Thursday, December 23, 2010

Toubab Dialaw

Beach Time in Toubab Dialaw, Senegal

The author of this blog is on holiday in West Africa until January 9, 2011. She urges you to ring in the new year with joy, tickles, laughter and a big splash, which is just where this little girl is headed.

Photo: December 22, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

ELF Disclaimer

I am an independent free-thinking woman; therefore, I would like to state the following:


"This website is not an official U.S. Department of State website. The views and information presented are the English Language Fellows' own and do not represent the English Language Fellow Program or the U.S. Department of State."

I have announced this once in a previous blog entry, and I will proclaim it loudly and clearly a second time.

Join me on my wild ride of ideas independent from any entity of mind control.

Thank you and visit again soon!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Press Conference on December 14, 2010

The Congolese Minister of Communication stole my students away to be the backdrop for his interview in the library. We all turned off our cell phones. He wanted the students to look busy at their computer stations while he gave his interview to the national television reporters. Forty-five minutes later, they were allowed to return to the work they were doing with me: crafting their curriculum vitae in English.

Books for Africa in Brazza

The 2010-2011 English Language Fellow
Brazzaville, Republic of Congo

Liberating Knowledge in Brazzaville

The political diplomacy team left the embassy on an overcast October Brazzaville afternoon with the mission of literary liberation in mind. Hundreds of boxes of Books for Africa textbooks, novels, and training manuals stacked five feet high lay in wait silently collecting dust in the embassy warehouse.

It was time for these books to see the light of day.

When the team- Public Affairs Officer Shayna Cram, IRC Clerk Nzounza Prude Esperance, Audio Visual Specialist Serguei-Bracy Ndinga-Momo, and English Language Fellow Lori Runkle arrived at the warehouse- they surveyed the weighty stacks of potential learning and began to organize, unpack, sort and label. Five boxes stuffed with writing manuals and speech materials were labeled with masking tape for delivery to the Ministry of Communication. Six boxes were destined for the Villa Washington English Program. Science books were headed for bookshelves in Congo’s National Lab, and assorted college level publications found a new home at Marien Ngouabi University.

According to Public Diplomacy Program Coordinator, Lejuste Moukoubouka, “Young people in the Congo don’t have the right resources. Books are outdated. People hunger for knowledge, but they don’t have the proper resources. The fact that students can have access to these materials will enable them to learn competitively with the rest of the world.”

“In the states, we take books for granted. Here they mean so much,” said Cram about the Books for Africa shipment she was unpacking in the warehouse in Brazzaville.

The public diplomacy team helped spread the written word throughout Brazzaville in partnership with Minneapolis-based Books for Africa. Their shared goal was to help end the book famine in Africa. Opening every box was a pleasant surprise.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

snap, crackle, pop drops

December 12, 2010

Soak the drenched in December:
Thirsty or not-drink again-
more self possesed than sunlight.

Thunder cracks slippery colorless clouds
open like a Primus.

Moist jingle bells
pop and drop


liquid life
into the mouth
of Brazza City.

Dots on the Map of Living

Beauty, Simply Beauty

This orchid that I saw today tops the list of beauty in my life in Brazzaville. Thanks to nature for breathing room and variations on the color purple.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Accidental iPod Score: Paul Snell

"He's leaving on that midnight train to Georgia" rocks my morning with Gladys Knight and the Pips hip-swaying my body left, right, smooth and easy Friday here I come. Life is good when Gladys keeps it real and creamy. Her mood is made for slow dancing romance, and I have to thank my good buddy Paul Snell for accidentally downloading his entire music collection into iTunes and erasing all my music.

New music to explore.
New adventures to uncover.
Life is good again.
Thank you universe.

"I feel a song in my heart," and I will sing along with Gladys feeling every pulse of life around me. Rainy season in Brazza: Down it comes unstoppable, persistent, cool and wet. Accompanied by Gladys Knight and the Pips, I quite like it.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Lost in Translation on the CV

My students have been working on their curriculum vitae. As they work, they use an online dictionary/translation program to convert ideas from French to English, which may not always give the best interpretation of their thought process in clear English.


Extensive knowledge of Xerox, copying machine, brain scanner



Monday, December 06, 2010

Toilet Bowl Flooded My Bathroom Blues

I am awake later than usual because our apartment complex hadn't had water for the past three days. Today, water began its dreamy flow to the parched at around four in the afternoon. After I showered, I set to work filling my black garbage can with what I call security water for dry days. There was a knock on my door. My neighbor arrived for coffee, and while we were chatting on the couch, I heard the splish-splash of an overloaded garbage can while noticing H2O winding its way through my bedroom and spilling into the sitting room where we were engrossed in a conversation about German sausage.

Get the broom and squeegie. Flooded the house again.

When will I learn? And that's my toilet minus the seat. The seat fell off about the time I moved into the apartment. A toilet seat is not essential to one's bathroom experience, and I feel better off without it because it habitually pinched my bottom for the one or two days it was still attached to the actual toilet.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Thanks CNN

Daphne Sashin from CNN contacted me about writing an iReport on Brazzaville for the CNN web site. I enjoyed working with Daphne online and want to thank her for all the support she gave me in uploading photos and ensuring that my story appeared on the CNN site.

