Thursday, March 17, 2016

Home! and a very Happy St. Patricks day to all!

It's St. Patricks day and since the day we arrived home it's been NON STOP go go go- so much good, too much to write now but no complaints. I've felt nothing but love, compassion and gratitude for life, friends and loved ones- EVEN STRANGERS.

It's no secret that I love what I do- I am passionate about passion (and finding ones own...) so I can talk day and night about 'Africa' and Congo and literally never stop- this often turns into full conversations about life, travel and yes, passion. It also often turns into life long relationships established over a marble bar or, in line at a Starbucks- regardless, let today be a day we say thanks- raise a glass and smile.

We only have ONE life people, make it count (and if we have more than one, it's likely we will not

Will write more soon- very soon!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Really FlyDubai and Emirates????

It's Wednesday, February 3rd, just before noon. I am sitting here on hold with Emirates (which I have been on line with for well over an hour now...) trying to figure out our departure date! As those of you whom have been following this blog/journey, you know that our FlyDubai flight inbound from Dubai to Kigali was also cancelled, they (Emirates) re-routed us, from the airport, on Ethiopian Airlines...hence the delay, layovers etc... (FlyDubai was a direct flight). So now we are faced with the same problem only there is not an Emirates office here in Kigali so I am at the mercy of Emirates call centers 
No comment.

(ALL OVER THE WORLD, ugh).  And they, unfortunately, do not have 'permission' to re-book us on another they have to wait for an email approval. Only, no one is emailing in response and or approving so we wait. T.I.A., I know, but c'mon!!!! We are sitting ducks. arrrrg
Ok, time to utilize the day... been working on the TRP mission/field report, in between there being Internet and not. Went and saw 'DeadPool' the movie last night (said it was rated 'G'....sorry Rocco, it was ABSOLUTELY not rated G). And today we are going to the market to get a few small tokens of thanks for family and friends...then to the rooftop Chinese restaurant we have heard so much about.

Been meeting some very nice and interesting people from all over- Alaska, South Africa etc...saw our dear friend Claire ('hunny hunny') and trying to enjoy and relax a bit while still in Kigali.
Yesterday I followed-up to confirm my UNHCR meeting here in Kigali and got the response that EVERYONE in the office is out on retreat and will only return Friday eve...I mentioned that we are (planning) to leave Saturday but have yet to hear back...obviously I am dissappointed as I had confirmed this meeting prior to our initial Kigali departure, but again, T.I.A. (this is Africa...). Now I will just have to make due with emails and calls...

All is well in Kalemie/DRC, been in touch with kaka- I think everyone is decompressing from our month long- never ending- mission. Will follow-up today with all the staff at the UNHCR Kalemie office with update requests and thank you's...ok, off for now, def looking forward to getting home, T-one week :)

oh, and Rocco is feeling 100% and eating again like a monster :)
Rocco chows down!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Arrived! Kalemie-Uvira

Uvira Port
our 'room' :)
We made it! I was not able to post on Thursday (Internet at UNHCR was not working...), hence the late post now...but we made it! lol, we are now in Uvira, the minute we got the the FIZI we paid for the Internet code for the full day ($4 USD), then the power went off :( so we only just now got connected (power back on...for now!?).  It's 7:20pm

Yesterday was crazy- trying to get everything done, say goodbye, organize getting to and from office(s) ugh, it was hectic! Then I didn't even get to eat till 2pm so I had a splitting headache till late last night :( We wanted to be at the port by 2pm but didn't get there till closer to 3:30pm! lol, the boat 'leaves' at 4 (we didn't leave till just after 5pm...).
Rocco & Ethan loving the bunkbeds
 Nonetheless, it was crazy getting there, getting on the boat, once again, and all of the above repeat repeat, lol. However, it was nice having our own 'room' and was VERY HOT ugh then cold early am (we slept with the door wide open- needed ventilation!), but managed to get more sleep than our first trip!
OMG look at the dirt on my feet! haaaa
breakfast of champions PB&J
We arrived this morning just after 8am and had a bit of a struggle getting our luggage and ourselves off the boat (as to be expected) but once we did, and once we left the madness of the port we found a driver to drop us off at the FIZI, we waited for our room to be cleaned, dropped our stuff, and headed out to eat (which takes hours...). We had a FILLING LUNCH (even though Rocco and I filled up on rice, plantains and, it was GREAT. Then we decided to head to the beach, it was a hot day and we could all have used a little break! Of COURSE Rocco falls asleep mid way there, then we got stuck in our little taxi twice and then stuck behind another car that was stuck, lol, Ethan and kaka helped relieve. It was all and all a fun filled and entertaining day. We got back to the FIZI, Rocco and I bucket showered, Ethan and kaka napped (not together, lol) and now we are organizing dinner and I'm writing! :)

our taxi hee hee
Kaka and I are finalizing the inventory list, we have discussed our proposed upcoming projects, we are VERY EXCITED about them all :) news to come!
a few of 'our' latrine pics
I heard back from Yacuba (UNHCR Kalemie) and we are awaiting the letter which will facilitate TRP re-registering for ECHO and a local bank account. If that happens by tomorrow, kaka will head to Goma and organize, we will head to Kigali- via bus :(
the 'beach'
Well, I am going to post a few pics from today, yesterday and get to work (on dinner and work!).

