Day 37 – June 19

So today was a pretty usual day – work, working out, and reading. However, I remembered a few things I forgot to say… I keep notes in a few different spots all day long and sometimes I forget to check all the spots when I write at the end of the day.

On Saturday (June 16), the tailor dropped off my dress while I was out running errands. I still think it makes me look kind of fat, but Jenny has assured me that it looks wonderful! It will be the dress that I wear to my friend’s traditional wedding. It is sad here though, the traditional dress seems to be disappearing. The younger women are more interested in dressing in Western fashions – jeans, tops, etc. and they generally only wear traditional clothes for ceremonies. Jenny and I were talking and she thinks that traditional dress that is now seen on a day-to-day basis will essentially disappear within 2 generations and unfortunately, I think she’s right.

On Thursday (June 14), I rode up with another man in the elevator and it only took him 1 floor to ask me whether I was married or not. I responded that I was and pointed the ring on my hand. He tried to continue the conversation, as they generally do, and I gave him a look of “are you serious?” and walked out the door. I’m pretty sure he’s never had someone reject his intentions before because he was shocked and I was hiding my ear-to-ear grin. Ha! Take that man who wants a mistress! Rejected! Haha it honestly felt really good to not be super polite for a few seconds.

On Friday (June 15), I forgot to mention that the taxi driver essentially told Jenny to get over herself and realize that life is tough and work is hard. It was hilarious! Generally in the US, people wouldn’t do that for fear they wouldn’t be paid or tipped, etc., but here, people are brutally honest. If they think you’ve gained weight they’ll say, “you’re getting fat.” Sometimes they’ll offer advice about what to do, but generally they’re just letting you know in case you didn’t notice. It’s very funny! It was incredibly awkward at first, but people do things similar to this so frequently that eventually you just get used to it.

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Day 36 – June 18

Today was unfortunately not a very productive day at work. I took some papers home over the weekend so I could work on some things and I left them at the house, which meant everything I really needed for the project, I didn’t have.

I finally got the journal stuff sent to everyone. I have been so sick for so long and feel behind on everything. I sent the unedited version to Jason. I was still a bit nervous to do that, but I suppose he is the one person in my life where I can and should share every concern, thought, and detail. I just think I should make him do the same haha Then I wouldn’t feel so exposed. I edited the one I sent to everyone else a bit, but I’m concerned maybe I should have edited it more. Oh what perfect timing, mom just texted and said she loved it! I guess it was fine the way it was 🙂

I forgot to mention something that happened at church yesterday. I was able to talk to one of the Bishopric members about the issue of traditional marriages in the Church. I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but here couples have a traditional marriage, then a civil marriage, and then a temple sealing if possible. Since traditional marriages cost so much, even members of the church are often only married in this manner and never get a civil or temple marriage. I was curious how this issue was handled since the Church only recognizes legal marriages. I found out that on church documents, they couples are recognized as not being married. Individuals who have only had a traditional marriage can also not serve in higher callings – Bishopric, Stake level, or above. They can serve in a Branch Presidency though. Also, neither party can enter the temple. However, these couples are recognized as married as far as morality is concerned and are able to engage in marital activities without repercussions.

The other three things I was going to mention about church probably don’t need mentioning here, but since it is different from what is typically seen in the United States, I figured it may as well be mentioned. First, there are no parking lots since no one can generally afford a car. The buildings are located in the middle of neighborhoods and behind metal fences. Second, there are no programs/ward bulletins because there are no printers, copiers, etc. The Branch President or Bishop makes his own program to direct the congregation by writing down whatever he needs on a piece of paper including the talks, announcements, and hymn numbers. Lastly, there is no one to play the very small keyboard, if a branch or ward is lucky enough to own one of these small keyboards, so the person conducting the music will sing the first 8 measures aloud to everyone else, so that the congregation will have an idea of what it is supposed to sound like.

On the way home tonight, the bus driver and another bus driver literally traded places in the middle of the road! They both pulled over to the sides and then ran across the busy road. I would expect this on a normal bus, but this is a WHO bus! I was surprised! When the new driver got into the bus, the whole bus said “Bon soir.” Everyone is so friendly here – it sometimes just catches me off guard.

