June 29, 2005

Girl vs. Generator

Today, I was taught how to use a generator. That's my special job, yessiree! You basically pour some gasoline in the tank, turn it on, open the spigot from the gas tank into the motor, and pull the lawn-mower-like cord. Then you simply plug in an electrical cord and voila! By this time, half a dozen people gathered around for the demonstration.

The logistics guy, lend and mean, tried it a couple of hundreds of times. My supervisor tried it 5 times. Still didn't start, puttering out in a few seconds. Then I asked if I could try it. They sneered and asked if I had enough muscles. I flexed an arm or two (after which they retreated in awe of the muscles) and pulled the cord. It instantly started roaring and became alive.

Just to regain their dignity, the men congratulated me but told me I should immediately release the cord after I pull it to the max. Uh huh. I'd like to see you do that.

Who knew that the hours of eternal suffering mowing my parent's impossibly large lawn with a rusted old lawn mower would develop a skill useful in the Congo??

All's Well

Today is the 29th. One day before the 30th of June.

All seems calm, as per usual. People are not any tenser in the streets although my office is becoming much like a busy hive trying to prepare everything before our extended weekend (30th of June to the 3rd of July).

I have been working for the past three weekends and am starting to feel quite drained. We are setting up in a closed compound for 4 days to work on a proposal and our logistics person is rushing to get us a scanner, a generator should the electricity be cut off, a CD of all relevant files from our shared drive and all the documents that need to be signed by today. If it seems like hell to be stuck in a compound with my collegues working on a proposal for 4 days, I should put it into perspective. This is actually quite a nice place with a pool, a large expanse of grass and mini forests (were one can job), a jungle gym and a few washers and dryers.

I have been given a monster truck to drive for the week and am concentrating on not side-swiping people along the edge of the road. I drive unusually slow but no one seems to mind (could it be that other tiny cars are scared to honk and overpass me?). I get a few raised eyebrows when people realize that a girl is driving it. Hehehe!

A couple of smart boys and girls

As promised, a picture of some of the best-looking, most talented, most intelligent, most athletic bunch of young adults you've every seen (they also happen to be my classmates from grad school)

June 27, 2005

Congolese line up for voter registration

There are numberous articles on the voting registration in Congo. I'll spare you but thought you might find this one interesting.


21/06/2005 Congolese line up for voter registration AP
KINSHASA, Congo -- The lines were long, the process slow and inefficient, people moaned and complained. Thousands of Congolese nonetheless registered to vote Monday for the first time in their lives.

After decades of corruption and war, Congo took a giant step toward democracy, achieving what many hope will end a vicious cycle of misery and horror. Registered voters will be able to cast ballots later this year on a constitutional referendum that will pave the way for 2006 elections.

"You see this process has begun," Interior Minister Theophile Mbemba told reporters at a registration center at Holy Spirit Primary School in the capital's Barumbu district. "We are going for free, fair, and democratic elections."

Registration began Monday in six areas of the capital, Kinshasa, where thousands expected to line up to receive cards by day's end.

The process will expand to the sprawling slums of the capital over the next three days, said Apollinaire Malumalu, head of Congo's Independent Electoral Commission.

The commission expects 3.5 million people in Kinshasa to register, just over a third of the capital's population.

By August, the process will expand to two provinces in the interior, where a lack of roads, continued fighting, banditry and millions of war-displaced residents will prove a logistical challenge.

In a nation of over 50 million, the commission hopes to register about 30 million people.

After Congo's devastating 1998-2002 war, Congo's transitional government is attempting to shepherd the country out of decades-long difficulties.

The 2006 vote will be the first since Congo achieved independence from Belgium in 1960. Five years later, Mobutu Sese Seko took power and ruled as a dictator until 1997, when he was overthrown by the rebel leader Laurent Kabila.

Kabila was assassinated in 2001 and replaced by his son Joseph, who helped bring an end to the war and start the process toward elections.

"Mobutu or Kabila never gave us elections," said Kumbu Kiswa, 45, who stood in line at the primary school. "It is with great pleasure that I'm here right now. I mean, look, it's happening."

Inside one registration center, residents showed identification and entered their information into a computer database. A photo was taken, and fingerprints scanned.

Most of the computers and voting materials were financed by the international community. Malumalu has said voting materials, security, logistics and organizing elections will cost approximately $430 million.

However, Monday's registration was not without problems. At Holy Spirit, residents were turned away for not having proper identification.

