A Congolese Adventure in Cary

By Chary Sundstrom

Last February, I joined a group of UUFR members who gathered in Lesley Koustaff’s home for a home cooked, traditional Congolese meal.  I was looking forward to connecting with a refugee in person and learning about her culture.

As we arrived, the wonderful smells of African cooking greeted us, and we were warmly welcomed by Glo. She had cooked this meal all day with her mother and Lesley.   Each dish was 100% authentic and was made the same way they make it in their own home, using traditional spices and cooking tools. Glo explained that they had bought the ingredients in local African and Congolese supermarkets.

The meal was a feast of green, leafy vegetables, and a unique dough that accompanied the chicken and goat perfectly. Glo explained how she made each dish and how to eat the way the meal is eaten in the Congo. I loved the fun of trying to eat everything in a traditional manner without western utensils. It seemed to make each dish taste even more delicious. Who knew such an authentic adventure could happen right here in a living room in Cary.

I thought that our African adventure would end after dinner, but to my surprise Glo had planned a cultural program for us. She talked about the Congo and the many struggles that she and her mother faced when they had to flee. It took them years of living in several countries, with many traumatic events before they finally reached safety in the United States.

During these eight long years Glo was unable to attend school. She arrived in Texas as a high school student with only a few years of primary schooling.  She worked extremely hard and caught up so she could graduate from high school on time. She then went on to get a master’s degree in social work from NCSU.  Now Glo is employed as a social worker helping other refugees settle here.

I felt very fortunate that Glo was willing to share her culture, food and story with all of us. I realize how fortunate I am in my life, and draw inspiration from a refugee who has been through so much in her short life but is grateful for what she has and continues to be proud to share her culture.

This event was sponsored by the UUFR Immigrant and Refugee Ministry Team.  Our goal was to provide UUFR members and friends a personal experience with a refugee and their culture.  You can join the team or just sign up for their emails by contacting Pat McLaughlin, [email protected].  The team provides opportunities to serve and to learn.