Charles was at the house when I got home so we visited for a few minutes. Then, I got my first work out in today since the beginning of my trip since I’ve been sick. I only made it about half way through what I had planned, but I suppose I should start of slow since I’m still not feeling 100%… oh well, it’s a start.

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Day 35 – June 17

Today I went to church and everyone was so sweet asking me if I was feeling better, etc. It is amazing how I told one person I wouldn’t be there since I was not feeling well and was supposed to rest and even girls in Young Women’s were asking if I was better haha I definitely felt loved! We started Relief Society with the RS President and myself… that’s it. The Branch President came in to support us and translate for me when I needed it. Eventually the group grew, but I am still so surprised at how few women come to church.

Guess what! We just received our second set of sisters! We are the only ward/branch in Brazzaville with sister missionaries, but we now have 2 sets. This is remarkable and I continue to be surprised at how quickly the Church is changing! When I prepared to come here, there were no sisters, or couple missionaries in the country. When I got here, there was a couple missionary in Pointe Noire, but nothing in Brazzaville, and now there are 2 sets of sisters in Brazzaville. It’s amazing!

During Sunday School, I got to make a couple of comments, which was nice because then you feel like you’re participating. During Sacrament, one of the little girls who adores me, sat with me. Her mom is the Relief Society President and even before church started this morning, she came running into the RS room to give me a hug. I am a fascination to the children here; it’s very entertaining. This little girl sat next to me, holding my hand, and would push on my fingers, noticing my skin got whiter, then release it and notice that it got kind of pink. She did this several times and then she would try her own finger. It was very interesting to watch. Then she’d play with my hair. I normally wear it up here since it is so hot and/or is getting in my way, but since it was still wet from washing it Saturday night, I left it down. Boy was it a hit! Here  almost all the women wear wigs, so these little girls kept asking me, their parents, other random adults, etc if my hair was real and then they would touch it very softly. Finally one of the men, who translates for me, noticed the little girl touching it over and over again and said to me “She is thinking what we are all thinking.” I said “What is that?” and he said “How different it must feel.” I had never considered before that moment that even the adults were curious… Finally after the sacrament and the first talk had been given, she fell asleep right there in my lap. She was out! I even had to move my leg a couple of times because it was falling asleep and she didn’t notice… I snuck a picture since it was so cute. There was also a little boy that was even more curious about the skin. He would come up and play with my fingers, then try to pick up the skin by pinching it. I leaned down to talk to him and immediately he started touching my face. This happened about four separate times and finally I was told by the same man from earlier, who translates for me, that I was probably the first white person he had ever seen. After church, I chatted with the Branch President for a bit about teaching his English students on Saturday and the lesson I am giving the entire stake relief society on Saturday too. The stake president has asked me to teach reproductive health with a focus on preventing pregnancy, but also on how to increase one’s chances on getting pregnant. I talked to the Branch President, who will be serving as my translator, about my concern that the entire lesson would be on a woman’s cycle and sex, but he said not to worry, that’s what they wanted… it definitely will be unlike any other stake relief society activity I have ever been to…

After eating lunch and watching a movie while I did my nails, I got to do the phone calls for Father’s Day. I called Dad first since they were an hour ahead of both of the grandfathers and I’m glad I did. I found out when I called that he was filling in at meetings and was just about to head out the door. Next I called Grandpa as I knew they would most likely be leaving for the day soon and are super hard to catch since there’s no answering machine. He was shocked! It was so much fun! He had no idea I could call, or that I would and honestly he was the most shocked and surprised about it. It was really really fun! He called Grandma into the house, told her who it was, and I’m not sure she believed him right away, but after she heard my voice she did and she was just as shocked and pleased as he was. It made my day! Then I called Poppy, only to find out they were in Ogden, so I called his cell and managed to get him. Although the ward in Ogden wasn’t starting until 1pm, so it may be possible I woke him up… oh well, he didn’t seem to mind and we had a good time chatting. He said since it was Father’s Day, he was going to be selfish and not share the phone with Grammy Pat haha

I spent the rest of the afternoon retreating my clothes and mosquito net (They have to be sprayed every 5-6 weeks.) and downloading pictures, videos, etc that have been taken lately. I then reviewed for my French lesson and he came about 7pm. Just as we were finishing the lesson, Jason text messaged me to let me know he was home from church and we got to have a wonderful long conversation until I had to go to sleep.