Most residents in the country don't have ID cards, having destroyed or lost their Zaire-issued
identification after the late Kabila took power and changed the country's name back to Congo.

People without proper identification were allowed to bring five witnesses to verify their identity, but for some it wasn't enough.

"It takes so long," said Placid Iyeko, 32. "I think this country can achieve elections, but not with this system."

June 25, 2005

Odds and Ends

My building is still under construction so I don't get to sleep much past 7:30 on Saturdays. Each day it's becoming a little bit more spick and pan though. Last week they put this plastic sheeting on their stairways to give them that "fake tiling" look everybody's talking about these days. And they finally put a line for clothes which I promptly used as permission to do two HUGE loads of wash and use the entire length of the line. I counted that I had approximately a million pairs of underwear.

This morning, I was rushing quickly to the car, when I saw a worker kneeling on the floor. My instincts from Senegal came back in an instant and I proceeded to tip-toe around him while carefully balancing my computer, my paper, my bag and my keys. Then I realized that the guy wasn't Muslim and he wasn't praying. He was just kneeling down to get a better grip on a sheet of plastic while cutting it up.


That day, I also saw a large opened-back truck with four serious looking military (starched uniforms, berets and guns over shoulder). The truck had stalled and two skinny guys from the street had to push the large truck out of the way. **Snicker**


Some newspapers here (like anywhere in the world, read: the Enquirer) are not very reputable. Last week, some pictures of a huge boa constrictor that had eaten a man, were published. Apparently you see the bloated boa in one picture and the boa slit open with a digested man in the next. Lovely. This week, they published pictures of a woman who has been savagely dismembered and disfigured by the neighborhood mass murderer. Fact or fiction?


I'm a little bit stressed out right now. We have a huge proposal due soon (so we're all putting in long hours and working all weekend, every weekend) and the event of the 30th of June are looming near, making everybody jumpy. Needless to say, I'm not getting a lot of quality sleep. It's even making me loose frightening amounts of hair and I end up having to unclog my drain (**yuck yuck yuck**) once every other day.

June 23, 2005

Thought of the day

We attended a ceremony today to sign a contract between our organization and higher up funders of a proposal. We gave a short and to the point speech with the usual formulations of thanks and gratitude.

An old man (who came in with a classy leather hat) introduced himself as a person living with HIV/AIDS. He said he was in a meeting last week, and the speaker was making parallels between the epidemic and World War II, calling the virus a "silent killer". The old man said he preferred the imagery of a football game. Except it's a game with no rules and no referee. While the best line of defense is protection,, with the money given to his organization today, they will be able to devise a strong strategy for offense. Not a dry eye in the room.

He also premised his speech with a striking imagery :"In this world, there are three boats. One contains people who have HIV/AIDS and one holds individuals who are sero-negative. The third one is filled with people who are sero-ignorant. Which boat are you in?"

Wow. That comment still resonates 3 hours later.

Appeasing the Population

Since the elections are clearly not going to happen on the 30th of June 2005 (my projection is closer to 30th of June 2006 IF they start registering people today), Congolese people are gettting a little bit frustated with the situation.

In order to appease the population, the government has posted a large orange banner in the city center: "Registration for the election is starting the 20th of June 2005 at XX location!".

They are also recruiting a shit load of soldiers and policemen who parade around packed in open jeeps with gas masks.

June 21, 2005

Road Rehabilitation, Congolese style

Would you believe it? Last weekend, we went looking for a Greek restaurant through the back roads of my neighborhood, only to come upon what Sarah from Breaking Hearts in the Heart of Africa describes as "moon terrain". This road, right in the middle of the capital I might add, seems like from another world.

You're driving on a decent paved road when all of a sudden, the road starts to jut and corrugate from holes and exposed rocks. Once you've passed the big puddle in the corner (NEVER drive in a puddle--you never know if there's a large open well lurking under it), the track becomes powdery, dirty white, with miniature hills and canons. Then, TaDa! You're at the restaurant.

My morning community involves using a road that is also pock-marked with deep holes. I generally drive slowly around them or almost stop the car if I must drive over them. About a week ago, the holes were mysteriously filled with jutting rocks and stones. Now instead of being to drive verrrrry slowly over them, you had to avoid the piles of stones completely.

The filling of hole seemed retarded to me. Until I noticed, little by little, that the cars driving over the rocks were breaking them into smaller pieces until all the holes were finally filled with sandlike material. Now I can drive over them at 20 miles per hour! This considerably improves my morning commute from 10 mins in the morning to 8.5 mins.

