Cultures are complex and have so many nuances that when you’re new might overwhelm you. If someone asked you to describe your culture you may struggle. It is hard to recognize the water of the pool you are swimming in.
When you are new somewhere, an outlander, you may feel like you’re drowning in all of these new experiences. My family has definitely been overwhelmed at times, but one way we are keeping our heads above water is by eating the foods we know and love.
Nick lovingly looked through our binders of favorite recipes before leaving Ohio and took pictures of some of our favs. We have searched the stores to buy the right spices to make taco seasoning, I have made homemade tortillas 4 times already, and we forgo the beloved sour cream so that we can enjoy some Congo-Mexican food. Controlling the food that we eat is just one way we are transitioning to life here, but it is an important one.
Don’t get me wrong, we have every desire to immerse ourselves in the new culture. Our wonderful housekeeper, Mama Fifi, purchased 3 chickens (who were alive when they arrived at our house), fish (not alive), and some other local vegetables for us to try. This also involved bukhari which is a sticky corn paste that they form into balls and eat with most of their dinners.
As excited as we were to try these new things, I quickly realized that we needed to apply the brakes. Immersing ourselves in the culture did not mean forcing new foods on Nick and the kids while all other things were still new. I have gladly regained control over dinner time for the time being. We have embraced sourcing fresh bananas, mangoes, and pineapples regularly on our drives home from school, and have enjoyed the practice of consuming far too many cookies. There are a lot of cookies in Lubumbashi! My father has always said that cookies should be their own food group. Here in DRCongo, they seem to have that status.
All in all, we are not starving and you would be happy to know that we are prepping by lantern light when the power is out and cooking outside. God is so gracious, and even these challenges are no longer surprising or even discouraging.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Renee’s advance #3022491
Nick’s advance #3022490
Nick and Renee Shaw
C/O United Methodist New Life Center
PO Box 20219
The journey from moving across the world started with selling off some of our possessions in Ohio, mostly via Facebook beginning in November. From that point on we have learned to “make do” with minor inconveniences. When I sold the boys chest of drawers, their clothes went into tubs on the floor. When I sold my treadmill, I just stopped exercising (this was kind of a blessing and a curse). We shipped most of our daily belongings in January and began living out of suitcases.
I am so very thankful and blessed to say …NO LONGER! I have unpacked clothing, dishes, toys and games in a home that we don’t have to leave for a long time. The scripture from the book of Philippians 4:11 has been very meaningful, “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have, I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything…For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
This is not to say that there haven’t been some days of frustrations. Translating and struggling through language and cultural barriers can be exhausting. We can’t find things like shower rods and have been squatting in the bathtub for our showers. Shower rods most likely will need to be fabricated.
We find products in unusual places also. Today we bought some simple tools, a drill and drill bits, at the auto store. At the furniture store you can buy a generator, a motorcycle, and a kitchen hand-mixer. With the help of some new Congolese friends, we are making our house a home and finding the things we need.
I would also like to share one of Nick’s greatest victories. He told both of our cab drivers yesterday where we would like to go and then understood the dollar amount when they told him the cost for the ride. God is good and we celebrate the provisions our Lord provides! Thank you for your prayers and God bless you!
We have nearly reached the end of our five weeks in temporary housing. The waiting seemed so very long but truly was not at all. Being brand new in a country that is across the world both literally and figuratively from what we know has presented many challenges. The people here speak Swahili and French and as our boys have become very competent in saying “Je ne comprends pa,” meaning “I do not understand,” in French.
Back to our stay in temporary housing, we have had the great fortune to have been staying in the Christian Brethren guesthouse run by a delightful woman named Rachel who is British. It has been quiet, safe and just what we needed at the end of a long day. The one exception has been the spotty electricity. If you have heard anything about DRCongo, you may have heard that the power grid is terrible. It’s true!
Our guesthouse compound has a generator that they run for 1 1/2 hours three times a day at meal times. When the electricity is on there is a special light bulb that flashes green and red. We discuss it daily because one of our children (you can just enjoy guessing which) has to announce that the power is on because the light bulb is changing colors.
As we depart from this safe haven, we thank you all for the prayers and are excited to show you pictures of our new home as we get settled in. We will be a very short drive from the school where Harrison is attending cutting our morning and afternoon commute in half! God is good! We pray for you all and thank God for friends and family who serve the Lord tirelessly and with joy in your hearts.
This week we decided to let the boys chime in on how they are adjusting to life in DR Congo.
Call out from the Congo,
I want to highlight a major difference in the schools here versus my experience in the United States: lunchtime. I remember as a child filing into the lunch room and sitting at large tables with our lunch trays. There was a milk machine and a hot lunch option if you had not packed your lunch at home.
My children were having similar lunch breaks at their elementary schools. That is NO LONGER the case here. For better or worse lunchtime is a very different beast at TESOL in Congo. The children spill out of their classrooms, gather their lunch boxes (all from home) and eat the widest variety of foods I have ever witnessed outside a church potluck. Your standard sandwiches are present, but beef, rice, and vegetables are not uncommon to see as well as hotdogs and fries.
After the children have consumed whatever they are interested in eating, they begin to play (and or terrorize each other). They are not required to sit in the chairs they have brought out from their classrooms, so they often choose to stand.
But, the real highlight from today’s lunch break was this. The playground outside the corridor where the children eat was very muddy so the kids were horsing around in this long corridor. In an effort to entertain some of the children, the kind and wonderful principal Mr. Loshita was engaging the kids in a hopping/dancing game of follow the leader.
It never ceases to amaze me, the lengths to which excellent educators will go to not only share Christ’s love with children, but sacrifice personal comfort for the joy of others. This is a shout out to all those who teach in any capacity. May God fill your hearts with the joy to dance and hop like Mr. Loshita.