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Day Three: Plans begin to change

We had thought the plan was to leave for Nayngezi the next day when Flory returned from his trip. It had been decided for us that our training would not start until Wednesday for various reasons we did not understand that included the presence of the other US group and the arrangements for transporting the women. So we spent the morning seeing some of Bukavu with Flory’s cousin.

The city turned out to be larger and busier than we imagined. Here are a couple views from our morning.

I began to understand what Victoria had meant by the women of Congo being so elegant. Bukavu was not the poor village I had imagined, it was a huge metropolitan area. We began to see the dangers of having some modern conveniences without a modern infrastructure. No real parking, traffic controls, sidewalks or even a way to maintain the roads.

Our first stop was to change a tire, which was fixed on the side of the road at a sidewalk shop. Then off to meet the minister of health. Florimond had told us we were to the fee to the ministry of health. We were instructed to put the money in an envelope and hand it personally to the minister. We did not receive a receipt and had no official paperwork to fill out. Our first bribe was paid. But bribes are the way things work here, not to get something illegal done but to accomplish things that are completely legal. Your paperwork is simply not processed until you bribe all the right people.

We were going to use the internet at Florimond’s office, but since there was no electricity that day we decided to go to an internet cafe where we met Victoria. She had been in the group that came from the church the night before, but this was our first real opportunity to spend time with her and learn about her work. One hour and one email later we were picked up and taken out to lunch which was the most amazing Tilapia I have ever eaten.

We were then told we were leaving for Nayngezi that afternoon. It was back to Florimond’s house to wait for the driver. It was not until we were loaded into the car that we understood we were to be left in Nayngezi with the other Americans, and our contacts would meet us the next day.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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