Thursday, June 12, 2008


My Africa posts are getting rather drawn-out, so I am going to cover a lot in this one.

When we weren't doing wedding-related activities, we were becoming acquainted with various aspects of Nate's life in Kinshasa, as well as the people that are special to him.

Since my mom is interested in children and art, and had left some art supplies there from a previous trip, we hosted a little art class for the children of some of Nate's co-workers.

Once again it reminded me of my short-term trips to Russia, where we had also done art with children. At the beginning we didn't even have an interpreter, so my mom was using her French and I was using mine. I could basically say the names of the colors and ask the kids which paper or ink they wanted.

In the beginning, the kids were shy and hesitant to begin making something. By the end they were enthusiastic and creating chaos! Many different personalities had emerged: some kids were mass-producing small works of art; others were slow and meticulous. Some children had stopped printing and resorted to simply coloring, including drawing portraits for us to keep. Some were eager to please; others were testing the boundaries! Some were proud of their work; others pouted and threw tantrums.

There was one little girl in the beginning who didn't seem interested at all. For about 3/4 of the lesson she stood in the corner. As all the other kids got started, she continued to stand there, expressionless. Then she went over the pattern table and began to cut. Most kids had cut out one shape, but she had a huge pile of small intricate shapes, which she brought over to me to be printed. As I went over to get something, she followed me and extended a little hand to brush my arm, not wanting to be left alone. Then I realized that she wasn't disinterested at all, just shy! And I felt the love for her that I do for all children, sooner or later.

By the end we were tired, but it was sad to see them go. They were a fun bunch!

These children hadn't been orphans, but we knew there were orphans in Kinshasa. We met a well-known Congolese artist later in the week who gave a demonstration of his work and expressed his desire for wanting to do art with orphaned children. We were able to leave our extra supplies with him.

Then we went to visit the shop where some of his work was sold. The store was set up by missionaries so that the artists could sell their work in a fair-trade environment.

We also met some co-workers of Nate's, at the various wedding events and also throughout the week. One day a few ladies came to meet us in the hotel. They had met my mom during her previous trip and were excited to meet the rest of us. They had made clothes for all of us. I gave them each matrioshka dolls and it was fun watching them open them and shriek over the progressively smaller dolls inside.

We spent some more time with Hortense's family as well. By now it was more relaxed. My mom presented Hortense and Nate with a hand-made guest book for the wedding reception. She had made a box for the book which included photos of both hometowns, each of them in childhood, and finally photos of them together. Hortense's family was touched and enjoyed looking at it.

To be continued...


  1. You have the most fascinating family! What does your brother do in Kinshasha?

    Where does your mother live? I see she must be an artist, too! I thought the artist was your sister! Both of them?

    I'd love to see close-up pictures of that guest book and the box - it looks amazing.

  2. Annie, my family is from Massachusetts. My mother is an artist and a few of us are into art too, but different forms. My sister studied Graphic Design and likes printing; I minored in Studio Art and like drawing.

    I wish my mom would display her work online so more people could see it! She makes a lot of personalized, one-of-a-kind items.

  3. Well, now that you've satisfied my curiosity there.... Who are the Russians in your life? I think I got the idea that someone adopted. Your parents? But then I didn't see them (I don't think....) in the wedding photos.

  4. Masha is M.I.A. and Nastia has a one-year-old whom she didn't feel safe bringing to the Congo. At one point I did a series on family members, so there should be descriptions somewhere. I need to go back and add more labels so it's easier to navigate.

  5. I'll go back and look. I really think everyone should do that. The problem is the blogger tends to make it difficult to go "backwards" least I don't find a way to go all the way back to the beginning of someone's blog that easily. I'll head back to check it out. I'm sure that people have the same problem with mine, if they just come in on it.... Who the heck ARE these people? The thing is that everything you write about is so interesting, that your posts can stand alone.


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