Category Archives: Congo

We Want To Hear From You!

Matt always tries to give me tips on how to increase traffic on the blog. So, to celebrate the end of this chapter, tell me…

What was your favorite event or post to read? Tell us in the comments!

To inspire you, here is a word cloud illustrating the most popular topics on the blog!

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Top 10 Things we WILL Miss about Brazzaville

Although a bit late, I promised I would end on a happy note. In our second session class in Mallorca we had to make a teacher blog. Obviously I didn’t have a huge urge to blog at home after blogging all day in class, but alas, I’m back with some new blog tricks.

This will be the LAST post about Congo, then we will be on to some summer adventures! Here we go, in no particular order!

1. Royal Spice: Can you believe we haven’t eaten Indian food since we left Brazza? Going from once per week to none in over a month! Something must change. But, let’s be serious, It’s going to be tough to find somewhere with such delicious murg tikka lababdar. MMM just typing it makes me hungry!

2. Frisbee: (Or “Ultimate” for some folk) Matt and I truly enjoyed getting out to play every week, and we absolutely are going to miss the insane amount of running and wonderful company! We will be searching for an Ultimate league in our next location. As well, we will be purchasing more than one frisbee this summer. Obviously, we wish the league all the best in recruiting people, and a shout out to Jose for getting it all started!

Great photo, but I didn't catch it! Truth be told, I was a little off my game this day!

Great photo, but I didn’t catch it! Truth be told, I was a little off my game this day! But, look at how much fun we are having!

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3. Friends: Whether still in Congo, or on another adventure, you know who you are! We miss you:)

4. Passionfruit and Mangosteens: In the last post I mentioned how frustrated we were with fruit and vegetables that would go bad so quickly, but we are glad to have had the privilege to eat passionfruit and mangosteens throughout the years! Both of these are tropical and not common in Canada. Passionfruit is relatively common around the world, but who knows the next time we will have a mangosteen. (Truth be told, I saw them at the market in Mallorca yesterday, but they didn’t look that good, and I’m pretty sure that it was a rare occurrence.)

5. Cheap Drinks: I try not to embellish drinking alcohol here on the blog, but seriously, a Guiness Foreign Extra for under $2? It will be missed.

6. Fried Plantains: We are often asked about local cuisine, which is not to our tastes. Fried plantains, however, can make any meal great! They are sweet and not mushy! They pair well with fish, chicken and even manioc! Fried plantains are one of those things that I could never make quite as good as restaurants could. Delicious. (As an after thought, I will miss the occasional street beignet as well.)

7. Trying to Speak French: Although we are looking forward to living in a relatively English speaking place, I will miss the French. I’m not as fluent as I had hoped to be, but I enjoyed trying to conjugate verbs and understand locals. A challenge? Yes, but a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.

8. DSTV: Never in our lives have we watched so much British television. DSTV was our cable service from South Africa. It had the Food Network, Travel Channel, Movie Channels, Comedy and…BBC everything! Our British Trivia is at it’s peak from watching The Chase. We enjoyed the Great British Bake Off and other British Cooking shows. But most of all, we will miss “Would I Lie to You?” If you haven’t seen it, you must check it out on Youtube. Seriously, we would consider cancelling plans if it was on! Here is a sample episode…watch it!

9. The frenzy of new items at Park n’ Shop: THEY HAVE TORTILLAS! TEXT EVERYONE! Seriously, tortillas are a big deal! Our grocery store occasionally would get a new item, everyone would buy it, then you never see it again. Sriracha hasn’t been in the store for the last year! They ran out of Kinder Buenos (Matt’s fav) right at the end of last year. When the German beers comes in, the stockman knows us and brings us cases from the back room. Maybe one of the biggest treats in our first year was frozen wild mushrooms! Worth the price!

10. Thunderstorms: Perhaps this will be extra missed since we are moving to the Middle East. In the wet season, it usual rains at night, and the storms can get huge, and loud! On more than one occasion, the thunder was so loud that I sprang out of bed in the middle of the night! Additionally, when it rains, the town dies and there are no taxis to be found, so you have nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the storm.

