Something that surprises me each time I return from an exotic place like Central Africa, is how dire people assume everything is there. They say things like “Wow, is that safe?” or “What a tremendous sacrifice you are making.”
Ahem. Ladies and gentlemen. CNN is lying to you, because frankly cold showers and spam pasta in the Republic of Congo are kind of awesome, and at times our recent field service there felt exactly like this weird statue in Nice, France.
Yes, there are oversized, naked, ugly things happening in Congo and I don’t want to minimize that, but occasionally you can sneak in behind those things, sit on a fish and flip your hair. In other words, there is an abundance of hilarity, joy, irony and fun to be found even in hard situations, and that, I like to think, is the way of things in the Kingdom of God.
See Jesus didn’t promise us happy, he promised us full, which is different. And sometimes you’re walking back from the river when you accidentally recreate the Beatles Abbey Road album cover, and it’s funny and every bit as important as all the sad stuff.
So since I care about you guys, you need to know about this Nutella substitute. It’s sold in pretty much every tin shack shop lining the main drag in Impfondo, Congo.
Though it’s fairly expensive, it comes in mini size and hefty three-gallon lick tubs, which I felt spoke to its obvious popularity among locals. But I discovered, the post-purchase hard way, that this sticky brown crap in the little yellow tubs tastes exactly like Vaseline and dirt. So it’s lucky I only bought four. Everyone I forced to eat it agrees, it is a unique chocolate taste.
My digestive system and I have an agreement these days though, so I don’t mind befriending guys like this on the street and eating whatever that is in the middle, liberally covered with salt and MSG and wrapped in newspaper. I ate it with gusto and so did my pal Ryan, even though there’s a good chance it’s made of a relative of these three, who were waiting in line for their turn to become BBQ.
Or it could have been made out this crocodile, after his ride in a crowded minvan. Actually, the crocodile was never inside the minivan, silly, he went on the roof for safety. But he totally could have gone inside because his mouth was tied shut with string.
Incidentally, crocodile does taste like chicken, chewy, fishy chicken.
But enough about food, let’s talk about sweating.
Impfondo lies just north of the equator, on the Ouibangi river and is nearly swallowed by jungle. So, as you might imagine, working outside 9-10 hours a day there creates a remarkably moist personal environment. Even better, when you sweat like this, every drop of saturated fat you’ve ever consumed leaks from your pores. The medical terminology for this is “The Crisco Sweats.”
The validity of this claim is still under review by Hospital staff, and there are more than a few naysayers, including Mama Sarah, the nurse in the red scrubs below. But what could she possibly know, she spends her days cleaning and bandaging the feet of local men afflicted with leprosy. Nonetheless, she stopped by to weigh in on the sweating question.
“Nope, sorry guys. Your fat is not coming out your pores.”
Do you see what we are doing in these pictures? We’re off loading gravel from Jupiter the Unimog – a beastly diesel Mercedes personnel carrier that blew a tire 100 feet from where we actually needed the gravel. Of course a Unimog not loaded to the top with gravel weighs two million pounds, so jacking it up to change the tire, even if there was a spare, which there wasn’t, is kind of a cruel joke. So this is what happened next.
Back and forth, two million times.
An exercise like this can really help you grasp how far you are from acting anything like Jesus.
Me: “Wow. It totally figures that Jupiter died 100 feet from where we need the gravel.”
Stefan: “I know isn’t it amazing it died ONLY 100 feet from where we need the gravel?”
Me: “Um yah. That’s what I meant. Excuse me, I’ll be over here, praying for myself.”
I think sometimes when my life is boring it’s because I’ve neutered all the struggle right out of it. Approximately 100% of all tasks in Impfondo, require some form of struggle, sacrifice, endurance and/or sweat, not to mention a mess of other sweaty people nearby. And that, my friends, is what made evenings like this, swimming in the river under the full moon, indescribably beautiful.