Looking forward to being in Kigali for some REAL food, like cheese and FRUIT- we literally haven't eaten fruit in a month :(

Wishing everyone a happy weekend from Uvira, DRC!

late post- Thursday day of departure :(

It’s Thursday, February 25th, 2016 we leave in a few hours…I am at the UNHCR now trying to say goodbye to a few friends/colleagues and send out my last post while in Kalemie…
TRP sent these two lovely to school :)
It’s bittersweet of course, but we will be back, as there is too much work underway and in need. 

searching for the students in need...
For those of you wondering about Rocco…we (Ethan and I) spoke with his actual doctor in California last night and Rocco is fine…his fever subsided, he is full of energy and playing today (finally!). We are keeping him hydrated and giving him small amounts of bland food so that he can keep it all down J
As for the TRP office, I will stop there as well as OCHA on my way ‘home’ then we will go to the port with the car and mama Tete. We do have a room so we can load our bags and we will all have a ‘bed’ so that will be nice.

Yesterday I successfully sent two orphaned kids to school for the rest of the year, and with proper monitoring and follow-up with family, TRP will continue to support these two (pics are posted soon- or maybe they can be seen on FB…not sure of connection).

Ok, well time is running…out. We will be in Uvira tomorrow with Internet, hopefully. Then on Saturday we will most likely leave for Kigali. We will have just under a week to organize and have a few meetings etc… hopefully kaka and I will finish the Educaiton Initiative on the boat and the OCHA translations lol, ayyyyy.

Bye for now


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Still Wednesday...

Went to the doctor, Rocco is going to be fine- he does NOT HAVE MALARIA which is good, what he does have... well we are not really entirely 100% sure, but it may be a type of worm, bothering his tummy and causing the vomiting and fever? The doctors were really nice and worked with me and my Swahili :) Rocco was/is a champ and we all just want him to feel better :( So we are giving him the medication, making sure he is smiling as much as possible and reassuring him how much we love him :) and that goes for EVERYONE. I think he is enjoying the attention :-/

At UNHCR now waiting on Tusen, he is head of protection here, and has been assisting me since yesterday with the vulnerable education initiative, we are scheduled to visit the Du Lac school this afternoon and meet the two kids that were forced to drop out 4 months ago as they couldn't afford the I wait.

Most everyone is out- either in L'shi, Bukavu, Kinshasa or elsewhere.

I spoke w Nyembo yesterday and the latrines are almost finished! They were installing the doors and roofing so he has some great pictures and updates he will be sending (network is still really weak!).

As for the rest- of EVERYTHING, pole pole, we are working on what we can for by one.

Ok, too much to do.
tutaonana baadaye


Wednesday, February 24th 2016

It’s around 9am, I am in the car en-route to UNHCR waiting on mama Tete as she is at the pharmacy getting prescription filled for Rocco…he started to have diarrhea last night and throwing up :-/ he didn’t and couldn’t keep much down…this all started when he woke-up from his nap around 2:30pm, I had just returned prior from the schools. I cancelled everything I had all afternoon and stayed with him. Then around 1am he was burning up and his fever didn’t break (literally till this morning). We contemplated taking him to the clinic or hospital but decided to give him a little Dimetapp and wait for it to kick in. I was up pretty much ALL night checking on him and monitoring his fever :-/

So this morning around 3:30am I called kaka and he came to the house at 5:30am, mama Tete papa Guy and the whole family checked on Rocco last night and this morning. We went to the doctor, did the malaria lab test (negative!) and then saw the doctor who said it’s probably worms (due to swimming in the lake ove the weekend). So we are getting medication, I am rearranging my morning meetings and hopefully by this afternoon we will be GOOD TO GO and Rocco will feel 100%.

Ok, going to post and will try to write more later…


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuesday, and only two days left :(

