our account divided up over a year. We were hopping to stay for 2 years our first term but the Lord had other plans. When we arrive home our account will be all but empty. So we will try and not live on anything (other than the kindness of our friends and family) while in the states so that we can build our account up as quickly as we can and come back here. We hope to be back in Congo by October. We are in need of $950 more per month to cover our expenses but we are praying for a $1250 increase so that we can help cover some more of the expenses that will come with living in and hosting the guest house that will be built this year. Our team is growing here so much that we need to build a guest house and we will be the hosting family.

We are doing great as a family. Michael is still really enjoying school and flying through it. Art is as busy as every fixing everything and anything that comes his way. I am working with Dr. Joe coordinating short term and long term missionaries and all the communications that go along with that, being a host/cook/tour guide for short-termers staying at the mission housing complex and trying to help out in any other way I can as well as homeschooling with Claire and Isabelle for a couple of classes a day.

Please continue to pray for us as a family and as a team. There is still fighting going on across the river and while we are safe that could change at a moments notice. We continue to pray for all of you back in the states and look forward to hearing from you. Please send me emails to let me know how you are doing, dralston@laborersfortheharvest.com

December 23, 2009

Dear Friends~

Please referr to www.laborersfortheharvest.com for a full update of what is going on.

Know that we are safe for now, but require your prayers to stay so.

November 20, 2009

Been Awhile and Busy now

I know that it's been awhile but I actually have something to write about now. The V's are back, Rachel is back the Harvey's are back and the Wegners have arrived. Now I have things to do!!!!! I started to help homeschool the 2 middle Harvey girls last week and it is going really well I can't wait to really get into some of the projects we will be doing this year. I started helping Joe with communications which gives me something to do after I am done with schooling each day. So now I am not a bored Danielle!

Things I have learned over the last month:
1. Never loan money to hired help that you like, because then you wont like them anymore, cause the quit working.
2. Never put dried beans in a pressure cooker with only one cup of water, makes the house stink
3. Never let bread rise all the way in the jungle, before putting it in the oven, cause it grows about 3 more times it's normal size.
4. Remember to fill water buckets before trying to take a shower, cause if they are empty you will run out of water and have to yell to your child to go get some more so you can get the soap out of your hair
5. Enjoy the quiet times cause they don't last (not possible with little boys around)
6. Give thanks for wonderful friends back home each day, for the clothes, spices and candy they send you
7. Give thanks every day for the wieght that keeps falling off even though you are enjoying said candy
8. PRAISE GOD for friends on their way to the mission field, even though they wont be there when we go on furlough next summer

Well that is all for now. I will try and write a little more often now that there is something to write about.

God Bless and thank you for your continued prayers!
Your stumbling Congo Missionary

September 22, 2009

June 26, 2009

Well I really don’t have a lot to write about each day. Things are pretty much the same each day. Art heads to the hospital about 6:45 and then Michael and I are on our own till around 4. We have started riding our bikes to the hospital to do internet stuff, but only a couple of days a week. The rest of the time we watch a lot of movies from the Harvey’s and just sit around. Michael is doing a subject each day for school just for something to do. I am trying not to go crazy. Suzy has asked me to come help her at the hospital once a week. They have asked me to organize Mbote Botique but the building isn’t finished yet so there is nothing to do there.

The V’s headed home today. I am sad to see them go but they will be back in 2 months. Ginny is going to be a huge part in helping me settle here. She has been here before and been a missionary a couple of other places so her advice and support are going to be invaluable to me.

June 13, 2009

The Harvey’s left this morning. It was really sad to see them go but exciting too I know they need the time of relaxation and renewal that goes with being home. Now we are all alone here, Rachel is here and will be eating with us but we really don’t know her that well so we will see how this goes.

June 9, 2009

I made my first trip to the Market with Ginny today to buy some food. I want to start learning how to shop here ASAP. Michael ended up being a big help he is picking up French pretty quickly. It is going to take me forever to learn either French or Lingala.

June 8, 2009

Our first full week in IMP. Art is working everyday at the hospital this week. Joe wants him to get settled in there and spend as much time doing orientation with him as possible. I am not sure how much time that will really be as Joe is still the administrator and a Dr so who knows how much extra time he really has. They leave Friday so we will see. I can’t believe they are leaving already, we just got here, but we knew that we were coming so that they and the V’s could go on furlow this summer and still have someone taking care of maintenance.

