The Great Congolese Caper - Day 8 - On the way home

Posted in Family , OldBlog with tags Mireille -

Kinshasa - Day 7

My last day. I feel bad, but I was looking forward to this in some ways. Over the last 5 days, Mireille has turned into a typical 2 year old, and taking care of 2 year olds is HARD! Particularly by yourself. Luckily, when you have nothing else to do, it makes it much easier. It’s much easier to completely invest in what the child is saying and doing, which I did - once I got done showering, washing the dishes, and packing (I’m such an adult).

Last night was wonderful, for the most part. Mireille was super tired, but got restless around 11:00. So I gave in quickly and put her in bed with me. Both she and I fell asleep almost instantly and didn’t awake until around 6:45. We kind of lazed around for 45 minutes or so - I can tell she’s my kind of girl!

At 7:30 we got out of bed, brushed our teeth, and got some breakfast. Eggs, toast, and other assorted sundries. I got rid of much of what I had bought, but still had quite a bit to give away to the foster family.

After a quick shower (which Mireille again watched with interest), we both got dressed, then waited… Natasha and Elisa were supposed to come by 9:00, then Papa John by 10:00. So we hung out. First we made a video to show Quinton the hotel. It was a pretty good one. Then we just played. Mireille brutally killed an ant with her shoe, which is one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.

After catastrophically murdering all ants within her reach, she turned her focus to the fly that was pestering us in the room. I was sitting on the door threshold, waiting for Natasha and Elisa, and Mireille would come over to me, then look at the fly, then say “Dee Doh” and chase after it, stomping her foot, then running back while giving a big belly laugh! This literally lasted for an hour… Again, this is something I need to consciously do with my kids in the US - it’s the kind of time that I just never carve out!

While playing and getting full belly laughs, I started to pick up on some phrases. I have no idea if I have them right, but they sounded like the following:

  • I dee dow - or I get down - when she’s on my lap and wants to get down.
  • Here we go! - this is something she says when I, or something is in her way and she wants to get past. My leg was in her way to get into the room, so she would say “Here we go” and I would move it. Probably something in Lingala, but that’s what it sounded like to me.

Around 9:45, Natasha and Elisa showed up to much fanfare. I don’t know what I thought would happen - I guess I thought Mireille would be happy, ecstatic even, but she wasn’t. She was better than she was when they dropped her off with me, but she kind of just drew back into her shell, the thumb went directly to her mouth, and she got very reserved. Natasha and Elisa don’t speak much (any) English, so we all just sort of sat there for an hour while we waited for Papa John. During that time, Mireille went to both Natasha and Elisa, but then came back to me. Eventually she continued to play with me, and I found myself feeling a little badly for Elisa. She seemed like she really was looking forward to seeing Mireille, but Mireille sort of wanted to hang with me… I get it - it’s sort of like having a cool uncle. I am the cool uncle. I am the one that does whatever she wants whenever she wants. I am the one that dedicates every waking hour to her every whim… Why wouldn’t she like that. But I felt bad for Elisa…

Papa John eventually came and we began parting ways. Mireille screamed when they took her away, which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, she clearly bonded with me. On the other hand, she is forced to go through so much change all the time!!! I suppose it’s good for kids, but man did it hurt. I cried - a lot. In fact, I’ve continued to cry up to now, and will likely to so some more before all is said and done. What a wonderful gift and curse all at once.

Papa John took me downtown to the Air France depot there. In Kinshasa, since the airport is rather small, they do checkin downtown. So he took my passport and led me through the basically simple procedure of checking my bags, getting my boarding pass, and paying my $55 exit tax. All in all it was pretty painless.

After that, we went to get some Chawarma sandwiches, which Papa John treated me to. They are a middle eastern thing, from what I can tell, that have chicken, french fries, cole slaw, all in something that looks like a tortilla. It was pretty good! They were supposed to have Pilee Pilee in them, but I didn’t taste it.

We got a couple of Chawarma sandwiches for the road then went to meet Papa John’s girlfriend, Joyce, and to take her some lunch. She was just as young as reported, and very beautiful. She greeted and said goodbye to me with a kiss on the cheek, which made me feel very European.

We headed out of town so we wouldn’t have to worry about traffic. Good thing, too, traffic was bad! It took an hour to get to the Kinkole fisherman village, which is probably about 15 miles past the airport. On the way we encountered several “funeral cars” which are just SAAB station wagons with caskets in the back. Apparently Kinshasa’s cemetary is past the airport - and that’s the only cemetary. It was busy!

Kinkole was everything I would have hoped a small village would be. People everywhere, but a nice restaurant and good music which sounded Caribbean, which I suppose makes sense. Papa ordered us a couple of beers and some fish cooked in leaves, big leaves. He was excited to take me here since I am the only American he’s met that can handle the hot Congolese food. While we ordered, he flirted with the waitress.

While we were waiting for our fish, many street vendors came to our table. I bought a map of Congo, which I hope makes it home! As I type it is up in the overhead compartment, just waiting to be crushed! We were also offered live grubs (called Macoco?), something that looked like termites, shoe shine, shoes, baskets, and some seasoned crickets, which Papa John got for us and I ate! They weren’t bad.

Our fish was delicious, served with plantains. It was a bit spicy and served in humungous leaves in a broth with onions and peppers. Quite tasty! The fish was right from the river and still alive when we ordered it. I think it was called a Mapongo fish…

After our lunch and 2 beers we went further west into the real bush to a place made by one of Kabila’s generals to be a resort. Anybody can come, but it is heavily protected by armed guards and a gate/fence. It was beautiful. Here we had a great view of the Congo river where it was wide. There were several sporting boats out doing boat things, like water skiing and some jet skis as well. It was a beautiful afternoon, we each had like 5 beers each. I have a feeling Papa John was getting a little drunk by the time we left. More on that for the aforementioned beer or two that you can buy me.

Around 5:45, we left for the airport, which was about 30 minutes away. There I met Norbert (who’s first name I can’t recall) who guided me through the complexities of the N’dgjili International Airport, of which I am grateful. After that, it’s just sitting around, thinking on what a week it was, crying quite a bit, and texting folks to see how they are doing.

I’m now sitting on the airplane waiting for my first 8 hour leg to begin. I hope all the beer is out of me, as I hate to get up a lot on the plane just to pee. I also hope I sleep… I’ve gotten used to the time zone in the days I was here, sort of unfortunately since it only benefited me one day while I was here! I’m really looking forward to getting home and spending time with my boys and Jenny. Of course, I think often about my week with Mireille. How she would grab anything that was flat on one side, put it to her ear and say “hallo!” Natasha says she likes to say “Hallo, kakeka” when she’s talking to one of the other little girls in her foster home, Rebecca. It makes me sad… I know she is being well cared for here, I can see that. But it’s not something that can be sustained… I see that now. Even if we pay for foster care through her 18th birthday, she is living in a country with 10% employment (I didn’t say unemployment) and few opportunities for anybody to really put themselves in a better place. We need to get her to the US, for selfish and unselfish reasons - it’s the only thing that makes sense. I’ve distilled my requirements into these two points:

  • I want to bring her to the US as soon as possible.
  • I want to be able to bring her and the rest of the family back to Congo to visit someday…
Written by Brandon Grady
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