Toulmin’s News

Pounding Fou FouFrom Aru, DR of the Congo

5:45pm. We are just back from the market and while Wendy Toulmin carries the bananas and vegetables for tomorrow’s meals into the house, I head for the Cyber Cafe which is about 250 metres away. As I come round the corner of a former missionary family’s house which is now used as the Diocesan Office, I see that the door of the ‘Cafe’ is ajar which is good as they sometimes close early. Moving into the somewhat darkened room and avoiding the large rock which is used to keep the door open(I have tripped over it several times to the mirth of the internetter’s sitting in plastic chairs round the periphery of the smallish room) I move over to the right where my computer is charging and realise, in the gloom, that my friend and colleague from almost 30 years ago, is sitting there. Oscar Mandela Muzaribawa … the Third. We greet each other and have a laugh about how he missed out on beans and rice for lunch at our place, and then I figure I have at least 10 minutes before we are all shooed out again. I go on to the Sydney Morning Herald website and peruse the news. I must be the most avid Jarryd Hayne Aussie fan in the Congo. It’s taking a long time to download the clip of him in the latest pre-season game and I am actually interested in whether he will make the cut with the San Francisco 49‘ers. Of course he will, we all know. (I know – you are thinking ‘who really cares?) I can’t believe as an Aussie I am interested in the American game with the pigskin.

The lady is throwing a blanket over the row of desktop computers so I know my time is almost up so I close down.

‘Merci’ I call over my shoulder as I open the door, avoiding the rock.

‘Kwa kesho’ (Till tomorrow) I add, mixing my languages. Everyone does here, there is not one language. The Bishop told me last night when we were laughing about how hard it is to understand things, that in his house they routinely use a mix of 4.

As I emerge from the darkened room I am again stunned by the beauty of the late evening in Africa and the sounds around. Across to the right, the Dungu Choir is practising (the dungus are those stringed instruments in the last lot of photos). I slouch across the dirt courtyard in front of the Diocesan office and join the road between the older smaller Diocesan office and the new unfinished Diocesan Centre, which will be a major leap forward for all the Diocesan staff when it is finished. ‘Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid’ (Little by little the bird makes it’s nest.) In fact that was the lesson in Devotions this morning when the Bishop shared about the loaves and the fishes.

Again the sounds – there is a trombone (yes, you heard right, a trombone – I wasn’t expecting that either) being played by someone on the other side of the Diocesan Centre and as I come to a point where I can see who it is, he finishes, blows the spit out the release valve, like all us brass players do, and then starts to put it into a case.

Right in front of him are a dozen or so young men playing football while alongside that game, there are about 20 people of all ages and sexes playing volleyball. Again the sounds of shouting, of excitement with a score and despair with a miss.

I am walking in that unhurried fashion which comes naturally in Africa and which the podiatrist says is wearing out my shoes – but I don’t care. I am just enjoying the introduction to the night. I am heading for the dental building (of course) – I must go over there at least 3 times everyday to see the progress. I round the corner of the ‘Swiss-style’ African cottage used for the Development Department, also a former missionary’s home, and there are 11 kids, screaming and being kids, who, on seeing a ‘mun-de-le’ start demanding ‘give me a bon-bon’ and generally being a bit naughty. But I ignore that as I see where the workers have removed some scraggy trees and long grass as preparation for the arrival of the container, which could come next week, or next year. Uncertainty has it’s exciting side.

The building is locked up but I peer in the windows into the gloom and can see that the thin slats f wood – the …………….. (carpenters please fill in the missing word) that cover the gaps between the sheets of ply on the ceiling, are going up. This building is so incredible I can hardly believe it. Considering 15 months ago, there was no money and no hope …
I turn for home and walk between the ISTM (say ‘Is-tem’ and you are talking the lingo) buildings and walk through the enlarged opening in the hedge that allows our car in.

I cannot tell you what a boon, having a car is in this situation. In one week and two days, we have been to the market every afternoon and we are so part of the market scene, that I only have to take some plastic buckets back to the car, while Wendy goes looking for capsicums and carrots and when I return to where she was, someone will point ‘She’s down there’ so I head down one of the rows and then a mama selling ‘fou fou’ (pounded-to-powder cassava) will point ‘She went around that corner’ and so on.

I arrive home and Wendy is getting things ready for dinner – tonight it is eggs on toast. It’s easy to make when you have no electricity and no hot water on tap for washing up and only one little kerosene burner called a ‘jiko’ to cook on. So main meal at lunch ,yes those beans and rice that Oscar missed, and then an easy dinner (why I could cook that myself). I wipe the dust off the small glass bottles of ‘soda’ – a Krest and a Coke – and put two plastic chairs out in the evening light, Wendy brings the nibbles and we enjoy the Congo sunset, to the sounds of night insects that make you think you have tinnitis. What could be better? We raise the bottles to our lips, think fondly of you all at home … and toast the prospect of a new grandson soon.

Graham Toolmin

Aru, DR of the Congo

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