Top 10 things I won’t miss about Brazzaville

Two more posts before we close the book on Congo. Today we can look an some of the slightly negative things from the last two years, but we will end on a positive note with the last post.

(In no particular order)
1. Riding a rickety taxi: I don’t even know how some of them start in the morning! You almost want to pay them extra and ask them to fix the car. The white whale: a taxi with air conditioning!
2. The haze of burning garbage: my wish for Congo is that there is an environmental education movement. Yes, they banned plastic bags, but there are still piles of burning trash that create a lot of pollution in the dry season.
3. Slow internet: Let’s just say, if it’s been on the internet in the last two years, we probably missed it. Bright side: I’ve had two years to practice being patient
4. The sewage waft that comes from our drains: Our house did become a home. We got used to the flaws and added some flare, but we will never get used to “poop drain.” A disgusting drain smell that infiltrates the whole house. Honestly, we tried everything!
5. Fourreaux: These are black flies who are not deterred by mosquito spray. Our school yard is full of them! Their bites are very itchy. When we first arrived, I remember waking up in the middle of the night is an itchy fury! They solution: wear pants!
6. The road outside our house: There is nothing like getting your brains scrambled on the drive to school. It is bumpy! Also, with no street lights who knows what you might find in the dark.

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Just as we were leaving there was some road construction by our house! Things are looking up!

7. Terrible produce: What? But it’s a tropical country! It must be great! I would estimate that we cut into a rotten onion once per week. It’s disappointing when you choose a good looking vegetable, but cut in and find a worm. Time for dinner plan B.
8. It always gets dark at 6pm: I’ll admit in Congo I go to bed very early. It gets dark at 6pm year round, and with limited street lights, it’s frustrating to be outside. So, instead…I fall asleep on the couch.
9. Tasting the smell of Park n’ Shop: This is Matt’s biggest dislike. I don’t know how to explain it with making you experience it. The grocery store has a distinct icky smell. OK. But, if you buy something unpackaged like cheese from the counter or an apple it absorbs the smell. Now pop that cheese into your mouth and BAM! you are literally tasting that smell. Again, plan B for dinner?
10. Our grumpy vegetable lady: at the vegetable stands there is an unwritten rule that you choose a stand and go there forever. We made the WRONG choice. Not only is the produce subpar, but the vegetable lady was a whirlwind of emotion. Sometimes she was nice, sometimes she would practically ignore us and sometimes she was cranky. But, try switching stalls and oh boy watch out! The entire place breaks out in yelling and fighting. Seriously, if you yell at us, why would we got back to your stand?

Again, I promise we will end on a positive note, but this post makes me shake my head and smile. Congo…

Gas Shortage!

Hello Readers! The biggest buzz around Brazzaville is the latest gas shortage. Gas stations have been out of fuel for the past week or so, so when they refilled their tanks this weekend, there has been lines down the street. We saw at least two gas stations with over 100 cars (mostly taxis) lined up. There are even police out to control the lines. The other crazy thing is that most taxi drivers only put a little bit of gas in their tank, since they can’t afford to do a full fill up. This means that they are lined up at the stations, some even sleeping in their cabs, to fill up to drive another day.

With this shortage there has been WAY less taxis on the streets, which is our main mode of transportation. Well…for 6 more days that is! Woo! it’s almost summer. I’ve been wanting to create a post about my extreme happiness that I will no longer have to take a busted up green Toyota Corolla around town. I think my brains have been scrambled enough. Did I mention that we took a Lexus cab to our hotel in Dubai in February? Oh the possibilities!

Sorry no picture today, we were only driving by the station, but for those of you interested gas here currently costs $0.90/litre.

An Expat Perk

In preparing myself to move to a place that has more expats than locals, there is one thing I’m secretly (not so secretly) going to miss: White person “perks”. Yes…getting called Moundele on the street, getting many stares and paying extra for fabric and fruit can be irritating, but it does come with some advantages. Mainly, you get some celebrity attention. Here are a few example:

1. I’m currently searching for a soccer jersey, so I went to the stadium to see if they sold some. I assumed it was closed, so I just asked the guard if I could buy one there. He said no, but now, thanks to people wanting to help the lovely expat girl, I’m headed to meet the boss of the stadium next week!