June 7, 2009

Our first church service in Impfondo! Rachel translated for Michael and I which was really nice. Then Joe took us on a tour of the hospital before we went to the V’s for lunch. It was cool to see all the places I had seen a million pics of over the last few years.

We then went to the V’s for lunch it was nice to talk with them and have a little more orientation to living here. We played some cards after lunch and just talked with them for a bit.

June 6, 2009

June 6, 2009

Art was back home with us once again. We were able to just hang out with Rachel and the kids today we really didn’t do a whole lot just talked.

June 5, 2009

Art went to the hospital again today and actually began doing a little work. Most of it is just getting to know where everything is but it was nice for him to get settled into his position.

Michael and I are still doing much of the same getting settled in here. Olivia took me to the hospital today so I could do a little email and then to the Market. That is going to be fun to learn how to shop here, NOT!!! It isn’t as bad as the market in Brazzaville but I still am going to have a major adjustment period.

June 4, 2009

Art went to the hospital with Joe today to start learning his way around. I am on my own today. I really don’t have a lot of moving things around to do today, just lots of dishes. Everything that was in the container is filthy. Michael and I had lunch over at the Harvey’s and just hung out with them a bit today. Michael and Noah are really enjoying playing together.

June 3, 2009

Today was all about unpacking. There is a team meeting down here at the Fuka’s today at 4:30 but other than that we are free to get organized and find all the things that we have forgotten we own or wishing we had for the last year.

Well it is now 1 and we are done unpacking (or at least finding everything) we now just have to find places for it all there really isn’t that much storage space here so we will have to be creative with it all. Becky is mad at me I think for being done, lol. It has been raining a little here all afternoon. I wonder if this is what it will be like during rainy season? Guess we will learn, from what we are told we are at the beginning of rainy season right now.

The meeting went well today, everyone went around and told us what they do and who they are. We know some of the people but not everyone. We also got to meet the Fuka girls. It is nice to be settled in.

June 2, 2009

IT IS HERE! We got up at 5 got “showers” well used water from a bucket to wash up hotel Bravo is out of water. Then waited around for Mr. Mbossa to get here. Our luggage has to go to the air port at 6 then we will have to head over at 8. Mr. Mbossa didn’t even get there till 8 though. Talk about a let down. I was getting a little anxious we have heard about them canceling flights at the last minute because of not enough people flying. I was really praying that we were leaving. We have been waiting so long to get to Impfondo that I was sure something would happen to delay it even more.

When we finally got to the air port we waited for over 2 hours to get on the plane. But then we were off on the FINAL leg of this 2 year long journey. It was so exciting to be on the plane this time I wanted to look at everything! There really wasn’t much to see till we got just about into Impfondo.

As we desended we were able to see the jungle and the river it was so cool to start seeing the place we had dreamed of for so long. As we flew over Impfondo Art was able to pick out where the mission housing was from seeing it on Google maps. We flew over the river over DRC and turned to land in at the IMP air port, this is what we were waiting for.
As we got off the plane the first faces we saw were Joe, Clair and Noah! And Rachel Maurais. As we got inside we were enveloped in HUGE hugs from all! We had to wait around for a bit for our luggage but we headed out into the reception area and were able to see Olivia. Isabelle and Becky, Susan and Sara. We were FINALLY HERE!!!

After getting the luggage we headed out got into the truck and finally got to see where we will be living here in Congo. Becky and the girls had done a great job trying to make us feel more at home. They painted the living room/dining room all white with black trim and the kitchen yellow and green. Everything that had come with the Loudenville team back in January of 2008 was all unpacked and they had made our beds with the sheets etc we had sent on the container last May. They had even stocked us up with some food supplies.

Michael was really excited to see all of his legos for the first time in a year all in one place. We were given the tour and then headed over to the Harvey’s for the spaghetti lunch we had been hearing that we would be given upon our arrival.

Lunch was nice to jus sit and talk with the Harvey’s and really get to reconnect with them. We really have so little time as they leave in 10 days for the States for 4 months. Joe wasted no time in starting to give Art a list of things that needed to be fixed. We will be eating with the Harvey’s until they leave so that we can spend as much as time as possible with them.

After lunch we had a few hours on our own to settle in and unpack. Tomorrow Art will spend the day helping us get things done here then he starts his long list of projects with Joe.