June 17, 2005

Tintin au Congo or a 1930 View of the Congo

From http://www.tintinologist.org/guides/books/02congo.html

Publication history
First published in Le Petit Vingtième between 5 June 1930 and 11 June 1931.
Published in book form in 1931 (black and white, 110 pages).
Redrawn and published in colour in 1946.
Further changes made in 1975.

As with Tintin au Pays des Soviets, Tintin's return from the Congo was celebrated throughout Belgium. On Thursday 9 July 1931, he was welcomed by an enormous crowd at the Gare du Nord in Brussels. Tintin was accompanied by ten Congolese men, and by many animals rented from a circus. There were several rows, as everyone tried to get his share of the 'presents' Tintin had brought with him from Africa. When the 'happy arrival' was repeated in Liège, there was an even larger crowd, and the police had a hard time trying to maintain order.

Tintin au Congo should still be regarded as one of the more silly and youthful albums of Hergé. At the time he was much influenced by his employer, Wallez. Wallez had decided that the Belgian youth needed to know more about the values of Colonialism. Hergé was instructed to show Belgium how the Congolese natives were introduced to civilisation. Throughout the album we will witness further displays of such Colonialism. Tintin shows a condescending - even despising attitude towards the natives. In 1954, as Hergé re-edits the story this attitude would soften, but not disappear.

Tintin doesn't show much respect for the flora and fauna either; in an ultimate effort to put down a comic scene, Hergé lets him kill 13 antilopes. At an earlier point in the story Tintin even kills a rhinoceros with dynamite (after first drilling a hole in the beast's back, where he could place the explosives!). Later Hergé would very much regret these scenes, and he took a firm stand against hunting and poaching.

Laura, this is to answer your question about the Congolese passenger in Tintin's car!

June 16, 2005

I Grew up Reading This

Title cover of Tintin au Congo comic book Posted by Hello

Tintin displays his manly courage in the face of a beastPosted by Hello

Disobeying Nature Conservation Groups and PETA branches worldwide, Tintin grabs his revolver to save his ill-fated fluffy friend Posted by Hello

June 13, 2005

What's in your Wallet?

In my wallet, I now have the following items:

-a meager pittance of Congolese francs and American dollars
-a few business cards with MY name on it
-an SOS Emergency Evacuation Card
-a Congolese driver's license
-an American driver's license
-a credit card (made obsolete by the lack of credit card facilities here)
-SN Brussels and Air France frequent flyer cards (with, like, 10 miles on each...Woohoo free flights here I come)
-an employee identification card
-a photocopy of my American passport and my French one
-a Very Important Numbers list (Embassies, the UN, medical centers, International Emergency Centers and, as last resort, the Kinshasa police)
-a certificate attesting my legality when carrying a short wave two-ways radio

If I loose it, I'm so screwed. What's in your Wallet?

Dust Bunnies

I was rescuing a listless green cricket from my office, delicately
removing all the dust bunnies attached to its hind legs, when a lizard
rushed to the door and gulped it up.

Croak on dust Mr. Lizard.

June 10, 2005

The Theory of Relativity

June 10th 2005
This morning, I go to the scene of the crime to retrieve the car.

Of course, the guard is not here anymore. And neither is the car. As a matter of fact, its on the other side of the street. Whaaaa?

A man comes up to me and shakes my hand. He explains that he was able to pry the lock open and moved the car closer to the restaurant for safe-keeping. I raise my eyebrows and think “damn, he’s good”. I thank him profusely, hand him a $5 and drive off before my face burns off from shame.

Now I think that I should have given him more. Just because he didn’t drive off with the car.


I go the office, ready to tell my morning story to my congolese colleague. In a burst of selflessness, I first ask him how he’s doing, preparing my breath for my story.

He says he’s feeling a little rough because he hasn’t been able to sleep well.

Me: “Oh, really why?”

Him: “Of well, we heard guns shots all night. My kids were pretty traumatized. This morning I found out the two people in my neighborhood got shot (one was a young man I knew) and two others are in the hospital”

Me: “…” (that pretty much shut me up)

Shit, that really puts my little car incident in perspective.

Get a Backbone lady
This afternoon, on my way to lunch, a young man tripped me. He just thrust his foot out and flat out tripped me. I kept my balance and righted myself. I turned around to curse him out, only to see him standing, armed crossed, next his daddy. His daddy was a big soldier with a gun.