Tuesday February 23rd, 2016

It’s just after 7am; I’m up having coffee watching the Makako (monkey) table him/herself up. Got up early to buy credit for the phone, as I need to get in touch with Mr. Yacuba before he leaves for Lubumbashi this morning. The network has been troublesome for the past few days, and it’s very difficult to get through- to anyone. So I sit here, and I write J
inside the TRP office :)
Yesterday was a very Very full day. I left before 9am and only returned around lunchtime after having been to UNHCR, the carpenter (got TRP a table and book shelf!), and UNICEF. In the afternoon I went to meet with Madam Sophie, the head of OCHA, and that was a never ending- extremely positive never ending- meeting! When I arrived at OCHA on my motortaxi from the office/kaka’s house, I had to argue with the driver as he was heckling me for the price…I told him, in Swahili that everyday I pay the same amount, and today was no different. Finally, he laughed and said that ‘you, Mzungu you know’ and we parted ways.  I was walked upstairs and greeted by Guy Marie (who had just returned from a weeks trip in Goma). We said our hellos, hugged and welcomed one another then he walked me into Sophie’s office of which, was bare. She was sitting outside on the balcony facing the lake and cool breeze.  She semi apologized for being outside but I immediately interrupted her and told her that I am from Redondo Beach and understand 100%- Sophie then looked at me in disbelief and told me she is from Manhattan Beach- I was flabbergasted. We literally are less than two miles from each other and here we are sitting in Kalemie in the DR Congo! WHAT A SMALL WORLD.
TRP's signage!!!!!! 
Originally from Napa Valley and with Ethiopian/Somali roots, Sophie is a well-spoken, intelligent and beautiful woman. She is warm, welcoming, passionate and more than furnished for her position. Our conversation literally could not, would not end. We talked about local and international issues, the current IDP situation, refugees, Somalia, Ethiopia, Congo, Zambia, Manhattan and Hermosa Beach, Libya, Uganda- it was unceasing. Finally we had to cut ourselves short and decided to continue over dinner on the base of MONUSCO (where she stays currently). They have a restaurant there and I wanted her to meet Ethan and Rocco.

So less than two hours later after a shower and some mama Tete errands, we were at MONUSCO with Sophie and one of her colleagues, Dan (originally from Belgium). What started around 7:30 didn’t end till almost 10:30pm :-o There are so many issues, thoughts on solutions, questions and projects- introductions and my oh my, both the possibilities and tribulations are endless. Working in Kalemie, and on the African continent in general bears walls not to mention the conditions, the security and the constant battle to get something done (like send an email?!).

That's our office table and book shelf!
We left with promises of keeping in touch and one another informed on upcoming and current projects. Our hope- yes, ‘our hope’, is to work on a solution to this current situation of the IDP’s both internally, locally and with the community at large. I propose a simple, informational- peace building- cohabitation film; one that can help breakdown these walls of concern, or this silly game of ‘telephone’ and clarify the REEL situation. A film that would incorporate the local authorities, entertain and all the while educate. So there many more meetings to have, conversations, introductions and follow-ups but we will get there, eventually. In the meantime, I have to work on our last two days here in Kalemie…

We walked into UNICEF yesterday, kaka and I, with no meeting or introduction.  Our hope was to meet with Madam Chantelle (head of education), or mama Rose (whom we met in the field in Nyunzu), but we ended up meeting with Madam Linda who is the head of protection. We spoke with Linda at great length about TRP, our Education Initiative and the potential partnership opportunity between TRP and UNICEF. She was welcoming, receptive and extremely helpful. As there is protocol for any form of partnership, for the time being (as we leave in two days…), Linda provided us with a list of local ‘ex-child soldiers’ whom are ‘vulnerable’ and need assistance with paying school fees.  UNICEF has a number of classifications to identify the vulnerable children, they are:
  • Former child soldiers (armed militia groups)
  • Orphaned children (deceased parents)
  • Unaccompanied minors (not sure of parents whereabouts)
  • Disabled children due to war (attacked by armed Militia, land mines etc…)
  • Mentally/Physically handicapped
  • Chronic illness

Linda then mentioned all of the partner organization that are working with these clusters, and offered to put us in touch, should there be any one cluster or identifier TRP was interested in supporting. I assured her that we wanted to help those in need- those whom need the most. Linda said that the former child soldiers often had the most trouble as if their school fees are not covered (and some are not just former soldiers but have also lost their parents and have been mentally and emotionally traumatized. So she furnished us with a list of 14 kids, and today it’ll be my job to get us to the school to follow-up on their whereabouts, status of fees- see if an interception needs to be had (for them to be able to finish off the school year) or what. In addition, I need to organize getting funds to Moba for the fees and exams for Kapondo and kids.

Yesterday we got our tickets for the boat; we got the very LAST ROOM! Ayyyyy
I have to speak with Doessen (AIRD) who just returned from Nyunzu with Nyembo and find out if he will allow Malela to travel with us to Uvira…furthermore I need to follow-up on the status of the latrines, if they are finished, close to being completed etc…
to all of you who supported
(and signed) the REEL Latrine Project :)
So as it’s already after 8:30am, I’m going to have to sign off and get the day started!
Off for now, I will try to send this off, or rather, upload today with a quick update.


ok, at UNHCR and they are going to assist me with a driver to take me to three of the 7 schools to visit and check-up on the vulnerable students so that TRP may assist with fees! Wish me luck as my Swahili is going into full swing today, lol. No help, no translator :(

Also, I cannot believe I forgot to mention, last night we had PIZZA for dinner @ MONUSCO, yes, PIZZA WITH CHEESE!!!!!!!! It was ridiculously good- probably because we were starving and haven't had cheese (or pizza) in forever but nonetheless, I REALLY want to go back for more tonight lol. Nothing like an $8 probably frozen (at one point in time) pizza lol!

bye bye!