Ginny stopped by to welcome us she was teach English when our plane arrived so is just coming down now. She brought us a loaf of fresh bread, and some pickles. We will really enjoy those. It was nice to reconnect, I am really going to enjoy her she is a wonderful woman.

June 1, 2009

A day of total alone time and relaxing. Just what we need after all the confusion of the last week. I am so happy to just stay here where it is quiet, well relatively, and just the 3 of us. Michael is kind of bored by it but tomorrow we have to get up early and head to the air port and then to Impfondo. I am so excited I can’t wait to see the Harvey’s and Sue Lardner and the Vandervoord’s. We have been waiting so long to get there I can’t believe we are this close.

We just spent the day trying to email family as it may take a little bit once we get to IMP to be “hooked” up. We also wrote an update and sent it out and took a few pictures of Hotel Bravo and posted them on Facebook.

We got everything out that we wanted to send out on the internet. We have heard that the internet here is much more reliable than in Impfondo. That is really going to be an adjustment, after living in the states with DSL in our house for years it is going to be hard to not have constant internet connection all hours of the day.

We are going to head to bed early as we have to be up at 5am to get showers and be ready for 6 when we are supposed to head to the Air port.

May 31, 2009

Hmm, church in Congo is not something I can explain at all. I have no idea what was going on for the whole 2 hours of the service. I understood one song (only cause I recognized the tune the words however were in French). The rest of the service was just plain confusing not only was it in French but it was translated into Lingala too. Sigh what a confusing day. Not only was the service confusing but afterwards there was a dinner for the LaBlancs leaving for Cameroon this week. Yuck our first exposure to African food, in a public setting so we have to eat it. Michael was smart and just ran around with the kids and never actually ate anything. We had ska ska and fufu. EWWW. I am not sure I can ever adjust to this. After we just headed back to Bravo and relaxed to later in the evening when we headed to SIL for a Sunday Sing-a-long service. We shared how God came to lead us to Congo and our personal testimonies. It was nice the whole thing was in English. Other than between the 3 of us there has been very little English for the last week. Tomorrow is a national holiday here so we will just be relaxing and getting ready to leave on Tuesday for Impfondo.

May 30, 2009

Art was able to get his money exchanged today finally. It was nice to have everything in place that is needed for us to be a little more independent (kinda I hate the idea of being left alone right now). Once that was done he was able to get another cell phone which will be our email one once we get to Impfondo.

I went to the Market this morning with Elizabeth. This is not an experience I was prepared for in any way. I knew it was outside. But I don’t think I could ever be prepared for the smells or mud or slime everywhere. It is going to take me a long time to come to grips with the fact of no refiridegeration where you buy your meat. YUCK!

After the dentist appointment, which we got to all on our own, we walked to SIL. It was easy to get to. I feel a little less scared of everything now that Art is doing better with his French. At least he can get us back to Bravo on his own.

Lunch with Brenda and Simon was wonderful. They have only been here a year and remember what it was like to first be here and were able to offer us a lot of advice and help in adjusting here. I am so glad that they had the time to sit with us for almost a whole entire afternoon. They are getting ready to move to Camaroon as all of their boys are attending boarding school there and it would be easier for them to be closer to their children.

After a long afternoon with the LeBlanc’s we headed back to Bravo. Where Elizabeth had made dinner for us. We enjoyed sitting and talking with them and we also played a few games before heading to bed for the night. Tomorrow is our first church service in Congo, this should be interesting.

May 29, 2009

Paul came back again today to help us get to the Dentist once again. He also showed us where to buy a few groceries for the next few days. Art was able to get his tooth pulled and is feeling a lot better now. He will be going back tomorrow for one final appointment to get a filling in another tooth. This is going to be a very expensive dentist trip I think. Paul left us at the dentist to get back on our own as he was heading back to the States today to be with his wife. I am not sure he will ever understand how greatful we are for his help and advice the first few hours here. Tonight we are having dinner with Trista Vanderwall at SIL. Her husband is also traveling. It seems like there are no men around right now. Elizabeth’s husband is with Trista’s husband. Dinner was very nice we were introduced to Brenda and Simon LeBlanc and their son Nickolas. We made plans with come back to SIL tomorrow afternoon after the dentist appointment and sit and talk with the LaBlanc’s. Michael is looking forward to hanging out with another boy his age.

