Missionaries know going in that depending on where they are serving, certain conveniences and items they are accustomed to having easy and affordable access to in the United States will perhaps not be so available or affordable in their host country. Congo is no different, but knowing and experiencing are two different things. Experiencing it long term is something else altogether and can magnify homesickness if we allow it to.
For example, we seldom see pancake syrup in the stores. This is the last batch of syrup I found here. That sticker on the shelf that say "B208" is the price, 27,405 francs, roughly $30.00 for one bottle. Not in our range.
There is a lot of diversity in the DRC and products are shipped in to the stores from many different places. It is sometimes very interesting to see what non-Americans think are hot market items.
It is increasingly apparent to our family that what we believe are basic staples are not so basic, nor important to the merchants of Kinshasa. After we went a few months without finding black olives (except one brand that is especially yucky) or dill pickles, we were having some serious withdrawal. What is a sandwich without a pickle? And what is any "Mexican" meal or pizza without olives? I began to feel like King Richard when he said "my kingdom for a horse!" except that I had no kingdom to trade for olives and pickles. Probably a good thing.
So, you can't always find olives, pickles, or even tomato sauce. There are lots of other things you CAN find that keep life here interesting even if you can't put them on your pizza or eat them for lunch.
You can buy sugar peas. Not the sugar peas I grew up with, but still important if you want to bake something or sweeten your tea.
You can buy cookies that make you want to eat some more. Not really but it's a fun name.
You can buy a toilet for your hamster, and even get refills for it. For a modest price of about $15 your hamster can go potty in luxury and privacy.
You can even buy Goose Bumps!
I can't make a meal out of Goose Bumps and sugar peas, so I do what most of my missionary friends here do: get creative or make my own version. Here are some things I have made just in the last several weeks.
Pickles like Claussen's, in recycled mayonnaise and pickle jars. Real canning jars are not easily found.
Pancake mix, pancake syrup, "bisquick", granola, salsa (not pictured), fabric softener, and bath fizzies (because after all that work my feet are tired!).
Yes, we sometimes are willing to pay more here than we ever would for the same item in the states because when you can't get it, it becomes more valuable to you. Shakespeare's King Henry was willing to trade his kingdom for a horse. We traded a lot of conveniences and the proximity of our families and friends to come to Congo, but Jesus traded his life for mine and for the lives of the Congolese people.