Now that I’m behind my computer, I can say it loud and I can say it proud: Asshole. My friend said “Don’t worry. I gave him a dirty look”.


There’s been a noticeable increase of armed soldiers in the center of the capital and they’re making everyone nervous.

Domo Arigato, Mr. Retardo

June 9th 2005
Is that how the 80s song goes?

I went for some much needed Indian food yesterday. I leave the restaurant and start looking for the key to the car everywhere. EVERYWHERE. I panick and call my girlfriends to the rescue. They try to pry the windows open while I stare at them gap- mouthed, amazed at my stupidity.

I lock the keys in the car. That’s bad. They’re still in the ignition. That’s just plain retarded. And that’s an insult to the mentally handicapped.

I give money to the guard of the restaurant and ask him to keep a close look at my car.

That night, I dream that I’m the Head of the Ministry of Health of Indonesia. And damn, I am good. Delusions of grandeur anyone?

Lingala Expression

Today, I learned a new expression: Likombo Esalité

Apparently it means, Hakuna Mata, No Worries Man, Cool Raoul. That should definitely get me out of some tight situations. I’m set for the 30th.

Severe Internet Troubles

We’ve been having serious internet troubles at the office. It turns out that our internet server is located in South Africa (what the f%&$?). Dude has been adding all these clients to his server to make more money, making it so choked that no one can get internet.

This is very problematic for me since:
1. I can’t access my timesheets for work
2. I can’t reimburse my bills and will consequently have bad credit
3. I can’t pay my taxes (Ok this is a lie, I had plenty of time to do it before, but still…)
4. I can’t check how much money I have in the bank

We have been advised to take enough money out of the bank to purchase a plane ticket out the country. I had to make sure I had enough money in the bank before withdrawing a large amount of money. Desperate, I did the only thing I could do: The password to my email. The password to my bank account.

Good thing I trust her.

I’ll be coming after you sis, I’ll be coming after you.

The Smell of Money

June 08th 2005
In case you receive National Geographic, check out last month’s issue (the one about deadly toxins and poisons—it has a furry tarantula crawling over a test tube). Near the end pages, it has one-page article on Congolese money. Apparently, congolese money is so dirty that it’s been known to transmit diseases. I swear I am not making this up, it says so in the National Geographic.

Any restaurant will accept the filthiest rag, most foul-smelling congolese franc (you can almost wring it dry) but if an American bill has a 1 cm tear on the side, it’s categorically rejected. Even if it’s crispy new.

This week, the congolese franc has become stronger against the dollar for the first time in many months.

Theory? The government is holding on to its francs in order to be able to pay the police officers and soldiers three months salary before the 30th of June. A well paid employee is an effective employee. Especially when wielding a gun.

I think it’s bunk but it’s interesting how stories spread.


June 08th 2005

We’re gearing up for the big one here folks. A few days ago, we learned how to use simple and duplex VHF (these are two-way radios, not STDs).

Here’s the lingo:

“Krash One Krash One for Krash Two. Over” Krrish
Translation: the person with code name Krash One is calling Krash Two. She finishes with “over” to indicate that she has finished talking and can now receive the other person. The Krrish sounds happens when the person talking has released the talking button. She is now ready to listen to the other person.

“Krash One here. Do you you copy? Over” Krrish
Translation: Krash Two answers and asks if Krash One can hear well. 1 of 5 is bad reception while 5/5 is perfectly clear.

“I copy 4 of 5. What your location, over?” Krrish

“I’m in Krash Orange Central. Apartment S. That’s Simon. Over” Krrish
Translation: Krash One is now at Krash Orange’s house. The word Central refers someone’s main residence. Office Central would be the location of the office. When one has to spell something out, the static is so loud that you tend to loose little words or sound nuances here or there. If you have to spell something, it’s easier to use small words. How many times have I spelled things over the phone saying “s”, the other person says “f?”, no you dufus it’s “s, s”, you know like stupid.

"Let's make like a tree and leave. Over" Krrish
Krash Two is suggesting all three of them get out of the sticky situation and get the hell out. Krash Two uses outdated 80s expressions as a code to disguise what she is really saying. That, or she's a dork whose not down with the lingo.

Note: I’ve modified all the name and code words, these are simply used for illustrative purposes.


After this rather intense meeting, I realised that if I were stuck inside my apartment without running water and electricity, I could live on my stock of water and canned beans. But how would I find out about what’s going on outside?