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Day 34 – June 16

Jenny is leaving for Geneva today for a conference. It was kind of last minute.  This morning we chatted while she organized files. Then we chatted in her room while she packed – we laid out outfits for each day and activity and picked out jewelry etc. She had most of it done, but wanted my thoughts. She went to hold up a necklace on one of the dresses and it basically burst sending beads EVERYWHERE! We spent quite awhile trying to find them all and eventually I found the missing two, so she is going to try and get it fixed while she is in Geneva. She is also going to pick me up some concealer. I brought tons of extra everything with me, but ran out of concealer this morning, only to realize that I forgot to bring extra…

Today I began my formal French lessons. The man speaks a little bit of English, so we’re able to get by with my dictionary. I found the practice of pronunciation to be beneficial, so I have scheduled him to come tomorrow, Monday, and Wednesday. I didn’t want to do tomorrow, but he wants to practice conversing and said that’s the best day. He is only available every other week, so I figured I might as well agree since I won’t see him at all the following week. I am paying him 2500 per hour, or about $5, which is a much better deal than I could ever get in the states!

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Day 33 – June 15

Today, we had a big CAH meeting. Kasonde is currently in the United States, so the meeting just consisted of Phanuel, Assumpta, and I. Phanuel asked me about my plans for after this internship and we got to have a good conversation about some general options – finishing my MPH and then going straight into a doctorate program, or getting a job. When the job option came up, he began to ask questions about where I was willing to live, if I had any prospects currently, etc. Then, he offered to speak to the colleagues that he has in the United States. I was stunned at the offer and probably didn’t react the best, but I’ll talk to him again about it, as I get ready to leave.

Also in this meeting, he said the Lesotho has scheduled their meeting to arrange health standards for their adolescents for the 2nd week of July and that he is planning to speak to Tigest as he’d like me to attend as the WHO-AFRO representative. WHO would pay for the flight (Brazzaville, Congo to Johannesburg, South Africa, then into Maseru, Lesotho), hotel, and per diem while I am there. Then he encouraged me to spend a few days in Johannesburg either on my way to or from the trip. He said he can talk to Tigest about giving me a few days off and then I can see that part of South Africa too. I think that’s a great idea!

Phanuel is out of town this next week, then everyone in our little group will overlap the following week so they would like to see the basically finalized version of my report on June 25. (I am also teaching two health classes on June 23, so next week is going to be a busy week at work. ) He will then be out of town for the 1st week of July, I will be out of town for the 2nd week, and then he will go on summer leave (vacation) until Aug 1st. It is crazy to think that we basically overlap for only one more week before August is here and I am wrapping up and heading back to the states. I have a feeling the month of July is going to fly by!

After work, Jenny and I dropped off our stuff and headed to Mami Wata, which is considered to be one of the best restaurants. It is right on the river and had a beautiful view as you can clearly see Kinshasa. Shortly after we ordered our food, in walked my boss, Phanuel. He said hello and then sat with a boy and older gentleman at the table next to us. He was facing me the whole time, which was kind of a funny feeling. Jenny and I had a wonderful time chatting and she primarily wanted to know about church in the sense that it seems so organized, etc. then we talked about Mitt Romney and she wanted to know if I thought he had turned his back on our religion… interesting interpretation since I hadn’t taken it that way at all. I thought he was just being very appropriate with keeping things separate… Jenny does not believe in God, but thinks that the church structure and organization is impressive. She also told me that I am the first Mormon she has met – I had no idea, sure hope I’m leaving a good impression.

