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Back from Congo - Part 1

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hello dear Sparkfriends,

I have missed you this last week while I travelled through Congo! But as I expected, after we left the capital city (Brazzaville), there was no Internet connection at all, sometimes no electricity, and half of the time no running water either!

(Here a teenager girl washes clothes near the well in Kolo.)

Even though it was hard to communicate with the outside world, we had a great team and communicated well between us. (Here having 'lunch' - usually bread and 'Laughing Cow' cheese which can be kept outside the fridge and is found everywhere in French-speaking Africa - at our hotel in Bouansa, which was the most comfortable we had.)

From left to right Richard, the English photographer (I have posted one of his photos on my 2nd blog about Congo), Alphonse, the translator who helped us in places where people only spoke Beembé, and Christian, our colleague from our charity's Congo office who was just wonderful and took care of us like a mother hen cares for her baby chicks!

(Here I am having a discussion with Christian in Kolo... with the heat and humidity, my hair is a disaster, but it shows me typically at work with my notebook, pen and digital recorder!)

Here is Congo on the map of Africa:

There are 2 Congos actually. Democratic Republic of Congo (or DRC, former Zaire) is a huge country, as big as Western Europe. Nearby Congo (or Republic of Congo), West of DRC, is where we were. It is mostly populated in the southwest, where we travelled to. The vast areas of tropical jungle in the north are virtually uninhabited.

This was the landscape we saw the most... Green hills...

The hills used to be covered with forests, but little by little most of the trees have been cut (the wood is used for cooking on stoves), and now people grow cassava, peanuts, yam, sweet potatoes, aubergines/egg plants in these little fields. Many of the farmers are subsistence farmers: they use their crops to eat until the next ones are ready, but the situation becomes very difficult when there is a drought, as was the case last year. In Congo, there are two rain seasons, the big one and the small one. The 'big' rain season starts in September, and everybody we met were glad for all the rain we were having and were very busy in their fields.

The man on the motorbike is taking cassava cuttings to his field to plant them. We saw one tractor (at Bouansa's monastry), and of course I thought of LISALGB and the red tractor on her farm... I HAD to take a picture!!!

But 'normal farmers' don't own a tractor in Congo, nor do they own a motorbike (they would have to be 'big farmers' selling their crops and to have a good job on the side). What you see is women carrying baskets with their tools around their head like this:

But of course, people also have goats, sheep, chickens, pigs...

... and even cats! This kitten in Mouyondzi was adorable!

I am sorry, I realize this blog goes a bit in all directions!!! :) I am tired and I'll be going to bed soon. But I'll post a blog again tomorrow. In the meantime, let me end with the beautiful late afternoon light of Bouansa on Saturday...

Thank you for reading dear friends! I look forward to being in touch with you all in the next few days, thank you so much for all your messages, comments on my photos and activity feed and kind goodies!
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P.S. Some of you who haven't been following my blogs for very long have asked me about my previous trips for work. I wrote blogs about my trips to Burundi and Haiti. Here are just two of them...
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    1034 days ago
  • JACKIE542
    I missed this one, glad I found it and the others, beautiful pictures, and the history and all the smiles of the people. Happy I went back and saw these blogs. emoticon
    1996 days ago
    I've learnt a lot about Congo thanks to you! I love your pictures!
    2000 days ago
    Many thanks, Gail! I'll write you a Sparkmail, but no, I don't work for Médecins sans Frontières. The charity I work for doesn't deal with anything medical, and it is based in England: this is why I travel to the UK several times a year for work.
    emoticon emoticon
    2006 days ago
    Hi Claire - I've been looking forward to your blogs about the Congo all the time we were away! Your pictures, as always, are lovely. I'm glad you were with a good team, as I suspect you were together almost 24/7. You've always been very careful not to mention the charity you work for, and I'm curious about whether it's Medecins san Frontieres (probably not spelled correctly). I don't mind if you don't answer that part.