I decided to enlist the help of the drivers and purchase a battery operated radio. My instructions were the following: “Please get me the smallest radio you can find, battery-operated, but no need to buy the batteries since I had tons at home”.

The driver comes back to the office, the proud courrier of my radio. It’s a Panasoanic. That’s Panasoanic. Say it with me, “PanasooAaanic”. It’s a cheap knock-off of the real thing. Real cheap.

First of all, the thing is huge. It takes humongous batteries (the kind I don’t happen to have at home). We test it to make sure it works (always a good thing with Panasoanic radios). It has two volume levels: really loud or barely audible. The antenna is there just for decoration because it makes absolutely no difference when it’s pulled up. I receive two channels: one with news from Senegal, the other plays Congolese music 24/7.

Sigh. I guess it’ll do.

June 05, 2005

Top Ten Reasons to Live in the Congo

I totally scammed this from our little missy Kindu, from her site Breaking Hearts in the Heart of Darkness:

Top Ten Reasons to Live in the Congo
(don’t worry, next week I will present the top ten reasons why NOT to live here)

1. Tin-Tin paraphernalia (apparently there is a book where he went to the Congo. You can’t shake a stick in Kinshasa without hitting some cutesy wooden carving for sale)
2. The fantasy of buying a monkey and training it to mix cocktails in one step closer to achievement
3. You tell future stories that begin with, “When I was in the Congo…”
4. Impress your former classmates at high school reunion
5. You can tell current stories that begin with “Whenever I get the #@$! out of the Congo…”
6. Help people recovering from war
7. Overuse allusions to Heart of Darkness (Oh, the horror!)
8. Really cheap beer
9. Give parents/grandparents more material for proving how much more interesting their daughters are than other peoples’
10. Drive a landcruiser through muddy roads like in jeep commercials

Tests confirm Congo Ebola outbreak

Thanks Justine for sending me this, from the CNN website:

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 Posted: 8:11 AM EDT (1211 GMT)

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo (Reuters) -- Ebola has returned to the Republic of Congo, killing nine people since the end of April, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday after tests confirmed the presence of the deadly virus.

"The results (of laboratory tests) came in yesterday ... It is indeed a case of Ebola," said Adamou Yada, WHO's representative in Congo, which has faced serious outbreaks of the disease in the past. Nearly 150 people died in 2003.

"Since the beginning (of the outbreak), we have registered 11 cases, including nine deaths," Yada said in the capital, Brazzaville.

The latest outbreak is in the forested Cuvette-Ouest region, near the border with Gabon, where the 2003 outbreak struck.

There is no known cure for Ebola, which is passed on by infected body fluids and kills between 50 percent and 90 percent of victims, depending on the strain.

In a statement on its Web site, WHO said of the 11 cases, one had been confirmed as Ebola by laboratory tests and 10 were epidemiologically linked. A total of 81 contacts were being monitored in the towns of Etoumbi and Mbomo, north of the capital Brazzaville, it said.

Officials from Congo's Health Ministry, WHO and Medecins Sans Frontieres-Holland are in the field, following up contacts and raising awareness about the disease, WHO said.

Ebola damages blood vessels and can cause bleeding, diarrhea and shock. Its worst outbreak, in 1995, killed more than 250 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Scientists think past outbreaks in Cuvette-Ouest were caused by the consumption of infected monkey meat. Bushmeat is a staple among forest communities in West and Central Africa and a delicacy in many cities.

While this is the "other Congo" (Congo Brazzaville), there have been reports of an Ebola like virus in Congo near the border of Angola.

When it Was Still Leopoldville

Take a look at these beautiful pictures from Kinshasa, a link from Congo Girl's website, back when it was still called Leopoldville.

Pictures of Leopoldville

June 02, 2005

I Knew this New Job Would Come in Handy

June 2nd 2005

I just learned a cool new french expression today: “Entre le Marteau et l’Enclume”, whick basically means “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” (literal translation is “Between and Hammer and a Metal Thingy where one pounds hot smoldering metal”)

Gender Analysis

June 1st 2005

I am currently attending a week-long workshop on how to conduct analysis leading to proposal writing. In a group exercise, we were confronted to the following problem (simplified):

Lisa, a specialist in education in your organization, is very interested in the new literacy project of women in village X. Detailed program plans have been elaborated with local partners and educators are trained.
After a short month, partners call Lisa back to the village to discuss major difficulties they have seen with the activities.
It seems that the level of attendance of the literacy classes have sharply decreased in the course of the month becquse the men have started to beat their wives. The partner does not know what to do and asks Lisa to help sort this situation out.