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Day 32 – June 14

Today during lunch, I ended up having the most interesting conversation with the people at my table. First of all, let me give some background on lunch here. People always take their lunch break away from their desk (it’s very strange if you eat at your desk) and it generally lasts 1-2 hours, but never less than an hour. On the bottom floor of my building, there is a little cafeteria area, but it’s quite different compared to the cafeterias in the states. This one is set up kind of like a small banquet with the flood being served out of big metal containers. The tables all have linens, silverware, décor, and you use real plates. It’s fun, lunch here truly is a break from everything else. Since the area to sit is relatively small, your food is placed at a random table with other random people – sometimes you know them, sometimes you don’t. Oh, I should also explain what I mean with “your food is placed.” A waitress (kind of) follows you down the table with food choices and then carries your plate to the table. Alright, moving on, so I was actually placed at a table by myself since it was still fairly empty. Eventually a man, Tunde, who works in the same department as I and who is from Nigeria, sat down, and then another woman joined us. Tunde loves tea, this other woman loves coffee and tea and they were both so surprised when I ordered water since it is the same cost as one of these other drinks. I explained that I did not drink coffee or tea. At first, they didn’t say anything, then Tunde, who knows we fairly well, said he just had to ask why and we proceeded to get into a very interesting and thorough conversation about the church – word of wisdom, modesty in dress, only having sex in marriage, etc. They both mentioned that the Church was very large in their home countries – Nigeria and Tanzania (yes, this is the same woman from the conversation yesterday haha), but they were surprised that people in the United States would follow such rules. Eventually through a few more questions and being able to tell that they were curious, it came out that the first and last person I would have sex with would be my husband in October. They were shocked and kept saying “Wow – a new face of America!” Americans, especially my generation, have a fairly bad reputation here, so I was happy to see that this changed a bit for them.

Poor Jenny had a horrible day to day. She had to stay late for a conference call, so I stayed late as well to get some work done on my own projects – research, job searching, doctorate programs, wedding stuff, etc. Dr. G was able to call from his office – it was so fun to catch up and get his thoughts on some things. I have had a pretty specific career path planned, but over this past week, it has kind of fallen apart. I was planning to apply to doctorate programs this year so I could either take online classes while Jason finishes, or defer, but at least know where I was going. However, the schools I am the most interested in will note allow me to defer. They do offer online classes, but they discourage their non-online doctorate program students to take them. The online doctorate programs are not a long-term option since they are not in a field I am interested in. As a result, I have been feeling a bit lost…

After Jenny finished her call, we got a taxi and she asked (in French) if she could take me to dinner. I was a bit confused with her phrasing, but told her we could definitely go to dinner. She said “no, I want to take you, treat you to dinner.” She’s so sweet! We went to the Mikel hotel (best hotel in town). It is a real hotel! There’s a lobby, a pool, and everything. The restaurant is out by the pool and the food is delicious! I had real bread and even used 3 packets of butter on them. (I hardly ever eat butter in the states, which is why this is confusing.) I ordered a pasta dish and they brought me real parmesan cheese for the top. I also drank to Fanta Passions and they were delicious. (Here when you eat out, you may as well get a drink since water costs the same amount.) I learned during dinner tonight that Jenny is also a huge Desperate Housewives fan, so I updated her on the latest and we had a great time laughing at how ridiculous the characters are haha Later on, her friend Michelle met us so she could have some drinks with us. (The restaurant was having ½ off alcohol since it’s their version of happy hour, so Jenny and Michelle were living it up.) The football game came on and since football is such a big deal here, they used a huge projector to show the game. I immediately thought of Jason since he loves soccer and has been telling me all about the European Cup. Well, they played the European Cup game between Ireland and Spain. Spain won 4 to 0 and I found myself following and enjoying the game. I’m sure I’m still missing a lot of info that Jason will have to teach me, but it was fun to realize that I enjoy watching soccer!

