Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Uganda or bust...

When we arrived in Uganda the airport was quiet given the late hour, but we received a warm welcome from our in country team that greeted us near baggage claim.

The drive from Entebbe, where the airport is located, to the capital city of Kampala was long and winding up hill.  Traffic was congested even at that time of night with people returning from the beach at Lake Victoria.  We reached our hotel after a forty minute or so drive.  The security guard at the hotel allowed us through the gate, we checked in and then settled in to our room.  

The morning came early and we were excited to get going!  Our orphanages take you outside the city limits and once you leave the main streets the roads get really, really rugged.  Oh, and I need to mention the driving...from our point of view the driver is in the passenger seat and drives on the wrong side of the road!!!  All total...the driving experience in Uganda is its own "adventure".

The day was priceless and precious once we reached our destination. We visited with the orphanage director, and her social worker and caregiver staff. Most importantly, we spent a great day with the children!!  We also learned first hand of some of the more urgent humanitarian aid needs this center is currently facing, and identified projects where EAC and our families can provide support -- we will be sharing with you about the needs in greater detail when we get back.

As we wrapped up the day we decided to have dinner at the hotel.  It was al a carte dining -- we each chose different chicken dishes and were both pleased with our choices.  

The plan for tomorrow is to spend more time with the children at the other orphanages we are working with in our Uganda program.

Tune in again for our next post and the adventures we encounter.

Warmest of wishes from Uganda,

Debra & Robin

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Congo and the facts...

·  Full name: Democratic Republic of the Congo  

·  Population: 67.7 million (UN, 2011).   

·  Capital: Kinshasa

·  Area: 2.34 million sq km (905,354 sq miles) making it the 12th largest country in the world.

·  Major languages: French, Lingala, Kiswahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba

·  Major religions: Christianity, Islam

·  Life expectancy: 47 years (men), 51 years (women) (UN)

·  Monetary unit: Congolese franc; current exchange rate -- $1 USD = 900 CDF

·  Main exports: Diamonds, copper, coffee, cobalt, crude oil

·  GNI per capita: US $190 (World Bank, 2011)

·  Internet domain: .cd

·  International dialing code: +243



Friday, February 8, 2013

Congo calling...

Our meeting with the Consul at the US Embassy in Kinshasa was timed perfectly as the embassy announced changes to the adoption-related immigrant visa process.  The embassy wants to help families limit the amount of time they will need to be in country.  To do that the adoption unit will begin the required orphan investigation for each child upon receipt of parents' I-600 application requesting their child be recognized as an immediate relative. We are excited from our discussion with the Consul and the embassy's move on these changes -- it means when Congo calls, our families will be making just one short trip to complete their adoption!!

In visiting more area orphanages we were greeted by smiling faces and warm welcomes. We look forward to working with these centers to lend a hand toward improving the lives of the children in their care through attention to nutrition, education and medical needs. 

We discovered Congolese dining at its best at Le Panoramic Lunch Bar today. We dined on authentic cuisine of the Congo with dishes such as rice, kidney beans, beef tips, chicken, okra stew, collard greens, plantains, and the hottest chili sauce ever .... Debra can attest to that personally!!  This delicious adventure lead me to surf the net tonight for Congo recipes and I found ... "The Congo Cookbook" and a recipe for plantains at Oh, and Fanta fans you will be happy to note we have seen your favorite orange soda almost everywhere...LOL!!!

Tomorrow is sadly our last day in the Congo this trip and our schedule is full, so we will be hitting the deck early.  We will try to post again before heading to Kampala, Uganda on Sunday.

Happy trails to all this weekend!!!

Debra & Robin

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Catching up in the Congo...

We arrived late Sunday night in the Congo!  As we walked off the plane and on to the Tarmac the high humidity hit us straight on -- a huge change from the cool climate of Brussels.  Once passing through the thorough inspection of our documents at passport control we reached the small, tight knit baggage claim area where we were greeted by our in country staff with bright smiles and happy faces.  

The first thing we noticed was how dark it is at night here in Central Africa. No sea of street lights, just dots of lights scattered across the city, and the main boulevard as we drove into Kinshasa. As we checked into the hotel we were reminded of our limited foreign language skills. They have an app for that!!!! (LOL). Yes, brush up on your French, it will be helpful!  The first hotel had A/C, plumbing and Internet challenges.   We switched after two nights of frustration and moved to a hotel near the Congo River.  That was a good move too, it gave us back our Internet access, reliable toilets and cool air. Hooray, hooray!!  

Monday was spent visiting and talking with area orphanage directors, and meeting the children.  It taught us how immediate and pressing the need is for nutrition and medicine everyday. We found ourselves quickly at the grocery store shopping to help the directors with food and supplies to meet the needs of the centers' children in providing the much needed humanitarian aid.

Our one-on-one time with the children showed other desperate needs orphans often live with created by overcrowding. While tightly holding my fingers with her little hand, one preschooler we will call "C" walked me around the tiny sleeping area where she and the other infants, toddlers, and older children sleep 2, and sometimes 3, to a bed.  The need is always there ... during our visit, the authorities arrived with a new infant, discovered abandoned at the market place, in need of immediate care, and so the center expanded by one to take him.  

One exciting moment was when we learned first hand that taking random photos was NOT smart, or acceptable by the man on the street who was offended and outspoken about it in his reaction.  Word to the wise...ask permission (in your best French) to snap those pictures you want of the city.

Today was focused on our long range humanitarian aid projects, and foster care programs for children awaiting their parents arrival.  One example is the EAC older child sponsorship program we have established. The desperate needs of older children include nutrition, education and health care. While they will most likely not be adopted due to age, their needs are still great. We will have details of how you can participate coming soon.

Tune in tomorrow when we report ... 

All the best,

Debra & Robin

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A European Welcome from Brussels...

After meeting in New York, Debra and I grabbed an NYC burger at Ruby's Diner at the airport before boarding the next flight that would have us reach Europe by morning via Belgium!

The flight was seamless, and we arrived at Brussels Airport at 7:15 am.  What to do at that time of morning ... well, our hotel, which boasts being only "39 steps from the airport entrance", was our next stop.  And, it is true, with just a very short walk from the airport we entered the lobby of our hotel. We freshened up, grabbed a quick nap and then headed out to explore a bit. 

We caught the train to the central square of Brussels, Grand Place Grote Market.  The cool temperature and light rain added a crisp charm to our walk from the train station to the heart of the square.  

We followed the European cobblestone sidewalk to an indoor cafe.  The restaurant has a great little video online that gives you a 360 view and feel of the venue (  Dinner was as a 2 hour affair, marked by Belgium time that allows you to enjoy time spent with your company when dining (and, yes, it included one Belgian waffle!!). The two brief power interruptions the restaurant experienced while we were eating may have also contributed to a slow pace to our meal -- LOL.  This gave us time to think more about our EAC families and share with each other all that we want to accomplish with our in country teams in Africa this trip.  We are so looking forward to tomorrow when we reach DR Congo!!!

For us, our next step is repacking and reorganizing for tomorrow's flight to the Congo -- a direct flight; and, flying time is about 12 hours in the air!

Until our next post, if you have time to surf the net, you may enjoy reading up on Brussels --- visit for an introduction to the city itself.

Wishing you a marvelous Monday!! 

All the best,
Debra & Robin