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Dispatches from the Congo – A Journey of Love (Part 12)


Day 11

Hey all-
Today was a very easy day, so I’m making this short — I want to get some sleep!! Andrew got bitten by some bug in the middle of the night, and he woke up screaming and scratching at it at 4 in the morning. Needless to say, I’m a bit tired….

I went to the Embassy as planned today, and was told that my visa is “pending.” I don’t have the energy to describe the details, but the short story is that the Embassy screwed up again. They’re claiming to not have a document that US Customs & Immigration issued to me, but not only do I know they have the document, I can tell them the exact date that it was sent to them by the National Visa Processing Center in New Hampshire. I gave them a copy AGAIN and I plan to be sitting in the waiting room on Monday morning to bug them some more.

Random fun fact: I went to a gelato place last night with J called “Nice Cream.” Guess what flavor I got? Obama Cookies & Cream. I had to — it’s the patriotic thing to do, isn’t it? For the record, that’s the only one with a cutesy name; they’re just proud and show it by naming “mixed” ice creams after him (lots of Obama love in the Congo). Andrew had vanilla and loved every bit of it.

Speaking of Andrew, he’s finally getting a bit chubby….well, his face and thighs are! He ate another waffle for breakfast (in the embassy waiting room), then half of my chocolate crepe, a full lunch, and plenty of Cheerios, of course. Dinner was something else, though — he ate a two egg omelette (the whole thing), half a dinner plate of French fries, and about 1/3 of my sandwich. I asked the waitress to take it away just so he wouldn’t get sick — I was pretty sure that he’d keep eating until it was gone! He has a lot of growing to do, though — and he seems to be handling all of the food really well.

He was super sweet tonight — Skyped for 2 hours with his grandparents. He showed off his new favorite things — bouncing on a ball, high fives, and his version of blowing a kiss (he kisses his hand and then blows directly into it, so it’s more like giving his hand a raspberry).

Today was a mellow day, which we really needed. I hope to do some shopping at the Market of Thieves this weekend, and I’m sure that there will be plenty of good stories from that adventure!

Until tomorrow-
Erin & Andrew



Day 12: Strollers and Mosquito Nets

Good evening from Kinshasa!

Andrew and I spent the day entirely in the hotel today. We had planned to go to the Market of Thieves for some Congolese art, but with J sick and K’s driver John busy, we couldn’t go. It’s just not a place to go without a Congolese escort, or someone local who speaks the language. So we had down time today, which was nice. We played with Andrew’s new ball (from K — I’ve scoured the stores and cannot find a simple ball. Luckily, she brought one with her for her son, who is FAR more interested in Sponge Bob and playing with the other big kids for the moment), we danced, and Andrew ate lots and worked on his kiss-blowing skills.

We had a visit from Reverend Bashaka this morning; he brought along some completely random Congolese guy whose name I didn’t catch. He apparently used to work for DGM, which is Congolese immigration — where we get Andrew’s exit visa. I don’t know what he added to the conversation since he doesn’t speak English; perhaps he just wanted to meet the American. Reverend Bashaka had a list of things that we need to submit to DGM, which includes some sort of letter to the Minster of Gender & Families asking them to approve the adoption (which already finalized, and I have full legal and physical custody of my son, but whatever. If I did only the things that made sense, I’d never get out of here.). Bashaka seemed to think that I have magic access to a printer, being American and all. He kept asking, “your computer not print?” I kept telling him that yes, it could send things TO a printer, but I didn’t HAVE a printer. I really don’t get why he expects me — the American who doesn’t speak the language — to figure out things like making copies and printing. Isn’t that why he’s here in the first place? I finally made it clear to him that he was going to have to figure it out, and that I would call him on Monday if/when I get the entry visa. My plan is to go to the embassy and sit there until they give it to me. If I get it Monday, I can potentially get it to DGM that same day, pay an expediting fee and MAYBE get my exit visa before the holiday on Thursday (Congolese Independence Day).

The rest of the afternoon was mellow — Andrew napped, we played, and then we went to visit our friends MK (who just got his exit visas today for his two adopted kids!) and K. Andrew is just enthralled with all of the big kids — he just sits and watches them. We decided to do dinner downstairs again today — none of us were comfortable leaving the hotel without a driver after dark (except for the two new arrivals, D & J, but I talked them out of going anywhere). D and J are a bit…different. D doesn’t seem to recognize that she is in a foreign country and is rude and demanding. She also sat at dinner showing her son Jacques pictures of Jesus and saints, because it’s CLEARLY more important to learn about religion than things like asking to go to the bathroom or for something to eat. J is as quiet as D is overbearing, and she was very strange with her son. Keep in mind that he’s fresh out of the orphanage — she got him about 24 hours ago. We all ordered at once, and they brought J and her son’s food last. I offered him my fries since he was the only child at the table without food. J said no, that he needed to learn patience. Yes, that is what a starving child needs — patience skills when it comes to food. I can’t imagine any reason not to let him eat as much and as often as he wants (as long as he doesn’t make himself sick, that is). Then when their food did arrive, she made him wait to eat to give thanks to God. I didn’t know what to say to all of this — or at least I didn’t have anything positive to say — so I kept quiet. I feel bad for him, though. She seems to love him, but I am not entirely sure that she understands his needs. But this country draws a lot of highly religious people to adopt, thinking that they are saving a soul. Me, I just wanted a kid. And luckily, I hit the cute, smart, sweet baby jackpot!

