Friday, September 23, 2005

Baking Cake in the Heart of Darkness

I recently got the great news that I have giardia, an intestinal parasite that prevents some food stuff from being absorded by the body. I was actually quite happy because I was flipping out at the thought that the malaria was back. I don't think I could have handled that. I got a fever and a really bad headache. This time I went to the Bolivian base's doctors, who are complete sweethearts. They ran just about every test they could and figured out that it was giardia, which is treatable and not very serious. My German friend Anja has it too, so we are thinking of forming a Giardia Kindu Support Group. The downside is that I can't drink on the medication and I could really use a beer. Last night Anja and I sat with our friends, who brought two bottles of rum, and needless to say, drank without us.

Today I went through our warehouse where we keep our tools and other things we distribute. The South African base had donated to another agency a bunch of food that they brought, because they had too much. This is a perfect example of dumping inappropriate goods and expecting people to receive them with open arms. Really, buckets of cherry jam aren't the solution. They were like, "we can do a food for work project." God help them if they are going to make people work for cherry jam. There is also pudding mix and cake. Not just a few packets. I'd say about 500 lbs. So now I'm thinking about organizing the Congo's largest bakesale, cause really, what else can one do with 500 lbs of cake and pudding mix? Thank goodness this stuff isn't ours.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Close Encounters with Bats

I had a mouse or rat problem for a couple months in my apartment. No matter what poisoned goodies we left for them, each morning I would fine little droppings and puddles of pee in my guest room and a few other places. I was amazed at how they always went to the bathroom in the same exact spots. Also, I figured these must be the most acrobatic rats around, because they even left poo on top of the bed's mosquito net and in my coffee cup (ick).

Turns out I had bats, not rats. There are small windows close to my ceiling that are for ventilation. Several lack screens, so bats would zip in and out of the apartment. My friend surprised one that was hanging on the string holding up the mosquito net in the guest room. Yesterday I finally had the windows covered, but one snuck in a door that was cracked open. I pictured the bats bouncing off the screens in surprise and shock, thinking that they could take their normal paths. I wonder why they like my place so much. Must be the closest thing to a cave that they can find.

I have another bat story from the field that involved a baby bat in the shower walking towards me by using its wings as legs. It's probably one of the freakiest things I've ever seen, and I honestly hope no guards were around when I fled from it wearing only a towel.

Friday, September 16, 2005

This is the rocking Landcruiser that I drive. Very few women drive in Kindu, so people are pretty impressed. That and they run like hell to get out of my way. Posted by Picasa

Back in Kindu

How many posts have I written with that title? With the constant travelling that seems to be linked to this job, it's a common theme. But I am back, and it feels good. Most of my friends are around right now. Last night we had drinks at Rashid's and watched MTV. I rarely watch MTV at home but here it's a delicacy.

Turned out the flight I took yesterday also had a government minister on it. There were crowds lined up on the tarmac to meet him. Inside the plane he added some nice touches to his outfit, one involving a cape/sash of some sort of animal. It reminded me of photos of Mobutu, who used to wear something similar made of leopard skin. I guess it's Congo's version of the power suit.

At immigration they asked me for five dollars, an entry "tax." Unfortunately my new supervisor paid them at one point and now they are hitting up all us NGOs. However, I was ready. I politely explained that no tax existed, that only the governor could levy one and had not, and then handed them a letter that I had printed out. The letter was an official statement by one of the vice presidents telling state services (mainly the police) to stop harassing foreign NGO workers. I added for good measure that it was illegal for them to hold my passport hostage. They stood their ground but handed me my passport and I walked off without paying.

Turns out the apartment right next time mine (and our whole building) is owned by that minister. So there was a really loud band playing underneath my balcony for several hours to celebrate his arrival.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Wish you could see this

Naturally, I wish everyone could see night skies in Kindu with the thousands of stars...but even for so, I wish I could show you guys this hilarious video that 007 and I did. We have many. Digital cameras + bored girls in Kindu = silly videos. One of the best is where we show this moth that was so big we thought it was a bat. Much shrieking involved. As soon as we figure out video-blogging...

Have been getting text messages from friends in Kindu eager for me to come back. Living in a small boring town with few expats-and even fewer women-is enough to boost any girls self-esteem.

Just booked a safari for Tanzania in three weeks. My mom and twin are coming out, there first time in Africa. Tres exciting.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Of it all

I've been moving slowly through my Kinshasa days. While I seem to be almost entirely over the Malaria I caught quite a cold. Sigh.

Life in Kindu is naturally moving on without me (I will head back in six days). Two of my Indian friends are coming to Kinshasa tomorrow to hang out with me and 007. There is a cholera outbreak in Kindu that has killed 20 people and there were a few hundred new cases reported over the weekend. Cholera is transmitted through contaminated water, meaning that so long as I drink bottled water, I will be fine, which is a luxury that locals dont have. NGOs are moving into action to create treatment camps and also treat water that people are drawing for the river.

It's strange and sad to watch tragedy unfolding at home with the hurricane. Feels pretty helpless to be so far away, and quite ironic that i work in the field of emergency assistance. Most emergency situations in the world are caused by conflict and not by natural disasters, and I know more about responding to the former than the latter.

Finally, i would like to note the random fact that my 81 year old grandfather has apparently broken many landspeed records when he made it to L.A. from Atlanta in 2.5 days by car. Congratulations (though a bit tardy) are in order for this feat. he only got two speeding tickets on the way home.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Feeling Better

While i'm not 100%, things are definitely looking up. Yesterday 007 and I went to the hair salon and got my hair done. The hairdresser blew it dry straight (I have not seen myself with straight hair in 12 years, though i do fondly recall my twin sister's attempt to iron it once). I look like teeny weeny Angelina Jolie. Then we went to the best hotel in the city, the Memling, where we had drinks. Alright, mine was OJ, but it was fresh-squeezed and packed quite a punch. Today I went to work but kept things pretty light. I am eager to be back to my complete, normal self, but i think that will still take some time.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Alive and kicking

I wont get into the whole thing, but I got taken out by a pretty serious case of malaria and had to be evacuated the kinshasa where I received very intense treatment. They used Quinine. Got out of the hospital yesterday and am feeling almost like myself again. Still a bit weak - likely explained by the fact i only started eating again a couple days ago - but on the whole i am just happy to not be sick anymore. At one point I had a fever of 105. It wasnt pretty.

Malaria is a blood parasite that is transmitted by mosquitos. It causes the amount of platelets in your blood to be drastically reduced, among other things. It is the #1 cause of death in the world, despite the fact that it is curable. Most people who die of it cant afford the two dollars in medicine that would save them. Most are children.

Originally I tested negative and then the military doctors in Kindu were throwing the wrong things at it. There is actually a relatively new drug on the market that has been used in China for ages and is now considered the best cure, at least here in Africa. I will now carry a treatment dose with me at all times, take it at the first sign of a fever, and that will prevent me from reaching the point where I need to seek treatment elsewhere. Live and learn. For now I will stay in Kinshasa and recover (i.e. go to nice restaurants).

Congo keeps trying to take me out, but I come back swinging.