Thanks so much Daphne!

Here is the link to my story:

Brazzaville: The Forgotten Nation

Palm Wine Sunday Sun

Being calmly exhausted from a day spent with spiritually enriching people is the best! Packing six people from four nations into a stormy sky-blue compact car imported from France for a trip to the Congolese countryside is a sure way to get to know your neighbor. French and English, English and French, the linguistic ping pong ball warming the ears and delighting the mind. A few legs fell asleep in the backseat, ants marching up calves stinging as they went, but to be with people who spiritually fed me teaspoons full of mini-nirvana was a day well spent. [If I manufactured a breakfast cereal, I think I would call it Mini-Nirvana!]

In Congo, people don't consider being alone to be joyful. Interdependence is the norm. Interacting socially, helping a neighbor or friend, and participating in community life is how it goes. To state the obvious: Life is tough here, and no one can exist as an independent entity.

As an American who held the values of independence and individuality so close to my heart, I have done my share of cultural adjusting after my arrival in Brazzaville in late August 2010. Let's just say, I am not as independent as I once was, and I am learning to enjoy the Congolese outlook on life.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Homework for Rainy Season

My students have opened Yahoo accounts, and I send them short assignments via e-mail such as this one from November 25, 2010.

2. Answer this question and e-mail your answer to me:

Do you like the rainy season?

Bienvenu Gerdan LOUZOLO responded as follows.

About the second homework, I dislike the rainy season.Because its prevent me to move. With the bad state of our city it's not possible to work. with the rain many person with bad behaviors find an opportunity to throw away their garbage.

What do you mean about people who behave badly throwing away their garbage? I don’t understand because I am American. Can you explain it to me in more detail?

hello Lori, About garbage, there is some of congolese population living especially in popular quarters who wait for rains to throw it away on streets to be carry by waters. It is the reality of Brazzaville during the rains season. Brazzaville doesn't get an available service to pick up garbage. It's one of a great problem whom face our city. I hope you have understood my idea.

Good by and pass a wonderful weekend.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Food Security in Congo

Congo imports the majority of its food products, so I decided to open my eyes concerning what I have been eating for the past two days. The geographical sources of my nutrition surprised me!

Breakfast 5:32 a.m. on December 3, 2010

Nescafé – Prepared by Nestle Côte-d'Ivoire

Milgro – full cream milk powder

Manufactured by:


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Manufactured by:



Snack at 1:57 p.m.

Nutro Digestives – product of Oman – whole wheat, flour and bran

Manufactured by:

Al Sallan Food Industries Co. SAOG, Sultanate of Oman

For: Strategic Foods International Co. L.L.C.

Dubai, UAE

Every one loves Nutro!

Mambo chocolat au lait made in Cameroon

Dinner on December 2, 2010 included:

Chtoura Garden chick-pea dip (hummus tahini)

Manufactured by Alfa Interfood

Chtoura, Lebanon

Polo Star sardines

Made in Indonesia but manufactured in Luanda, Angola

And my mayonnaise was manufactured in Belgium, my ketchup in France, and my Ceres fruit juices are labeled South African.

My palate is on a trip around the world while here I sit in Congo.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Poked by a Loaf of Bread

I buy my bread at La Mie Doree on Avenue Fach in the centre ville of Brazzaville. The woman who takes my money always warns me to be careful because the bread might stick me with its sharp points. The end of this loaf reminds me of my cat Seymour. He is back home in Iowa cuddled somewhere warm in the house avoiding the December chill.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Gold Digger

This homework assignment from Alexis Ngolo, a student in my English for Journalists class in Brazzaville, Congo was too lovely to go unnoticed in my Yahoo mailbox. I want to present his story to the world. Thank you Alexis for working so hard in my class and for giving such sage advice. The entry is untouched and unedited from the original.

Tue, November 30, 2010 4:45:19 PM
Yahoo Mail
Subject: a letter from your student

Please teacher good afternoon
I come forward in the name of Alexis Ngolo. I'm your student in the cnrtv. I work for Radio called Radio Brazzaville.
I have one story for you about a golddigger who stamped one man on this week end. My bozom friend and me we took place in the fast food restaurant and in the dancing bar. At the dancing bar we met on man with a girl . We were far from this couple. A golddigger stamped this boy blood. when she constated that his compagnion spended hall his money she droped him like a hot patato and said before leavind: I'm sick and tired for you. this boy was look and some and snappy dressers. The power boy screamed out because he spended all his money and had not a great time. My friend and me both we advised this boy who was very very disappointed. He was thank goodness fo that. Accordingto my mind it's the cower many love. It also the consequences for man who is a ladie's man or womanizer for man who run after ladies. When he made decisions to leave the dancing bar he all but missed out his bag. We remind him to take it. On the way to home we had heart that he stopped for cigarettes. My opinion is the following if you meet a girl some where before making a proposal or taking a date you must know her character and her behaviour. Your studient Alexis Ngolo.

About Me

My photo

What do I do? That’s a question with more depth than the deceiving three-word construction would lead us to believe.

I live on planet earth with other folks, and I’m involved in the field of education and learning. I’m a life-long learner with a passion for knowledge and the process of bending bits of ideas into new constructions of beauty.