April 15, 2011
I recently returned from a fabulous trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country is different than any place I have ever experienced. Having been to Vietnam twice to complete my adoption, I assumed I would experience similar sites. Of course, being two different continents and two very different cultures, I was wrong. I love the beauty and uniqueness of various cultures and ethnic groups, yet we are all special human beings, created by God, and in need of unconditional love.
Those waiting to bring home your Congolese child might be comforted by my experience. I was most impressed with the foster mothers. They would remind you of your grandmother or favorite aunt. They were beautiful ladies, dressed in a classy style, and very loving to the children in their care. Some had even given the children nicknames based upon their personalities. The little guy I was escorting would laugh and giggle when his foster mother talked to him. It was obvious they had bonded and she knew how to meet his needs. This is very healthy for attachment; it will make your adjustment less difficult because your child has learned to trust adults to care for his needs.
We were instructed not to take photos outside the hotel walls. I followed these instructions explicitly so as not to jeopardize bringing the children home. If I had a photo, it would reveal a country with war in its past. Remnants of buildings and rubble are everywhere. The people have resumed life and made homes and storefronts in these buildings though. The beauty of the Congolese women was a striking contrast to the city. Their attire was very modest, stylish, and feminine. The men quite often appeared to be going to work, wearing suits and carrying briefcases.
We traveled approximately four to five hours in an SUV on a gut-wrenching path to view the most amazing Zongo Falls. No vehicle I have ever owned could navigate this path; there were deep ruts, sometimes mud filled. Had it rained the day prior, the trip would have been cancelled.
Along the way, we viewed huts with grass or tin roofs, holes for windows, and a curtain for a door. Cooking pots were steaming outside, and laundry hung on trees or on the roof. We merged to the edge of the path for numerous pedestrians balancing their daily rations of water on their heads. One hut had a wooden bench in the yard where an elderly grandmother sat surrounded by children. They stopped their schooling to wave as we passed. Of course, there were no books, papers, pencils, or crayons. This was not unlike the private school for the more affluent families we toured in the city. However, there still were not enough books for every child. Being a teacher myself, I asked the Congolese teacher where her supplies and teacher guides were; she replied that they had very few supplies, and she uses the internet every evening to prepare lesson plans. I was impressed with her dedication and passion to search for appropriate teaching material. I am saddened to admit that we have more books in our home than they had in their school library.
I anticipate more escorting trips to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Should I get the blessing of bringing home your child, I will consider the experience an honor. To arrive in the US, welcomed by an entourage of family who have worked very hard and waited long months to adopt this child, is a most rewarding experience. Have your cameras ready and snap that baby’s picture, but I may be too tired and jetlagged to smile!