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Day 31 – June 13

Today Jenny and I went to work late because we had to go all the way downtown to go to the ATM. There is an ATM at WHO that will work with our American debit cards, but it hasn’t been working for a week and both she and I were essentially out of cash. In this society, that means you’re broke since only cash can be used. Well, once we got to WHO, we found out they had just finished fixing the ATM haha Glad we took that hour long round trip to get cash this morning haha

I met with the man who is over all tobacco issues on the continent and there is some brand new data that is just being analyzed. He is going to get me this brand new data for my report, which is very exciting. Jenny texted me that I should call her around 11am and when I did, I found out that she was wondering if I could come sit with her while she donates blood since she has a tendency to faint. I was so excited she asked! Jenny is a a bit guarded and wasn’t sure what to do with someone who is “so positive, energetic, upbeat, and bubbly” (her phrasing). She has come to trust me and see me as a friend – it’s great! We waited for awhile, but the line was moving incredibly slowly, so we headed back to our offices and decided to meet at 12:30pm to have lunch together. It was really fun to spend so much time chatting and to know that she’s opening up a bit.

After work, we got off the WHO bus early to go to the market to buy eggs. No matter how much I go to the market, I always feel uncomfortable. Plus the market, with two white women in heels and business attire is probably a record where we were and would have made the papers, if they had one. We of course get asked for money and I even had children coming up and touching my bottom over and over again, grabbing at it because they wanting money.

When we got home, I played DJ for Jenny, at her request, while she made chocolate mousse for a dinner she is going to tonight.

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Day 30 – June 12

Today I got to go to a “Town Hall Meeting.” I figured this was a community meeting when my boss first invited me, but quickly found out that  it was a WHO meeting, as in all of WHO. The regional offices are brought on via video conference along with a few country offices (those that have been invited) – it was an incredible thing to witness! The picture to the right is the screen we were all watching of HQ. I wanted to, but didn’t dare take a picture while people were talking. The Director General spoke to everyone and I’ve decided I REALLY like the woman! I found her to be honest, direct, humble, down-to-earth, and just really amazing. She summarized the World Health Assembly and said that 21 resolutions and 3 positions were made. She told us about our priorities for the next year – non-communicable diseases, polio eradication, social determinants of health/gender equity, infant and child nutrition, and the global vaccination plan. She gave us her schedule for the next few months in regards to travel and meetings. She emphasized that since the world is going through a financial crisis, everyone should be extra careful for money and that WHO needs to show the improvements that are being made with current funds before she will feel comfortable asking member countries for more. Then she emphasized her point with an example. This is probably not a verbatim quote, but I tried – “There are lots of women here. Women, we understand this issue. I don’t know about each of you, but I have to get a budget envelope from my spouse. It is always the question of what you will get for your household? What are the priorities? WHO needs to do the same.” As I said, I found her down-to-earth, honest, and humble. Here is this woman who is essentially royalty in the world of public health and health in general and she is speaking to us as though we are all equals and is giving analogies about how she has to ask for a budget envelope from her husband in order to purchase things for the household. I was impressed! Towards, the end of the meeting, she challenged all the members of WHO to innovate as they need to appeal to younger generations with both the work they are producing and for eventual positions at WHO. She said, “There are lots of interns here now and let me tell you something, they can beat you! They know Facebook, they have ideas, use them.” My boss, Phanuel, was sitting next to me and he put his hand on my back and said, “That’s you! We are so happy to have you here!” It continues to amaze me. In a couple of past positions, I was not completely included in things either do to people seeing me as below them, but more recently because I am considered a threat to their job soon, competition. Even though the Director General just said that we should be considered competition, my boss is still fully embracing me. I am clearly not a threat to his position ever, but he is using me, he asks for my ideas, want to know how I would change things, etc. It is a great feeling to know that you are valued in your work and that they want your thoughts as part of the team. The Director General also talked about how Africa and specifically the women in Africa will be the main focus and will receive the majority of the funds for the next while. How exciting to be in the office that is considered to be doing some of the most important work.

After the meeting, I went to lunch and was able to meet up with one of the women that I work with who is from Kenya, a new woman who has just arrived for a short time from Tanzania, and a woman that works in another area at WHO, but who is also from Tanzania. It was just the four of us women and we were seated a couple of tables away from anyone else. Towards the middle of our lunch, they began discussing a men – a fascinating topic when only women are present haha and they asked me my observations…. so I gave them. I mentioned how I had noticed that many women in Africa wore wedding rings, but almost no men did. I also mentioned how the men would tell me they had children, but would never tell me they had a wife and would seem to avoid that topic. They also would frequently ask me if I had children, but I have never been asked about my husband (since I am wearing a wedding band here). These three women thought these observations were hilarious and so accurate. Then they proceeded to tell me that it was because the men are interested in me and there is a tendency in African culture for the men to not take fidelity as seriously.

