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The Quest for Manuals

By Sunday when Florimond came out to the center we still had not received the training manuals we paid for. It was agreed that Flory would go to town to get the copies. When the plan changed because it was too late to get a ride in and out of town, we decided one of us was going. It had to be Tammy because the teachings for that day wold be problems which I had been studying about for a month to prepare. Flory assured her everything was ready and they would leave at 7 am.

We had breakfast and Tammy left. We expected her return around lunch time and when she didn’t get back by three I was getting worried. She finally pulled in on the back of a motorbike covered in dirt at 6. I grabbed her away from the women who were all excited to see her, and see her on a motorbike, and we went to the room.

I have never seen anyone laugh and cry at the same time, but Tammy did. The words “We are never separating again” come out of her mouth as she collapsed onto the bed. Through tears and half laughing at the absurdity of what had happened she told me the day began with a walk into town to get a ride to Bukavu.

Apparently the Congo term ‘things are all set’ and the American term ‘things are all set’ mean two different things. Tammy and Flory spent half an hour in Nayngezi until they could find a car with enough room for two and hitchhiked into Bukavu. They walked several places before they found the man with the book and then had to travel back to Florimond’s office to make copies. Bukavu is no small town; and Tammy was glad she had my sneaker sandals because of all the walking.

They hadn’t completed making ten copies-we paid for 35- when the power went out. They decided to wait to see if it would come back on. Three hours later Roland wandered by and told them not to wait because the power never comes back on this late. Someone knew a place they could go that never loses power, so They loaded Tammy, the copies, the paper and the copier into a taxi to go to a hotel and make the copies.

At the hotel room they nearly completed a second ten copies but were thwarted when the ink and paper ran out-the secretary apparently didn’t think ahead to bring more. By this point it was already 4 so Tammy was insistent they needed to leave or it would get dark. So they packed the 10 completed copies into the backpack and walked up and down the hills of Bukavu looking for a ride back to town. Most people did not want to make the trip to Nayngezi because it would be dark soon. They finally found two motorbike drivers who agreed to do it, but Flory thought 8 dollars each was too much to pay. Tammy firmly disagreed, gave them the money and started back to the center.

Flory kept screaming for the driver to protect Tammy’s head, so the driver gave Tammy the spare helmet which did not have a chin strap. Poor Tammy was holding the helmet on with one hand and holding on to the bike with the other. Flory kept yelling “poly poly” which means slow, but the driver didn’t listen. He did take pity on Tammy and traded helmets so she could hold onto the bike with two hands. But the drivers helmet had no visor. When they pulled up to the gate in Nayngezi, Flory yelled at her to wipe her face, which she did and he yelled to do it again. She tried but they were off again up the road to the center. By the time she pulled up at the door her legs were weak and numb from the walking and the bike, she was covered in dirt from head to toe and only had 10 copies of the manual.

On the last day the Senator brought the 10 copies Tammy had left unfinished. We never did receive the other 15 we paid for.

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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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