Samoutou Family Blog
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About This Blog...

Family of 5 
from Gabon, Hong Kong and the UK   

Living in Impfondo,   
Republic of Congo   
Since April 2012 

Blog by Joyce the mum, 
Homeschooling novice, 
Eye Charity founding doctor / director. 
Reluctant domestic goddess 

Passionate about sashimi, 
helping people see 
physically and spiritually,   
and Jesus   


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Tikala malamu, Impfondo
September 7, 2015

I went to help build another house on Tuesday. Instead of slapping on the mud, I was taught how to use branches, sticks and vines to bind together an amazingly strong skeletal framework the size of an extra large garden shed. A lot of the houses are made of one hundred percent natural materials. As you travel on the road north and the living becomes even more rural, the villages, with their thatched roofs and cracked mud walls, look like something from the dawn of human society.

Papa Serge, a tall, welcoming man with unmistakably Bantu features was helping build. He spoke very good English and as a result I ended up lecturing him on vegetarianism and global warming, two concepts which he had never heard of. As he listened, I compared my life to his, and it became clear why these two worries of mine were not concerns of his; Serge lives a simple, low-carbon life. His meat is hunted in the jungle and the only fuel he uses is for his motorbike around town. By contrast, probably half my diet consists of imported goods, and I had flown half-way across to the world to come here. We are, quite literally, worlds apart, and yet there we both were, tying sticks to branches using vines. I agreed to teach him the guitar while I am still here. After our lesson on Friday, he took me for a bicycle tour of some of the back streets of Impfondo in search of someone selling sugar cane. We stopped off inside a large courtyard, its muddy ground beaten hard and dry by feet, walled with 6 foot high bamboo fencing. A few plastic garden chairs were scattered around the courtyard under banana leaf shelters. Serge went inside a small mud hut and asked for ‘deux Primus’, two of the Congo’s national beers. We sat down in the shade of one of the leafy canopies, said cheers, and proceeded to talk in a surprisingly coherent but eclectic mix of French, Lingala and English.

Saturday brought with it a bicycle trip to Dongue, the next biggest town, about 50 kilometres North of Impfondo. The road is so straight it could have been built by Romans; it seems to stretch out endlessly in front of you, its edges being slowly eaten up by the savage rainforest undergrowth. After a few miles the pot holes disappear and the tarmac becomes flat. I forgot to put sun cream on my legs and by midday could already feel the burn on my calves. A few pit stops on the way at various villages allowed us to check on previous patients of the clinic. We stopped in Dongue for lunch, where we ate sardines with a few slightly sweet bread dumplings. I felt stuffed, but Henri got up and walked over to the ‘fast food’ café nearby. It was a tiny wooden building with a couple of benches and a kitchen in the corner. The man working there ended up gifting to us a portion of goat ribs, which tasted absolutely phenomenal. We washed it all down with a big bottle of cold, fizzy apple drink.

That evening 10 of us went for a meal at Tropicana, one of the nicer and more expensive restaurants in Impfondo. Still, the first twenty five minutes were spent in darkness because of a problem with the generator! Once the lights came on, they were mobbed by a cloud of mosquitoes coming from the Ubangui River, just 20 metres away from where we were sat. We dined on chicken, fish and goat, with sides of rice, plantain and omelette. The chef clearly knew how to cook. There was another power cut halfway through the meal, and the kitchen had already run out of food when we wanted to order more. Such is the African way, and it made the meal that extra bit more memorable.

I had wanted to go on the Ubangui River ever since my arrival in Impfondo. The largest right-bank tributary of the Congo River, it is a couple of kilometers wide at the point where it passes the town centre. Yesterday I jumped in the Toyota jeep along with Aukolz, the hospital’s newest doctor, and met Serge at the river. Our vessel was a dug-out canoe, or Pirogue, made of a single piece of wood, carved from a large tree. As serge scooped some of this morning’s storm water out, I clambered in to its narrow hull. It felt hazardously unstable, jerking from side to side and almost toppling over with the smallest of movements. The next thing we heard was a huge splash; Aukolz had fallen in! He decided to stay on the bank. We paddled downstream for what must have been an hour before getting out some fishing rods and trying our luck with the catfish. Nothing happened, but I learnt that the more you try to resist the toppling motion of the canoe, the more likely you are to fall in. You just let your body relax and slump and soon feel stable

Today I leave for Brazzaville, where the African games are now in full swing. With a bit of luck, I will be able to grab myself a ticket for Tuesday’s basketball game. If not, there are always the Congo River rapids on which to feast my eyes. 

Guest Blog By

Rowan Cassels-Brown
New Sight Summer Intern


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