 They then proceeded to tell me numerous stories. One of which was that there was a married couple and each of them had a lover. When the husband went on an extended business trip, the wife would move her lover in. One time, the wife also had to travel somewhere for a couple of weeks, so her lover moved his girlfriend into this woman’s home. She returned early from her trip, so he hid his girlfriend in one of the rooms. Shortly after, the husband returned from his trip, so the wife hid her lover in another room. When the wife went out to run errands, the husband brought his lover over to the house and when he proceeded to go into the bedroom with her, he found his wife’s lover’s girlfriend. He obviously quickly figured out what was going on, but even more ridiculous than that, he knew the woman because he had had an affair with her in the past. The wife returned home and things blew up.

These women said that it is fairly common for men to have children with different women, even though they are only married to one of them. They also said that the men will often use the excuse that they are not meant to be committed since it is not in men’s nature and that therefore women should not expect it. The hardest thing about this conversation was that all three women have just accepted it, even though they clearly hate it, and one of the women said if she caught her husband in the actual act, that she would know where to put the boiling water. However, they have come to just accept that men are that way, so they can’t hope or expect anything else. They then proceeded to ask me if I knew if my husband was having any affairs. I explained that I was engaged, but that no, he wasn’t. They kind of half smiled and chuckled and said, “either that you know about, or that haven’t happened yet, eventually it will happen.” First of all, I know it never will, but I think it’s sad that these women do not believe that some men would behave differently.

The interesting thing about these women is that they are a rare group in this society – they are educated, they have careers, they make their own money and quite a bit of it, and they have the freedom to divorce their husbands if need be, as a result of having these things. Most of the female population here has no power, no education, no job, let alone career, no money, and they must rely completely on whatever money their husband gives or does not give them. They are not afforded an opinion about things. Here in the Congo, 70% of the women believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife if she burns dinner, runs an errand without asking him, etc. I guess what I am trying to say is that these women I was speaking with have more freedom and say in their relationships than most of the population. They are capable of putting their foot down if need be, having an opinion, or threatening to divorce. Most women here do not have that luxury, so I was surprised to see these women just accept things as they are when it comes to fidelity. At the end, they asked whether things were the same in the US and how I would handle these issues with my husband. I thought about trying to dodge the question out of cultural considerations and not wanting to debate, but I decided to be honest and told them I would not stand for it. That’s the very short version anyway…

I am making great progress on work and met with Phanuel today to go over the outline (I’m hoping the final product is less than 100 pages, but we’ll see) and he made introductions/ put me in touch with several people including those in other departments. I met people who are over nutrition, smoking, alcohol, mental health, reproductive health, and unintentional injuries/violence.

Dr. G tried to call today and supposedly could hear me fine, but I couldn’t hear a word he was saying! I tried and tried, but nothing. I’m going to try and figure it out tomorrow.

The ride home from work was crazy! The WHO bus is meant to fit 16 passengers besides the driver, but there is one little fold-down chair in each row that can be brought down in the aisle. By the way, it then completely acts as a bench all the way across the bus since that one little chair blocks the small aisle. If these chairs are brought down, then you can seat 19 people… well, in African fashion today, we fit 34! I was smack in the middle of all the people in the second to last row and right over the wheels – it was bumpy and crowded. I generally have issues with personal space so I was quite concerned about getting claustrophobic, but I survived 🙂 and it didn’t even seem to bother me at all, besides being a little uncomfortable because I was sitting on an angle (half on the fold down chair and half on the bench that is about 4 inches higher).

When we got home from work, Jenny and I walked over to the track and it was wonderful! We got to chat on the way over and back, but got to go at our own pace while we were there. I am still needing to take things easy, so I put my iPod in and walked while Jenny ran. Then we came back for dinner and have been sitting at the table since playing music and working on our “projects” for the evenings. She’s cleaning out her music so she can take some of mine and I’m working on writing this. I really like Jenny and I’m so grateful for her since she is making the time here so much better than I’m sure it would otherwise be.

