Two weeks ago Kristi came home late afternoon on a Saturday. She had been in a meeting. Before coming home she sent a text, asking me about visiting the “donut lady.” Mamu Annie and her teenage daughter sell beignet (small donuts) across the street in the small market. Their business does quite well. Mamu Annie, however, has suffered greatly recently. Her eldest son died of meningitis. Her niece, named after her, subsequently died at the tender age of six months. We heard Mamu Annie bawling down below when she heard the news of the second death. It was unnerving and heart wrenching. The donut shop had been closed now for several days.
Kristi and I determined we would go see Mamu Annie and comfort her. Kristi went below to ask the fellow market workers where Mamu Annie lived, and whether or not anyone could show us the way. “At this hour?” They replied. “With rain coming soon?” They further pressed. “Yes,” Kristi replied. adamantly. “We must go today.” Mamu Luta volunteered to take us. Ten minutes later we were walking along the foot-trafficked roads and paths of Kananga. Thunder pulsated in the heavens. Would it rain? We were told the trip to Mamu Annie’s home would take an hour and a half. It was far, but probably half that distance. Mamu Luta faithfully delivered us to Mamu Annie’s home. We met her father, her brother and sister-in-law who lost the baby, and her mother. We sat with Mamu Annie for a while. The thunder and clouds hinted at their hidden intentions. We entered their home to pray for them and give a small cash contribution. We went outside again, and told Mamu Annie we must leave because of the rain. The overhead conditions beckoned an onslaught of showers.
A child of the family led us up to Mamu Luta’s home. It had just begun raining upon our arrival. Mamu Luta invited us into her home to evade the torrents. She had given us a papaya to take home. We sat in her home as the sheets of rain fell. The trees swayed violently outside her door. It was a tropical storm of Gilligan's Island proportions. A friend or neighbor caught in the rain came into her home for refuge too. We all sat as Mamu Annie scurried around doing some house chores. The violence of the storm contrasted with the peace and gentleness of Mamu Luta. She stuck several buckets outside to catch rain water. Sitting in a Congolese home one gets a greater feel for everyday life of the people. We noticed the guinea pigs scurrying around, a common site in many homes. These are a good protein source. I was impressed with the cement floor, and though there were some holes in the iron sheeting roof, it seems that not much rain was entering. Fifteen minutes later the rain died down a bit. Mamu Luta and her neighbor suggested we make a break for it. She loaned us her umbrella to compliment our own. After travelling up the path 100 yards, the rain began falling in torrents again. The neighbor found refuge in a church, while Mamu Luta beckoned us back. To her home we returned to wait out the renewed waves of water pellets.
Fifteen minutes later we decided it was time to try again. The path had become like a small stream. Mud was everywhere and we had to walk where the ground was more solid. Only a few people were out, common during the rain. We trekked on and on, greeting the few passersby. Three quarters of the way home we ducked into a church as the rain renewed its strength. We sat with old women coming home from the market, along with several young people who offered us chairs. Two young girls continued selling cassava and corn flour in our safe shelter. Life continued on, all of us sitting together waiting out the rain.
Twenty minutes later we were on the road again. Everywhere people had laid out buckets to catch the precious water. It was another world, walking in the rain, seeing again how nature affects everyday life in Congo. Finally we reached home. We asked ourselves if going to see Mamu Annie was a mistake. After all, we knew it was going to rain. After less than two seconds, we said to ourselves, “No. It wasn’t a mistake. We needed to see her. This was our only chance. We simply got caught in the rain.”