Our 36 Day God Adventure in the Bandundu

Day 20 - Saturday, September 24, 2011

Same routine as usual for a travel day - up at 5ish, pack bags, clear out room, pack car, eat breakfast, get in car, pray and off we go by 7AM.  I could do this in my sleep by now!  I know better than to ask how many kilometres, or how are the roads or what time should we be there.  It's all relative.  I will say though that it is increasingly hard to get in the car for the travel days.
We stopped before leaving Kikwit in the "downtown" area trying to get a few things that we needed.  We know that the next training area will be village setting again and we won't have access to purchase things so this is our last chance for a few days, at least.  No shampoo.  We had sent Benoit out yesterday to buy us some but he hadn't been able to find any.  We thought, surely today, we will be able to find some.  Not so.  I mean how difficult can it be to find one bottle of shampoo?  I don't even care what kind.  No shampoo.  What this will mean is I'll have to start adding water to the drips in the bottle we have.  How much can you dilute before it no longer cleans your hair?  I guess we will find out.  At any rate, that's the plan until we reach Vanga.
I have to say that I was quite encouraged and enthusiastic the first bit of the trip today.  I mean, we were actually travelling on a paved road, for goodness' sake!  I had forgotten what that's like.    Felt so good.  As far as the eye could see, a steady line of people, women mostly, were walking along the side of the road with large plastic basins on their heads.  They were heading out for a day's work in the fields.  Mama Fifi said that some would walk 20-30 km., work all day in their fields, and then return to their homes in the evening.
Well the paved road lasted about 30 minutes, just long enough to feel the cruelty of leaving it behind.    The Congolese had told us that the roads today are "good" - I find that their standard response.  I guess we will see.  Certainly the first half turned out to be very good.  I think Benoit used the traction maybe once for sand.  Obviously the rain from a night or so ago also helped.
As before, we arrived at a river's edge and had to take a ferry across.   This time it was the real deal.  No manual pulling on pulleys.  There was another little boat that pushed the ferry across.  Though the operators were looking for alcohol as payment, they must have accepted whatever money was given.
It has definitely become much hotter of late - sure sign of the rainy season.  Perhaps too, we are somewhat closer to the equator here than back in Kinshasa.  Pastor Muzau told us that in Kinshasa they have already had 3 rains since we left so we will be fully into rainy seeason there too by the time we get back.  The rainy season has started on time this year, mid September.
As I looked out the window while travelling I thought about all the incredible vegetation I was seeing.  You know all those exotic plants you buy and try to grow in Canada - well here, they're growing on the side of the road - palms, ficus, elephant ears, to say nothing of the fruit trees I've seen - banana, papaya, mango, lemon, orange, even pineapple plants and peanuts. It does hurt though to see the lack of concern in general for preservation of forest and animals. Many species of wild animals have been overhunted.  Swatches of land we travelled through today had been burnt in preparation for planting manioc.  No plan for reforestation.  When you realize that the world's second largest rainforest is here in the Congo.  You can understand some of the global implications if it is destroyed. 
As we approached a ravine area, several men made signs for us to proceed slowly with caution.  A very large truck had left the road and fallen into the ravine. Rather a solemn sight.  God has certainly has His hand of protection on us throughout our travels.
To our utter disbelief, we arrived in Sala just before 1PM!  Fantastic!!  So exciting!  Because tomorrow is Sunday it means that we will only have half of a rest day in reality so having extra time today is so very welcome. 
Well our joy was short lived.  Soon the Assistant district pastor arrived and informed us that the training would not be at Sala as originally planned but at a retreat centre a little further on at Miah.  Pastor Pierre was not at all impressed.  At first he refused saying that because we hadn't been informed,we were staying in Sala and the pastors would have to come to us.  Evetually when we found out that the retreat centre was only 7 more kilometres away, we decided to go.  The bad news though - everyone said that the roads are bad!  Now for a Congolese to tell you that the roads are bad conjures up all sort of images of horror and terror.  It was finally decided that Benoit would go with a friend by motorbike, check out the condition of the roads and see if we would be able to go with the car.  If impossible, then the pastors would have to come to us.
We were all so tired.  We'd only eaten some peanuts, bread and some of Mama Fran├žoise's donuts so we were all hungry and just wanted to be able to settle in, get cleaned up and eat.  While we were waiting for Benoit to return, they brought some grass mats for us to sit down on in the shade.  Eventually it became too tempting to me, so I stretched out to rest.
It seemed to take forever but finally Benoit was back.  He confirmed that the road was in terrible state, parts  badly eroded.  At the worst spots, he had left people to work on repairing the road so we could pass.  So we all climbed back into the car (with two extra pastors, of course).  It doesn't take too long to reach the first really bad patch.  The men are still working and by the looks of it, it's going to take a while.  We all get out and I walk ahead with Pastor Muzau and we talk a bit. We talked about the African idea of time. It seems to me that they are very aware of the past with their history and ancestors, and they live very much in the present, right now but  little thought is given to the future. So actions are not weighed up as far as likely consequences in the future of things done today. It was quite a while before the car finally came and picked us up.  I don't know if it was the time of day, or the fact that we were packed in like sardines, but those 7 kms. seem to take forever!  It HAD to be further than 7 km.  Finally by around 5PM we arrived at the retreat area.  It became clear very quickly that nothing had been done in preparation for our arrival.  Plastic chairs eventually arrived and we sat.  And we sat.  And we sat.  A number of pastors were huddled at a distance talking, discussing what to do (remember my observation about living in the present and not planning ahead!) Of course every kid in the entire neighbourhood gathered around us watching our every move.  I saw someone begin to sweep around a hut in the distance.  Then a bed arrived.  Then a hunk of foam.  Then buckets of water on the heads of a few young women.  Activity, that's good!  We eventually went over to see what was going on and where we would be staying.  Definitely the most primitive conditions that we've stayed in so far, but honestly, at this point, I couldn't have cared less!  I just wanted to unload the car, get set up, cleaned up, maybe eat and go to bed.
Mama Fran├žoise and Mama Fifi started looking for kindling to start the fire for supper.  I helped getting the bags to the right destination.  By this time it's dark.  Pastor Pierre rigged up an electiric light using our generator.  I nipped into the "shower" (definitely NOT the "spa" of Tono!), decide to NOT wash my hair with my watered down shampoo but do manage to get the worst of the dirt off me(at least, I think I do but it's hard to tell by the light of my flashlight).
Dinner is ready so we eat and then quickly return to our rooms.  I, for one, am happy to have a mosquito net though not necessarily for protection form mosquitos.  By the looks of this place, there could be a whole lot of other creatures living in the rafters and just waiting for the dark to come out. We are back to sharing a single foam mattress again, but I think we're tired enough that it won't matter.  It has cooled down and so much better than Kikwit in that way. 
The rains come again during the night but thankfully the roof doesn't leak.  I thought the smell of the dirt floor might bother me but I guess I simply grew used to it or too tired to notice.

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