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Day 29 – June 11

Papa Jean told Jenny on the way to work that he has decided there is a ravine that I must see since I like to take pictures so much. I think it’s  great that he noticed how much I love to talk pictures. (It was funny when he said that though, I had just taken a picture for my brother haha If you hold your mouse over a picture I have posted it will show you the caption, but in case you miss this one, it says – For my brother, Ryan – Guess all good brothers are the same, even in the Congo. Right as I was turning off the camera Papa Jean mentioned the ravine.) I’m excited to see it. It’s supposedly about 2.5-3 hours away though so hopefully it works out. Also on the way to work, while we were discussing all the Chinese people that live in the Congo, he made a very funny, but interesting comment that I thought showed the Congolese culture a bit. He said, in French of course, “The Chinese walk like ducks, they should walk tall and proud like a Congolese.” While Jenny and I thought this comment was incredibly racist, we also agreed that the Congolese do walk tall and proud, upright, with their heads held high, and they all look at each other square in the eye. Even in the United States, you’ll often see people look downward to avoid eye contact. It’s a very interesting thing about the culture and people here.

When I got into the office today, there was a very exciting email! Dr. Merrill emailed me and he is submitting an article to a journal that I am an author on. I went to the Huntsman Senior Games and collected all of the data, then compiled it, and honestly had completely forgotten about it. I’m really hoping it will get published because even though I am listed as the third author, it will be my first official publication if it’s accepted!

Today I had my blood taken and it is also the last day of the medications that doctor gave me. He must have been a good doctor. I am still not feeling great, but can eat and drink. I even texted Jenny at about 10:30am asking her what time they started serving lunch. She said she’ll meet me at noon, right when they open, so we can have lunch together.

On the way home from work, I made several observations and have come to a conclusion. The first observation was a car accident. A car had hit a bus and pushed the bus into a hole. The bus was unloaded and several, easily more than a dozen, men proceeded to lift and push the bus out of the hole. Next there was another taxi that had had some sort of problem and had quit that was being pushed by yet another group of men. Then a truck, another taxi, another car, and finally a couple of mini-SUVs pulling a couple of other cars. Here, the emergency personnel and government cannot be trusted, nor do you rely on them to help. In the United States, if there is an accident, the police are called and they help, but here the police are not trusted since they often only look for bribes and are not considered to be good, or honest. As a result, the people rely on each other. They can’t rely on their government, or the services the government provides, so they rely on the kindness of other people, strangers, and the help is always received. It is too bad that the government is corrupt and untrustworthy, but in a way, it has caused the people to rely on each other and there is a much greater sense of community and people are much more willing and eager to help each other than they are in the states, for instance. I think that aspect is kind of neat.

When I got home after work, the Branch President called and asked me a favor. He attended the lecture that I taught on HIV, adolescent pregnancy, and child marriage to the Congolese on behalf of the US Embassy. If you remember, that is how we met. He owns three English schools and has asked me to speak to all of his students on June 23 at 9am before I speak to all of the LDS women in Brazzaville that afternoon. I will speak briefly on the same health topics and then he would like to open it up to questions that the students may have on those issues. I’m so excited! By the end of June 23, I will have taught 3 separate health lectures during the time I’ve been here so far.

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Day 28 – June 10

Today was another day where I just stayed home to rest. I watched some more “Twin Peaks” and read a lot. I finished reading “Eat, Pray, Love” and have to say that I was a bit disappointed. I didn’t find the book to be as great as everyone said it was.

Jenny came back from Kinshasa this afternoon and we got to chat and spend some time together this afternoon while I watched some more “Twin Peaks” and she scanned pictures to make a scrapbook of sorts for her mom.

 Jason and I talked on the phone tonight about his time in Rochester and at the singles conference. The poor guy had some girls trying to talk to him haha I told him maybe men should wear rings when they’re engaged too haha I asked him what he did and he said he just walked away. Oh those poor girls are going to think something is wrong with them when they don’t realize it’s just because he’s engaged…

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