One of the men in the class shoots out his arms animatedly and proposed the following solution: “Well it’s obvious that a sensitization campaign needs to be undertaken. We need to sensitize the women to teach them to come back to the class even after their husbands have beaten them”.

Hum. I’ll attribute this the cultural difference.

Security issues

May 26th 2005

As you may or may not know, there were election to vote for a new president planned for June 30th 2005. As there have been no studies to count the population and potential voters let only voter registration, I think it’s fair to say that it’s pretty obvious that voting cannot take place on said date.
The government has forwarned people of the situation and asked the population to stay calm so that proceedures to start the process can take place.

In the meantime, there are wee things to take care of:
-make sure you have about two weeks worth of food and water in your house (these should be canned as pasta requires a stove and thus electricity to cook)
-have a flash light or two with extra batteries
-have a short wave radio that runs on batteries
-have a walkie talkie (and know how to use it) in case phones do not work
-do not go on the field from the 20th of June to the 6th of June
-I have been told not to buy a machete as it may create an unsafe situation for me (I hadnt thought of buying one in the first place. Now I just might consider doing that!)

These Old Green Shoes

May 25th 2005

It is so humid in the apartment that mold has grown on my party shoes and my party dress.

Is this a sign?

Californiaaaa, here we coooome (soundtrack to the OC)

Judicious use of color for a beachfront dwelling (yikes) Posted by Hello

Skylights at the Getty Museum Posted by Hello

Seals and Ammo's are lazy bastards (if I'm lucky I'll be reincarnated as one) Posted by Hello

My place of retirement: an abandonned farm by the water on the deserted Santa Cruz Island Posted by Hello

Brussel Sprouts like cacti at the Getty Museum. Made me think of the Belgian Congo...Brussel Sprouts... Belgian... Congo... Get it? Sigh. Posted by Hello

And Buddah waz just chillin' out at the Huntington Garden Posted by Hello

I ran into Marie in an old Spanish Mission Church Posted by Hello

This Morning

May 24th, 2005

I have just come back from a 10 days trip to Washington DC and California. The main objective of the trip was to relax. Ha! I really needed a break from the third world and was looking forward to getting some quality sleep, not worrying about malaria infected mosquitoes and doing some much needed shopping (namely, batteries for my flashlight, camera repair, clothes to replace to raggedy items I still own and two pairs of work shoes to replace the ones that were stolen, various food items, and do a lot of hanging out with friends that I missed dearly).

Target Achieved?
Only partially.

I ended up with:
(1) a head lamp, from my previous experience with frequent lack of electricity, this is a good idea
(2) one pair of yoga pants, two gym T-shirts, with the expectation that I will really work my little butt off
(3) one dowdy-looking dress from Ann Tailor and various assorted cheap make-up for a wedding in Santa Monica
(4) one pair of nice work shoes and one pair of niceish sandals for the field
(5) a quick dry towel and miny mosquito net (for the field)
(6) 2 deodorants, always a good bet in a hot country like Congo)
(7) almost no time for shopping calmly and with a level head
(8) no time for myself or sleep in. OK this is a lie, I had one morning of sleeping in.
(9) a nice BBQ with old friends from high school and from Baltimore. I wish I could have hung out with them longer. (Note to all reading: I promise I will spend more time in DC next time)
(10) a beautiful albeit a wee bit stressful trip to California

The trip to California was excessively planned. Typical day: from 10 to 12:30 Getty Museum, then hop in the car and set off by 12:34, drive for exactly two hours assuming no traffic, get to the hotel by 2:34, check-in, get showered and ready for a wedding in Santa Monica by 3:00, take the shuttle that is located 15 mins away by 3:12, hop on it and voila!

The trip to California afforded me little rest, and I ended up feeling tired for most of it. I actually looked forward to coming back to the Congo for proper rest!
Santa Monica is a city full of designer people: nicely manicured nails, hair that is done up in Salons, beautiful unique clothes.
Needless to say that I am making sweeping generalization but the people really REALLY made me feel very peace corps: dirty raggedy clothes, unmanicured nails, hair au natural. Glad I shaved my legs for the evening though.
In truth, the reality shift was too strong for me—especially after having spent two weeks on the field—and I ended up feeling depressed.

I will post
Photos of the trip
Photo of friends