2. Matt and I have been frequenting a new local watering hole. We have been three times. Time #1: we were well received. People were really nice, and even the owner (we think) said hello. Time #2: We arrive, order our drinks and the lady says, “yep comme d’habitude?” (like usual?) We also asked her if they have any plantains for snack. They didn’t, but she offered peanuts or chips. We agreed that she would bring us something, and a young girl goes running out the door and comes back with a tin of Pringles from the convenience store nearby. Great! Time #3: We arrive, bam! our drinks arrive. No ordering necessary. I guess we are regulars now! Here is a picture of our new hangout!

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This is a great little place called Chez Dina. It is on a busy street, but you walk through the door and you’re in a nice quiet courtyard. It is especially nice now that the weather is cooling down! Being outside in the sun at 4pm is much more relaxing than it was one month ago. (Canadians: I almost wanted a coat last weekend!!)

3. Yesterday, we headed to top up our monthly internet. We go into the shop and they are passing out waiting numbers. Our number says we are about 30 away. The hostess asks us what we are there for. Matt says he wants to top up his internet…60000 CFA ($120) And we get sent straight to the counter! No line! We think that this special privilege is because we are spending more money than the others…a lot more. Most people are there to activate their SIM card, which costs 500CFA or $1.

4. Some of our good friends work for the US Embassy. When we visit their house, we say hello to the guard and get let right in. It doesn’t seem that strange, however, if a Congolese person goes to their house, the guard asks them for ID! haha this drives our friends crazy, but it’s really for the best, since I never bring ID.

Loose Ends

Hello readers! Well our time in Brazzaville is coming to a close. Less than two weeks before we pack up this chapter. We’ve been thinking about doing some grand, elaborate posts about things we will miss (yes, there are some) and things we won’t. But, for now I thought I’d share a couple of pictures from the past week.
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1. I HATE this monument! It really weirds me out. I really don’t understand the purpose of it. To me, it almost promotes poaching. You’re all wondering… Is it ivory? I don’t know for sure. Some people say yes, some no. Some tusks are missing so maybe people tried to steal them. Either way, it’s a really strange piece of work. Thoughts?
In other news, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Congolese Government just recently burned 4.7 tonnes of confiscated ivory. That’s a big step for them! It was a public burning, and the President even lit the pile. Unfortunately we found out about it hours before and were at school, so we didn’t get to see.
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2. Would you look at this masterpiece! I grew it on the balcony. My poor plant produced one little squash. Just one! But we made the best of it and roasted it into a great dish. I’m so proud. The best part was the pollination process. Since we are on the 3rd floor, the bees don’t come up to pollinate my plant. So… I took matters into my own hands and rubbed those flowers together with my own fingers. It was oddly sensual sexing up a plant, but the results were immediate because my squash doubled in size over night! My students also began growing these squash as part of a project at school.

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3. Tiny teacher moment! Thursday started the 10 day school countdown. To celebrate, I put up 10 balloons each with a special note inside about something fun we are going to do that day. Thursday we change our seating plan and Friday we didn’t have to wear shoes. (Seriously, kids are so easy to please.) Thursday was also the birthday of my Teaching Aide. The students secretly planned a party, and I made a cake to jazz things up. And yes…my 16 students kept the secret for 4 whole days!!! Except for the occasional hint: Student 1: Ms. Ode, your birthday is tomorrow! Student 2: SHHH! You aren’t supposed to tell her!!!
Happy Weekend!

The Cost of Luxury

You’ve heard us say, time and time again, how expensive things are. And, not just expensive, but bizarrely priced. Since living in Brazzaville, I often check the cost of Irons in other countries because, although I don’t want one, they cost over $100 here in Congo, and I think it is outrageous! The same goes for children’s toys! You would go broke. At the supermarket, many things are reasonable, or slightly marked up, but occasionally something like this will show up! When converted to Canadian dollars these strawberries cost about $20. Yes, people buy them!

