Wednesday, November 30, 2005


It’s probably a good thing that the internet is slow here. This means that at 99 cents a song I can’t do too much damage with i-tunes and my AmEx card. Though I certainly try. It’s also interrupted many an Old Navy browsing. I do love that I can have yahoo messenger. I have only one friend that I regularly chat with, so it’s basically my Dave-messenger system. And of course this blog serves as a nice outlet too. I’ve always had trouble keeping journals because I can’t pinpoint my audience: future self? Grandchildren? Eh?? But with a blog it is quite clear: friends, family, and a few perfect strangers who stumble across the site. I can always just print it out, laminate it, and save it for the grandkids.

Kindu is, by all standard definitions, quite lonely these days. But I am taking it in stride. This is just how it is here: friends travel a lot. I must learn Spanish since so many of UN peacekeeping buddies I can’t communicate with. Perhaps that’s why they think so highly of me. I just smile and nod. Of course I had to take five minutes to explain to the Bolivian commander that I was coming back after my vacation in December (he was about to plan a party for me). This involved a lot of hand signals (plane leaving, plane returning).

I’ve decided that listing the things that might cause “adjustment” issues when I go back to American might help me make this a fun and safe vacation:

- Driving: In Kinshasa you have to be aggressive to get to your location alive. In Kindu you can just do whatever you want so long as you don’t go too fast. But for America I will keep in mind that driving on the opposite side of the road when cars aren’t there isn’t acceptable, that curbs are not supposed to be jumped, and that it’s okay to keep more than five feet between you and the car in front of you.
- Planes: Apparently in America they will give me a time for the flight and it will take off without too many problems, maybe a few hours delay. You also won’t get stranded in random cities that weren’t even on your routing. However, in America, friends won’t be at the airport to hold the plane for me if I am running late.
- Money: In Congo I get used to carrying mad-cash. But in the good-ol-USA I can use this thing called a Credit Card.
- Work: I might as well accept that at the first mention of living in the Congo people will assume that I am in the middle of an African tribal-war zone. The real question is, how many free drinks will this get me?
- Conversation: Topics such as intestinal parasites, military movements, and malaria medication aren’t going to be the dinner party norm that they are in Kindu. Ha! As if we have dinner parties!

I’m sure that it will all work out just fine…

Monday, November 28, 2005

Aren't these kids great? I really like the one in the black shirt trying to look tough. Dragon pose! When the adults didnt keep them at bay, these guys followed me around like my own army in Shoko (17 km from Kindu), shrieking and laughing. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A house in Kasese tucked away in the jungle. Posted by Picasa
It's Saturday morning and I'm at the office. My hair is a little frizzy from having been thrown in the pool at the South Africans last night. I didn't have the time to boil water for a warm bucket-bath, so I just put it in two braids and threw a hat over it. The South Africans have three small above-ground pools. The water was actually quite nice and had I not had my clothes on I probably would have enjoyed it even more.

The ministry people are still in town and today we are going to take them out to meet our beneficiaries. I think they were quite impressed with our powerpoint presentation, but considering since I've gotten to Africa I've seen some of the worse powerpoint presentations of my life (yellow font? small type?), it's not too hard to impress. I've made peace with the fact that their perdiems are more per day that the average Congolese makes in three months. It's just how it is here.

I have one week left in Kindu before I head to Kinshasa, from where I will head to the states for a month. I've finally allowed my less to fully realize that I will be getting out of the Congo and heading home. I haven't left Africa in 11 months. My last trip home left me a bit shell-shocked upon arrival. The jump from third to first world wasn't the smooth transition I had anticipated. I think that this time will be much better in that regard because I know what to expect.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The water main broke outside of my friends house. People were bathing, gathering water in buckets and pans, and playing in it all day. We sat inside watching English soccer and could hear the kids laughing.  Posted by Picasa
A boy in Kasese.  Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Today I took a helicopter to a village called Kasese. It's in a mining zone, which means that a lot of people turn to individual extraction of minerals rather than farming. As my colleague and I spoke with locals regarding the humanitarian situation, we heard what we always hear: things are bad, help us. And of course things are bad. But the thing that got me was not the list of greivances, but meeting in passing someone who worked with the only NGO that had operations in Kasese. The sun was beating down on us, and he was holding his daughter, who looked to be about 8 months old. Her head was resting on his chest and her botton stuck out of her pants, which had shifted as he held her. The man apologized for not being able to meet us at the NGO as his daughter was sick. Probably meningitis. Were any local meds around? my colleague asked. The man shrugged and said there weren't any right now, and he was just hoping some would come. The NGO he worked for distributes health supplies, and he might now have any to save his daughter. He didn't seem angry. It was just how things were.

That was hard to see.

It's amazing how desensitized you can become to suffering when a large portion of the kids you see are malnourished, the men ex-combattants, and the women working dawn to dusk in the fields to keep food on the table.

However, if for me this is a coping strategy, I would love to know what the excuse of the Congolese government is. Bottom line - they feel no responsbility to the people, only to themselves.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Took this picture from a pirogue (canoe-like boat) on the Congo River.  Posted by Picasa
VIVA BOLIVIA! Yes, this picture is taken in Congo. The red dress the woman is wearing is really really short and is paired with knee-high platform boots and thigh-high stocking. Traditional dress?! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I just got married to a Congolese man

I'm only kidding. That's just a fun title to get my mom's heart beating a little faster. Once when I got a speeding ticket my sister broke it to her by first stating "Mom, I dropped out of school because I'm pregnant. Just kidding! Sarah got a speeding ticket." There are some honestly good Congolese guys but I'm happily single. I think my best friend (a guy) is convinced I'm dating one of the bolivian doctors, meanwhile my other guy friend thinks I'm with a local Brit, and I have no idea what the Bolivians think other than "what's this 18 year old doing in the Congo?" Alas, I am 28, but being 5'1 is a serious constraint to being taken seriously.

In other news, the my luggage (and my cheese) is still missing. My nice facial soap is touring the congo, along with my bikini, razor, H&M jacket, two bottles of wine, and other items that you wouldnt think you need in congo but you really really do. C'est la vie, c'est le Congo.

Friday, November 11, 2005


I had written a nice long post last week and the ol' internet quit out on me as I sent it. So it goes.

In it I talked about the at-the-time hot gossip in Kindu. We had had a pretty bad rain storm that afternoon (incidentally I was on a boat on a the Congo river with no raincoat and arrived so what that I could squeeze water out of my underwear, but this is a different story). A cargo/passenger plane, after circling the airport three times, decided that he could land. And he did, only instead of touching down at the end of the runway, he hit towards the middle and just kept on going. This wasnt one of those little cessna planes. It was a jet. The landing gear was destroyed and the wings were quite damaged (apparently it wobbled and the wings scraped the ground). Luckily no one was hurt, but the plane raced by the bolivian and indian camps. Can you imagine being in the shower and seeing a plane out the window? Now the darn thing is just stuck in the field, like a boat in a sea of yellowed grass, and no one is moving it.

I had a week in Kinshasa and have just gotten back to Kindu. My luggage is in Burundi, a tiny little country east of the Congo, which I somehow transited through. Now, among other things, I am without my toothbrush, ipod charger, and cheddar cheese. Yes, cheddar. I was so happy to find it in Kinshasa so I bought it with the intention that it would only spend a few hours outside a frigde. That was two days ago, and now it is sight-seeing in Burundi with it's buddy Goat Cheese. Next time I will wisely put it in my carry on.