Saturday, April 10, 2010

Kinshasa Tuesday

We moved from the brand new apartment to the Centre d'Accueil Protestante (Protestant Guest house). Running water! Ceiling fan! (water works. fan works. therefore I work. QED.)Breakfast and lunch provided! YES! the Archbishop went to the Cathedral for more meetings. I decided to call home. Heard about the huge wind storm and that Andrew's father's car had been crushed by a tree outside THH. Very upsetting... nothing I could do. Powerless.
Late in the afternoon, picked up the Archbishop (Abp) and went to see a house in Masina district which the Abp and his family could live in, were the seat of the province to remain in Kinshasa. (another story, for another time) The neighborhood was poorer than most and the house + compound were isolated. House= 3-story colonial period stucco... grand Deco arches inside and wood lining the underside of the roofs covering the porches. Anyone know the reasoning behind using wood? Anyway. It was clear that this was not a place where Mugisa and the Abp would bring their family to live. It was a bit surprising that the site was even proposed. I was uneasy.
We departed (did I mention it was the hottest day yet?) and even this late in the afternoon we made another stop.

It is called the dispensary. Formerly a one-story hotel/motel structure, the Anglicans bought the building with the intention of turning it into a medical center (think drop-in clinic) for this area of Kinshasa. (it's getting hotter). We enter the building. The roof is gone. Rooms open to the sky. As we walk down the 'hallways' we meet women seated by fires, cooking fish for their children. Many children. the 'hallways' are dim and gray, seems like there is a family or two in each 'room'. It's really hard to even write this; I only spoke of it yesterday to a friend and I cry just remembering.
We continue walking thru the labyrinth of halls to an open area. Several men are relaxing talking to each other. Hard to tell if they are related to the women and children we just saw. Then we enter 'le dispensaire'. Hallways still have no roof, but the rooms do. The rooms are empty and dark. The surgery, the medication room, the exam rooms all empty and dark. I guess the project didn't go forward at some point for whatever reason. Maybe the war. I don't know. I started to dissociate. My thoughts were of going to the Cos Cob Dunkin Donuts to get Coolatas and munchkins for Andrew and I. It was comforting.

Turns out we were going to the dean's home for supper that night, directly from the dispensary. There was no conversation in the car. Everyone looked into the distance, trying to make sense of what we had just seen. We were invited to sit in the living room, while supper was being prepared. Now the heat was overpowering. It was hard for me to think, let alone talk. WE made fans out of notecards until we moved outside to the open-air space and dinner was served. The hospitality was tremendous, meat, chicken, rice, cole slaw, plaintains, cassava, beans, cassava bread...and my friend, Fanta. I wasn't a very good guest. I just couldn't get conversation together. I was and am very grateful for the meal.

back at CAP (the guesthouse) I asked the archbishop for some time off - just a morning or so, to process Tuesday and some of the trip. Graciously, I stayed behind on Weds, when they went to get their passports. No pictures.

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