Day 7 – First Sunday

 Today I went to church even though I had no idea what was going on, or being said. Sante, an LDS man who is a taxi driver and who studied in South Africa  for a couple of years so he speaks some English, picked me up at 7:50am, even though I was expecting him at 8am. We drove to my ward, but since we were there so early, we had to wait for them to unlock it, then we waited only a few minutes more, until he suggested we go to another ward where an American woman was attending. I thought this was a great idea! Her name is Ayse (pronounced like I-sh-a). She is in the picture with me to the right along with one of the boys from church, probably about 12-13 years old or so.) She is from just outside San Deigo, CA, is probably somewhere in her 60s, and her husband is a retired German pilot, but came here for a brief assignment, except that it’s not so brief. She doesn’t like it here, so she’s only here with her husband maybe half the time or so, possibly less. She’s leaving at the end of the month (unfortunately) and then may come back sometime in August or September. I’m so sad she’s leaving! She doesn’t speak French either, but comprehends a lot more since she’s been here so much longer. We’ve become great friends! It was also nice to have someone at church to discuss things with since the people don’t always speak French, or if they do, they mix it with Lingala (the local dialect). We went through all of Relief Society that way and couldn’t follow 99% of the discussion. Another note about church is that people have a tendency to show up whenever they feel like it and not necessarily when it starts haha When we began Relief Society at 9am, there were four women (besides Ayse and I), then over the course of the hour, one or two would trickle in. At the end there were 14 women besides Ayse and I haha Ayse and I also discussed the mentality that sometimes occurs here, which is kind of difficult to explain, but I’ll think about it and maybe attempt the explanation later… anyway, there is a mentality that is here that a couple of the women explained to Ayse as “Why try if nothing is going to be different tomorrow.” What a sad view! Although, I have to admit that after seeing of the peoples’ lives here that I can’t blame them for thinking that way on occasion.

Then, during the Sunday School hour, she was asked to explain how to use the toys she brought (puzzles, tambourine, and a little crawl tunnel) to the Primary President and the kids – guess they’ve never seen these things since she had to explain it all. She asked me to go with her. It was so cute to watch the kids – they quickly caught on to the puzzles and were all very proud of themselves when they completed one. The tunnel (especially) and musical instruments were a huge success to and the kids were sad when it had to be put away. I was amazed at how well behaved these kids were – the room is only maybe 12’ by 12’ and 75% of it is taken up with benches. There are only 4 adults total, but overall the 30-some kids seemed very well behaved. There was one boy who misbehaved, so the teacher went to the cement floor (actually at the front of the room near the door), drew a circle, and wrote “diable” (which means devil) in it. Then placed the boy in it, who started kicking and screaming when he saw it. He was only in it for maybe 5-10 seconds. After that, the punishment was over. He pouted, etc., for a bit and then seemed to be fine. Ayse and I commented on what a different type of technique it is compared to the states. (I’ve input a lot of photos of the Primary room and if you look at the floor, you’ll see the circle with diable in it.)       

During sacrament, Ayse and I laughed at ourselves and how hard it was to keep the beat when it was being played differently and we didn’t know the words. Then I leaned over and asked her if she dared actually take the sacrament to which she said she hadn’t thought about it. (Guess that’s the public health in me!) She did inform me that she knew the water was bottled, so that’s good and I assumed I was safe with the bread because it had at least been blessed, right?!

            After church, a man, who speaks pretty good English, came and asked that we both come meet with the Bishop. We went to his office and he has tasks for us. On Saturday, he has asked Ayse to teach the women how to use an electric stove as their Relief Society activity, since the ward just got one. Then, he asked me to teach a class on Sunday right after church to the women about different health things. (He originally asked us to both do Saturday, but we told him this would be much too long.) I asked him what topic or topics he would like covered and gave him some examples. In the end, he chose 1) water sanitation, 2) family planning, and 3) having a healthy pregnancy. It’s quite a bit of material to cover, but he said I can come back if I don’t finish.

            There is only one stake in Brazzaville and today the Stake President came to the ward I was at. When he heard what I was doing teaching the women about health in that ward, he became interested, so I asked him if he would like the class taught in each of the wards and branches while I am in Brazzaville and he’s very excited! I’m grateful too, perhaps I’ll be able to make that difference that I’m so desperately needing to make before the trip will feel successful.

            On the way home, Ayse and I shared Sante’s services since we don’t live too far apart. Sante drove us through the area of Brazzaville where the blast occurred. (The ward I attended was actually affected by the blast and the building has been cleaned up, but is still dusty, dirty, and in need of repairs.) Sante’s sister actually lived in that part of Brazzaville when it occurred and Sante grew up in the neighborhood. He even showed Ayse and I the school he attended that was now a pile of rubble. It was very interesting to see the blast site with a driver who was from that area. After dropping off Ayse, Sante drove me past the US Embassy, just so I would know where it was, and then home. When we got home, he asked for 10,000 – what I didn’t realize was that I was expected to cover his time. At the first ward, I got ready to pay him when he dropped me off and he said “wouldn’t it be easier if I came with you to pray.” I said yes of course, well,… I won’t do that again! Supposedly I got a good deal, but the equivalent of $20 US is painful!

            I am currently sitting in the dark… again. The electricity here periodically goes out – sometimes for a short time, sometimes for a long time, you just never know and this occurs, at least once a day or so that we’re aware of. The frustrating thing is that you never know when it will go out, or how long it will be out for. Jenny just came into my room with her little flashlight to see if I was ok. I had bought a flashlight at the store the other day and I’m so glad I did! We got it put together and wahla, all set. We were both saying how grateful we were though, she had just gotten out of the shower and I had gotten out just a couple of minutes before her. We also did about an hour’s worth of yoga just before with her computer, little speaker, and lights… Yoga in the dark could have been interesting… and dangerous haha Most importantly though, thank heavens we had just gotten out of the shower, otherwise that would guarantee no running water, again :-/

Plus, I’m pleased to announce that I not only washed my hair really well in the cold water, but I poured a bucket over my head too! I have only been here a week and I think because my hair is super thick, that it’s not getting rinsed out really well, so it looks like I never wash my hair :-/ I doubly braved the water – let’s hope it works!

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