Trista took us to the Manderine for Ice Cream which is a real treat here, though our memories of how things taste in the states are way too fresh. It didn’t really taste like ice cream but more like ice milk. But it was a nice treat and we enjoyed seeing some more of Brazzaville.

May 28, 2009

We got up this morning got showers again (we took them before we went to sleep too) and ventured out of our room to hopefully talk to with someone about our day. There wasn’t anyone there that spoke English so Art got to start practicing his French in a hurry. There was a note from Elizabeth a bag with cereal in it and some yogurt for us to eat for breakfast. Mr. Mbossa is Global’s agent in Brazzaville and he was able to talk with Art a little, Joe called Mr. Mbossa’s phone and Art was able to talk to him and ask him what to do about his mouth. I think Joe must have called Paul Ohlin because a little while later he showed up and was able to take us on a tour of SIL and to the Dentist so that Art could get some relief. He also helped us get a phone so we could talk with Joe and anyone else we may need to. If it wasn’t for him we would have been left totally alone and unprepared for doing anything here.

When we got back to Bravo after the dentist appointment, there was another friendly face that we recognized Leticia!!! It was so nice to see her again and greatful for another face and voice in English. We were able to have dinner at the Julian’s house and meet Ruth but not her husband unfortunately as he was traveling. We got a little encouragement form Ruth on settling in here and how to deal with the shock of just getting here. After Chantal (Elizabeth’s daughter) and Leticia rode back with us to Bravo so we weren’t left alone in a taxi.

May 27, 2009

Now that I have had some sleep and a shower I feel a bit more put together. The flight was fairly uneventful, but not comfortable. I ended up being the one who got motion sick, not fun. The flight from JFK to Marco was loud, the plane was filled with Arabic speakers and they are not quiet yelling across the plain to each other. The kids just ran around the whole time. I had a little girl behind me that kept kicking the back of my seat for almost the whole 8 hours, a little girl next to mean who screamed from about 9 till about 4 am and a little boy in front of us that kept standing on his seat and talking to us (he was missing his front teeth so there was a gross shower involved each time). We were very happy to get off the plane in Morocco. This was our first steps into Africa. Here we were getting off the plane in the dessert at 7 am it was really bright and sunny we were really unprepared for how cool it was. We were expecting heat to hit us but it was nice a cool. We walked from the plane into the building and followed directions to go directly to transfer. Opps, shouldn’t have done that Art had his guitar taken from him before we got on the plane in NY and he needed to stay behind and get it before going to transfer. After we went though security we found what we thought was our gate, it ended up being the gate for a flight later in the morning from Morocco to NY (no the direction I wanted to be going in). He left us there and headed out to try and figure out how to get his guitar. All in all it took him about 2 hours to get it and then get back to us. We then figured out this was not where we were supposed to be and found a comfy spot to sit and wait till our flight would be posted on the board. We had a 5 ½ hour layer over here so it was a long boring afternoon. We were able to doze on and off for a bit though and that helped not be so incredibly tired. Through all of this, Art’s face was getting more and more swollen and painful.

We got on the plane from Maraca to Brazzaville with no problems and the flight was very quiet. It was nice to have a quiet flight. Art was able to talk with a gentleman from Cameroon for a little bit.

We were not at all prepared physically for getting off the plane in Brazzaville. Joe explained to us how it may be but the heat and humidity was not something you can be ready for without ever actually being here. We got inside and Michael and I just stood by while Art tried to figure out how to fill out the immigration cards for us. Thankfully Adolph was there just like Joe said he would be and able to help get us all situated. We got through immigration and the health check with no problems. Security however was another story. Joe said if you say M’Bote they will leave you alone. NOPE! There was a female guard that was not happy with our 14 pieces of luggage and with all the clothes that we had. We were blessed however and able to get through. It is really scary though to have someone screaming at you in (I think it was French) and not understand a bit of it. Throw on top of it exhaustion, heat and needing a shower and you feel very very lost.

We got out to the truck and who’s there but Paul Ohlin!! Talk about a blessing someone who not only speak English but who we know. He was really helpful in getting everything loaded and then unloaded and getting us to Hotel Bravo. He said he would be back in the morning sometime to talk with us and visit for a little bit. He showed us to our room and left us on our own in the really strange place. There was a note from the family that lives here welcoming us to Congo, along with your Doxy that we needed to start taking immediately.