    I'm slowly catching up on peoples' blogs for the past month; I know you're going to Belgium next week. Have a good trip. I spent 3 days in Brussels once, but it was when I had just been dumped by a man in Denmark with whom I'd corresponded for a year... he took one look at me and decided he could never love me inspite of all his earlier declarations... ah well, I would never have met Peter...

    take care and enjoy your week=end,
    2006 days ago
  • RAMONA1954
    Thanks for sharing your travels in the Congo with us. I feel as if I am with you when I read and enjoy your gorgeous photos. Thanks again!
    2012 days ago
    Your pictures caused me to be a might homesick. Although we had more forest in CAR. I suspect the same thing could happen there with their wood fires and charcoal irons. I want to see your previous blogs of Congo. I have been unusually busy with Hubbys return from the rest home. emoticon Jane
    2016 days ago
  • BEWELL48
    Thank you for the beautiful pictures! You do some amazing work!
    2021 days ago
    Beautiful photos and an amazing experience! emoticon
    2022 days ago
    What amazing photos .As usual your blog was fantastic ! Thank you!
    2025 days ago
  • CHEEKY1000
    I'm a bit behind in my blog reading, but I wanted to save yours for a day when I knew I'd have time to savor. emoticon

    What a wonderful odyssey! Your background image is delightful.

    You seriously have the most awesome job of anyone I know.
    2025 days ago
    I am so happy to read of your wonderful experience in the Congo. You always relay a phenomenal story through your pictures! You are the perfect person for the job you is apparent how much you are valued!

    2026 days ago
    Welcome home Claire. Once again a beautiful collection
    of photos and I especially loved the ones with the children
    at the schools. You are amazing. I just love reading all about
    your amazing adventures. Thanks for sharing. emoticon
    2027 days ago
    emoticon Back Claire-you were missed! The blog was very informative and interesting! You do such great work with your charity!! Love all the pics-especially the background of the happy children!! Glad you arrived home safe and sound. emoticon
    2027 days ago
    Thank you for sharing the photos of your trip to Congo. It is amazing to visit Africa and to see both the beauty and the poverty -- and the sense of community. emoticon
    2027 days ago
    Such a beautiful area Claire. Love your background page. The kids look so happy. Nothing like a smile on a child's face. Love all of the animals!
    2027 days ago
    Claire, what an amazing experience this must have been for you!! Your pictures are wonderful. The people there are fascinating and I am sure they were sad to see you leave.
    And, I want you to know that I am so touched that you thought of me while you were there!! I am so honored to be mentioned in your blog, too. I suppose from now on, the tractor will be my symbol, emoticon
    Love you, my dear friend!!
    2027 days ago
    Glad to see you home safely Claire. Such an exciting job you have. I can see why you love it so much. Your pictures tell so much. On a side note your friends Richard's hint of a smile made my heart skip a beat. Haven't felt that in a while. :)
    2027 days ago
  • MILLIE5522
    Welcome home! Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us. Great photos which certainly make me appreciate what we have here and should not take for granted. emoticon
    2027 days ago
  • DMF2012
    Wow, what an incredible trip - thanks so much for sharing. If you are allowed to mention it, I'd love to know which organization you're with, and what it is you do.
    2028 days ago
  • BAKER1009
    Love the blog and all the pictures Claire! That kitten is adorable! Of course, I love the picture of the goats!

    I am so glad you were able to go on this trip and that you are now home safe & sound. Will be waiting for additional blogs about the trip!!

    2028 days ago
    What an amazing adventure! Thanks so much for sharing your travels!
    2028 days ago
    What an amazing trip you must have had! Thanks so much for sharing the pics and a little bit of it with us. Looking forward to your next blog! In the meantime, get some rest.
    I went back and read the other 2 blogs you had links to. You have some amazing travels and stories to tell!
    2028 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/31/2012 11:59:36 AM
    This must have been an unforgettable experience for you, Claire! It's a great thing that your job gives you the opportunity to see so different places in the world and discover the ways other people live.
    I'll be looking forward to the second part of the blog. You still haven't told us about the canoe and the crocodile river!!!
    2028 days ago
    Adventures, great job you got, taking you places,
    great blog nice pix (as usual) and

    Welcome Back. emoticon emoticon
    2029 days ago
    I'm thinking that must have a very interesting job - that takes you to places such as this! And many of the pictures remind me of a trip I made to the Gambia (early 1970's - my parents were in the Peace Corp).

