This weekend is my first in a strange place. Again. Except this time, Im in Congo. I now live in a small self-sufficient annex to a large house, with tall walls and guards that make me feel a little bit uneasy in my own home. Since I'm far relatively far from the city center, I am lent a large stick-shift jeep just in case of an emergency (read: coup d'état).
I haven't practiced driving here yet nor have a valid driver's license.
The electricity (and subsequently lights and AC) turns off and on at least 30 times in 4 hours. Ugh.
I coax a couple of colleagues to go out for lunch and dinner with me (suckers!). We go to a café for lunch and this swanky spicy chicken restaurant for dinner.
In order to go to the swanky spicy chicken restaurant, one has to drive through the "quartier populaire" down a few dark, sinewy streets much like a labyrinth. The roads are jutted with holes bigger than hula hoops (I wish only that I had worn my sports bra).
Then, when it seems like it can't get possibly darker, meeker and more convoluted, a door-man opens the thick metal doors leading to a wonderfully orange and red restaurant with a Congolese band serenading the clients with a mix a music from Africa, France and Mexico. The chicken is wonderful.
Easter in Congo
My first morning in the Annex is punctuated by loud gospel music, an enthusiastic minister discussing the bible, a very responsive crowd and the occasional rooster chanting the morning "cock a doodle doo!".
Grumble. It goes on for something liked 6 hours, I swear.
(I am later reminded that it's Easter Sunday explaining the rather excess length of the service).
Later in the afternoon, when the signing finally stops, I revel in the 5 minutes of silence...until Muslim chanting from the local Mosque starts. D'oh.
On Sunday, we go to a local restaurant called "Chez Tintin".
The following rules are posted on a black board:
1. Please do not bring your own food
2. Do not take pictures of the river
3. Do not take photos
4. Dont go swimming in the river
What, no pictures? Argghhh.
Fast, brown water flows on dark rocks surrounded by pools of stagnant water with thousands of tadpoles punctuated with green grass (I am still amazed by the green of it all). On the farthest rocks lie rusted skeletons of heavy artilleries and a few children risk dunking themselves on the shallow portions of the river in their underwear.
Upon coming home, I itch to take a nice, long bath. I open the tap only to realize that there is no running water. Aw shoot.
Do you realize how difficult it is to wash your hair in one inch of water? I manage to pour water from a heavy bucket (designed for such emergencies), while shaking my head and hoping that all the shampoo has magically dissolved from my roots.
A heavy downpour of rain starts while I am fighting with the heavy bucket to chase the last of the soap spuds away. I suddenly realize that I've left my wash on the line. Aw shoot.
Malaria are endemic here in RDC and the mosquitoes particularly tenacious. The precautions ones should take are the following
1. Wear long clothes on your arms and legs (what? long clothes? You gotta be kidding right? this is Africa and it gets damned hot)
2. Use a mosquito net (I brought one from Senegal but cannot find a spot to hang it from my ceiling is made from painted cardboard which couldn't hold the weight of the net)
3. Take anti-malarials (the antimalarial makes me feel ill, makes me a little bit hysterical and hyper-sensitive and, in the long-run, can do some serious damage to your liver)
4. Use mosquito repellent (Ok that one I can do)
It theory, there seem to be a lot of things one can do. In practice, this is another thing. Most people here cannot afford anti-malarials or repellent, and both the clothes and the mosquito net make the heat more unbearable.
To all you researchers out there: we need an anti-malaria vaccine.