Going to Congo was interesting in multiple ways. Let me list a few personal observations and then discuss what I learned from the trip as far as teaching my own class.
1. The cost of living is higher in Congo than in Kenya.
2. Despite the fear placed inside of me from the media warning against danger and unpredictable violence from war and upcoming elections the following week, the Congo felt very peaceful and safe during my entire visit and I never felt uncomfortable, threatened, or unsafe… even it felt safer than Nairobi.
3. The Swahili spoken in DRC is different than Kenyan Swahili and even Shem had difficulty understanding the Congolese sometimes.
4. I love Kenya. It must be in my blood. So although I enjoyed vivsting Rwanda and Congo, I was missing home constantly and ready when we were returning.
5. I dislike remaining a helpless tourist for more than two days. I had wished to be more educated in how much things cost; what the exchange rate is; visit local homes; eat local food; and just living in closer rleationship and contact to the Congolese.
6. Missionaries who live in a certain area overseas should think their area is wonderful…its healthy to take pride in the place you are. For instance, meeting missionaries working in DRC, all of them were talking of the rich culture, land, people, resources that are in Congo and saying how amazing this place is. I would agree with them on one level, that it is beautiful, however the way they feel a passion for the Congolese culture and people is just how i feel about the Kenyan culture and people. In the same way you will hear those in Rwanda speak of the gorgeousness hills, and the spotlessly clean streets… to each his own.
7. Compassion Fatigue is real and I hope I don’t catch it! I met missionaries who had grown tired of doing good for people who have so many problems and who are from a differing culture. I understand that think would be easy to fall into, which is why I am so concerned to do things necessarily to protect myself from it. It happens when you give to some many in need and experience second-hand trauma so much because you are working with those who have serious challenges and burdens, yet you neglect yourself. The result is bitterness towards the people you serve, unemotional, and secluding one’s self from other people to name a few.
8. Without meeting basic needs it is hard to offer anything in addition. The women we worked with were hungry; some had walked from far to come, others needed food to take the medications, others couldn’t afford and needed energy to do the activities we had prepared. This is a legitimate need, yet we had come prepared to teach, not to feed, and this was hard since I was not in charge of these decisions Shem’s group was especially hard and I just had to laugh a little when he told me the women actually arrived the third day of class refusing to participate in photography class until he gave them food! There are pictures of them eating boiled corn that day!
What I Learned While Teaching
1. Relationship is the key to everything, even teaching in a classroom. My women seemed to really connect with me in such a loving and personable way, yet I could possibly memorize all 50 faces and names in 4 days time. But how I acted to them as a group and as individuals during our classes made them feel cared for and loved personally. This was part of the painting class and if I had not been warm, open, and relaxed with my class I do not think the women would have even been so motivated to attend and learn the art skills.
2. You can prepare all you want- but inevitably unforeseeable obstacles will come and try to mess you up! Flexibility is key.I had a beautiful lesson plan prior to the trip. Divided into 4 days, list of vocabulary, planned opening activities, concept summary, cultural research, ect… once I arrive and was faced with 50 women instead of 10 the whole plan was thrown out and I started over as I taught my first lesson.
3. When working with a translator you must be careful to still talk and look directly at the women, rather than talking to the translator.
4. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy, and at that point I am thankful no to know the language! When 7 additional women showed up the following day and demanded that they be involved in the painting class I turned them down and they were so mad and just stood there in protest for a long long time. Yet I already had five times the class I had anticipated so I wasn’ t convinced.
5. No everyone knows how to draw and when given a big piece of paper people tend to draw small images instead of using the whole page.
6. Observing the past pictures verses the future pictures, you could see a shift in emotion and gain a lot of insight into the mind of that person.