    Glad you are are and hopefully well rested by now!
    2029 days ago
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful trip - with pictures, no less. Your reports and pictures are always fascinating. Looking forward to your next blog.
    Glad you made it home, safely, and, please, get some rest, now.
    Thanks again.
    2029 days ago
    emoticon Claire! You are so beautiful for sharing your adventures with us emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2029 days ago
    Welcome home! Love this blog! emoticon
    2029 days ago
    So good to have you back again. Hope it was a successful trip. Looking forward to your next blog.
    2029 days ago
    Thanks Claire, I loved the information about the Congo. As a small child we knitted 6 inch blanket squares to send blankets to Africa. A emoticon emoticon emoticon lot of our neighbours went to Africa, several cousins too. It looks so green I am used to seeing pictures of their drought.Thanks for the update on my geography Pat in Maine. Happy you are home safely and your foot was no problem.
    2029 days ago
    Welcome home to us!!! You were missed. Thank you so much for the photos, Claire what is your job when you go to these places? You are so blessed & the people you encounter are blessed for having you also in all the places you travel to.
    2029 days ago
    I was so thrilled to get your blog! You have been soooo missed!!!

    All of it was wonderful and I am so looking forward to tomorrow's blog.

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    2029 days ago
    Looks like a great adventure....look forward to hearing more about what you did!

    Any alligators or was that just a fear?
    2029 days ago
    emoticon LISE
    2029 days ago
    Wow, great pics. Nice to see a part of tne world I'll most likely never actually get to.
    2029 days ago
    2029 days ago
  • KAREN91
    I've never been out of the U.S.A but its nice to see the world through your pix of both your travels and the great pix you take of your home country of France! I love your blogs! I have missed you and your blog. One of the nurses at work is from the Ivory Coast. I will have to look on a map and see how close that is to Congo. I know she speaks French. Great to have you back! emoticon emoticon
    2029 days ago
  • QTEALADY20031
    Claire, I so enjoyed reading your blog and seeing your wonderful pictures. What an experience to see how people live in places so far away from the USA and learn about their culture. It is so nice to see you back and I look forward to reading Part 2.
    Rest well my friend! emoticon emoticon June
    2029 days ago
    LOVE that late afternoon light photo at the end! But they are all interesting and I'm looking forward to seeing more when you get time. Glad you're back safely and not jetlagged! emoticon emoticon
    2029 days ago
  • JENNA54
    Theis is brillian Claire. Thanks so much for sharing your trip. TThe Congo is an area about which I know absolutely nothing (except reading the Poisonwood Bible...) so your blog is very interesting. I am glad you have had a safe trip, and look forward to reading more about your adventures. What a great job you have!
    2029 days ago
  • DOODIE59
    As ever, thank you for sharing your travels with us. It gives me a better sense of more of the world:)
    Have a good rest!
    2029 days ago
    These pictures are wonderful! You have given us a wonderful idea of how the people in this part of the world live their day to day lives. Thank you so much for sharing and I look forward to your next blog. emoticon
    2029 days ago
    so glad you are back safe & sound! It looks like you were well taken care of with the photographer, translator and Christian. As always your photographs are beautiful and capture the essence of where you're at.

    Can't wait for the next installment!

    HUGS HUGS HUGS . . . glad you're back! And glad you didn't have to deal with jet lag too! I learned something from you today. I didn't know Frand and the Congo were in the same time zone. Interesting!
    2029 days ago
    Great pics. Glad you are safe too, the Congo has been a bit hostile in the past. (Maybe your gentle approach charmed them all!)
    2029 days ago
  • LINDAK25
    I loved your blog! The pictures really do show what life is like there. The hills are beautiful.
    2029 days ago
    Those pictures are such a treat! Thanks for sharing... How nice to see you in working mode... Love it!
    I hope you are having a very restful night... Can't wait to read your next blog...
    Love ya' dear friend...
    2029 days ago
    Welcome back home~ lovely photos. So nice to see the people who you work with. That is one thing that is so nice about Spark !
    It really brings us all together all over the world, doesn't it?
    2029 days ago
    I am not very knowledgeable about the Congo and I am enjoying the pictures and information. I'm so glad you are home safe and resting. I bet it felt good to have a usual meal, a shower and a nice bed!

    I know I love to come home again!

    The pictures are quite wonderful and I'm glad you included one of yourself! I love to see you. I know you are tall, were most of the native people shorter like Christian?

    We have 2 friends from Ghana and one is over 6 ft tall and the other more about 5-8. And they tease each other about it.

    I hope you were welcomed warmly, it looks like beautiful country.

    Welcome home!
    2029 days ago
    you're right, that last picture is just stunning. though the ladies in the literacy class is a pretty stunning picture too. very glad you had a good trip!
    2029 days ago
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