The epiphany: better late than never – Reisverhalen Congo Brazzaville

In Augustus 2012 verbleef ik een maand in Congo Brazzaville als observatie stagiaire op de vroedvrouwenafdeling van het militair hospitaal.

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The epiphany: better late than never


*Background: Currently staying in Congo-Brazzaville for a humanitarian project. Together with my mother, a midwife, we volunteer at the obstetric department at the military hospital in Brazza. How i ended up there is another story ;-)

*Status: Lately rather frustrated of not being able to use ‘my talents’ to help somebody in a useful way or feeling like I’m learning anything out of this. Rather unsurprisingly it turned out that helping to deliver babies, sewing torn genitals and dealing with life and dead wasn’t my ‘je sais faire quoi’.

*The epiphany: in the heart of a delivery room I’m constantly being confronted with one’s culture. All the do’s, don’t s, weaknesses and strengths of the African culture are giving birth through my inner canal while a lady is puffing her pain away or trying to give life to a 6th or maybe 11th child, with all her earthly raw strength. There is no better speed training of life in the intimate auditory of the delivery room. I’m at the right place.

*Note: I’m extremely thankful for this invaluable experience. This would never ever be possible in Belgium. I thank our hosts for opening – a lot – of doors.

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Handmade; superior African quality


I received a gift; two tailor made dresses from waxed cotton. They fit perfectly. These fabrics can endure many washingcycles and nightly escapades.

The ‘street-value’ of the dress pictured is 5000 cfa ~7.5 eur, here in Brazza (my 2mp nokiacamera isn’t really honoring it). That’s a whole lot of quality, love and originality for no moneyz compared to some ‘pieces unique’ from h&m for the same price. I’m pleased to see that the large retails chains haven’t penetrated the street view yet. Let’s kick out the low wages, but please definitely keep the quality.

If i had the opportunity to pay for a tailor in Europe, I would never ever again go shopping (something I absolutely hate). As I’ll be studying in China next year I’ll prepare my sketches for a whole new nicely costumized wardrobe.

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Pot calling the kettle black


Apparently some African parents threat to their kids to bring them to the “white people” when they’re being a very bad boy. Can’t you just threaten to send them to bed without manioc* or that you’ll put them in the freezer? Some kids start screaming non-stop with bulging eyes as if dead comes to get them when they have to say hi to us.

This reminds me of “de zak van Zwarte Piet” ~ Black Pete, the companion of Saint Nicolas, and his scary bag. More a situation of naughty parents than naughty kids…

*most African kids – and even adults – are addicted to this food made from the manioc plant and refuse to eat any other food.


Braiding mundele’s hair


*Status: patiently and curiously waiting for the result… My butt is itching. I think my left cheek fell a sleep…

*Lesson learned: I already know that it is the first and last time that I’ll braid my hair. I have been sitting here for 3 hours and I’m still not far from ready, partially because of my long curlywurly untamable fuzzy frizzy freaking hair. Those synthetic strings are already irritating, despite my small loud prayers now and then not to make them too tight.

*Note to myself: I don’t believe in suffering for beauty!

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A fundamental difference


“On fait beaucoup avec peu, vous faites peu avec beaucoup.” ~ We do a lot with little. You guys do little with a lot.” – Service general of the military hospital, Congo-Brazzaville.

Most European armies need a full crew of specialists and equipment to treat war patients with a variety of wounds and problems. This creates a whole lot of logistic issues and more. We manage to overcomplicate our lifes in our wealthy society of today.

Here in Brazza, or probably in every third world country, a midwife goes around as a pharmacist, a nurse and even a surgeon. They are the jacks of all trades.

The general added to his words; “On se débrouille toujours.” ~ we always manage just fine, seen the circumstances,

Life still hasn’t abandoned the hospital, despite daily piteous incidents. I take his words at heart. The cross needs to be made. A little bit of both worlds.


Baby Erika


Today a newborn got named after me! :-) Erika… She’ll probably become an engineer, midwife or worldleader.

Normally I have a one-on-one talk with the baby’s when I take care of them after birth. I want to make sure that they’ll start of with a positive mind. I ensure them that their life-path is still open and that they can follow any direction. I tell them that they have a pure heart and that it won’t change over time. They won’t be victims of the society they’re born in, or of karma or any other believe.

This time it was me that needed a private talk. She grabbed my hands firmly while I was dressing her, not willing to let go. With bright, attentive eyes she looked at me like she knew what she was doing. She seemed to have a wise energy over her being. It felt like she wanted to say: “I’ll be fine friend. Don’t worry! I’ll be the change this world needs. Go on, continue your work, I already made a good start. Thank you.”


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