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Jazz Night

Our music teacher is also a musician who plays around town. Some would say he is the best drummer in Brazzaville. A parent at our school is also a musician, so they teamed up to put on a Jazz show. Since it was sort of hosted by the US Embassy, it started with their national anthem on a “talking drum,” which is sort of like a bag pipe. You squeeze the sides to change the sound of the drum. The guy in the orange is playing it. The man sitting behind the regular drums is our music teacher. Overall, a nice little night out.

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Farm Field Trip

This week my students are going to an educational farm for our field trip. Over spring break I went to scope out the joint, and it turned out to be a really cool place! It seems sooooo not Brazzaville.

This farm is an educational farm where students can get a diploma in farming. Like a farming university. They currently have about 30 students (half ladies!) and a few graduating this year. On our visit we saw the classrooms that they built, as well as boarding houses for the students and other buildings that they will be using.

Everything at the farm is thought out at has the best interest of the environment in mind. (Yes, this was Congo! It’s hard to believe). When building their buildings, they didn’t remove any trees to attempt to keep the nature feel. The toilet was one of those decomposable ones that you use saw dust for. While there, they were drying some hops from beer brewing to repurpose into fertilizer for the plants.

This was an organic farm that grew vegetables, and some animals. They had a nice creek running through the property as well as a quiet picnic place.

Come along on a little photo tour!

This is one of my students (also the daughter of some teachers. Isn't this wall beautiful?)

This is one of my students (also the daughter of some teachers. Isn’t this wall beautiful?)

In this greenhouse they are growing spinach. This week (about two weeks after our visit) the director of the farm brought us some spinach! Delivered right to our school!

In this greenhouse they are growing spinach. This week (about two weeks after our visit) the director of the farm brought us some spinach! Delivered right to our school!

I believe there were three or four greenhouses. You can see the irrigation system put in. They also have an amazing composting thing going on. They compost in two ways. One is using it as you would suspect and waiting for it to turn into dirt. The second is to put compost under these mounds and it gets worked as things grow.

Here they are using Heineken bottles (that can't be recycled here) to make garden boxes.

Here they are using Heineken bottles (that can’t be recycled here) to make garden boxes.

They also used the bottle caps to weigh down the plastic!

They also used the bottle caps to weigh down the plastic!

This is the cool lunch area! Beautiful!

This is the cool lunch area! Beautiful!

We walked through this little garden forest where the director was pulling all kinds of leaves off the trees and telling us to eat them! It was fun. These are little berries we ate.

We walked through this little garden forest where the director was pulling all kinds of leaves off the trees and telling us to eat them! It was fun. These are little berries we ate.

Here, amidst the chickens, they are growing mushrooms!

Here, amidst the chickens, they are growing mushrooms!

The date of our little trip was good Friday! This is the Easter Bunny obviously.

The date of our little trip was Good Friday! This is the Easter Bunny obviously.

These pink balls of skin are little baby rabbits born that morning. My student was in there like a dirty shirt!

These pink balls of skin are little baby rabbits born that morning. My student was in there like a dirty shirt!

After our tour of the animals, they took us to get some sugar cane that we ate right there! mmmm

After our tour of the animals, they took us to get some sugar cane that we ate right there! mmmm

And to top the day off, I did NOT pass up my chance to try some palm wine. It tasted kind of like a grassy beverage. I would have it again.

And to top the day off, I did NOT pass up my chance to try some palm wine. It tasted kind of like a grassy beverage. I would have it again.

My students are very excited for our little trip, and so am I! They, however, will not be indulging in wine at the end:)

Flourishing Front Yard

You might remember me saying that last year we enjoyed eating mangos that grew in the tree in our yard. Unfortunately this season the mangos kept disappearing before we could eat them. (I think our guards have a sweet tooth.) Lucky for us, a new tree was flourishing this month. Bananas! Our driver picked them and told us to leave them for a few days, then enjoy. It has been two days and we have one yellow one! Who gets to try it first?

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The banana tree

The banana tree

The papaya tree. When I was in Canada, papaya seemed like a delicious exotic delicacy. Now I know the truth...it's in abundance, and it smells like feet.

The papaya tree. When I was in Canada, papaya seemed like a delicious exotic delicacy. Now I know the truth…it’s in abundance, and it smells like feet.

Our mango tree

Our mango tree