I actually really hate going out to eat here, largely because of the service (not the food). I don’t know what it is about Congolese waitresses. They somehow think that they are entitled to parent the children of their customers. Perhaps it’s because no Congolese seem to bring their children to restaurants; highchairs and children’s menus simply do not exist here (which makes sense, given that eating out is a luxury that few adults can afford, let alone children). So the only people with children in restaurants are the white adoptive parents of Congolese children, and we are obviously not the experts on our own children.

Last night at dinner in the brassiere downstairs (where Andrew ate his weight in food), three separate waitresses came over to the table and just picked him up and walked away with him. I fought my impulse to run after them and snatch him out of their arms; I was the only white person there, and they were really just admiring my son. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that they should ask the mother (he was sitting on top of the table, facing me, before the food arrived). But of course, this is par for the course here; I’ve seen waitresses talk to my friend’s older children in Lingala (the local language) and then just walk away from the table with them (to the bathroom, it turns out, when the parent runs after them). I’ve watched as waitresses interact solely with the children and allow them to order whatever they want — even room service — while ignoring the parents. My friends have been told to get their children haircuts, or that their children are too cold. That happened to me at dinner tonight — 4 waitresses came over together to chastise me for dressing my baby inappropriately. Now it so happens that we had just been in my friend MK’s room, with the A/C off, and Andrew was visibly sweating. He is a hot baby (and MY baby, so back off with the remarks!). I told them that he was from Goma, and they were all like, “Oh! Goma!”. That ended that. Funny thing is that Goma really isn’t much cooler than Kinshasa; it’s maybe 5 degrees celsius cooler. But that’s all it takes for them to back way off (if only they had any concept of where I was taking him!! If they thought he was cold in 85 degree weather in Kinshasa, what would they think of Alaska??).

I paid up my hotel bill to date tonight; I think I’ll move into J’s this week, and I also wanted to get rid of some of this cash. While I was paying, the man at the desk kept telling me in broken English about his wife being pregnant and making weird hand motions. I couldn’t figure it out, so I did what I always do — smiled and nodded. Nearly 2 hours after I paid, I was trying to put Andrew down to sleep when I heard a knock. It’s the man from the front desk. Apparently, 3 of my 50’s “don’t work.” I’m really and truly getting sick of people returning money to me (and making change is a whole separate issue; a cashier often takes 20 minutes to run around to different places to get change for you. My theory is that they hope you’ll just leave the change, since I’ve never seen this act with the locals — only Americans). I am pretty sure the money thing was a pretext, though — he started pointing excitedly towards my stroller and saying, “This! This! You give me this!” I was thinking about using it in the airports, but now…well, Andrew has two really nice strollers at home. This is a cheap one that I never planned to bring back. I think I will leave him the stroller and some baby clothes and just carry Andrew in the sling. Being here has made me realize how truly wealthy we are as Americans. This stroller was something I considered a throw-away — a $20 object to use just on this trip because I didn’t care what happened to it. The front desk man acted like it was a $1000 Bugaboo stroller. He’ll put it to more and better use than I ever will, that’s for sure.

Andrew and I are sleeping under the mosquito net tonight. I’m covered in bites — fresh meat. He’s only gotten the one bite, thank goodness — he can’t take anti-malarials. Tomorrow, we’re going to an art bazaar and then to a cafe where an Austrian nun makes the pastries (with J as our hostess/driver). And Monday, back to the embassy!!

Love from under the net–

Erin & Andrew



7 Responses to “Dispatches from the Congo – A Journey of Love (Part 12)”
  1. Mia Kaur says:

    Later, during the First Congo War, France repeatedly agitated for the military Armed Opposition, Blaine Harden, Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent,

  2. Lucas Harvey says:

    Today was a much better day. First, I’m not longer sick. Second, Andrew slept in until 7:30. And third, I spent exactly ZERO hours in a waiting room today. Shocking, I know. I was pretty upset yesterday. I’m not scared being here, or even worried

  3. Baker's Dozen says:

    I was just looking out my window on the palm trees. Somehow, they look more exotic when attached to clean, paved streets.

    That baby is so cute.

    These aren’t the only people to just pick up your kid or tell you what to do. I’ve seen people do it in Mexico. The kid is just suddenly making the rounds of all the tables–handed from person to person. I don’t know if that’s all over Mexico, or just in a certain area, though, and it’s been so long I don’t remember where we were. And I grew up in a town where everyone told you what to do with your kid.

  4. jimzmum says:

    You are teaching me so much! Thank you again for your story.

  5. Elsie says:

    Such a lot of wisdom from one young, new mom. Thanks again for the latest part of this wonderful story of love and adoption.

  6. UgaVic says:

    We are so fortunate in the states, in many ways we don’t understand. Glad you were able to ‘recycle’ to others:-)
    Let’s also hope the two ‘different’ parents quickly learn to parent to their child’s needs and not some crazy ‘saving the soul’ set of needs!

  7. Really? says:

    Erin- You are off to a great start in being a proactive parent. “He is a hot baby (and MY baby, so back off with the remarks!)” Andrew is one lucky boy. I like that you include grandparents into his life, spread the JOY.

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