November 23, 2005


I finally get my travel advance and my departure schedule. Though I will be the last one to be picked up in the morning, I still need to be there by 6AM. Oy!

I scribble a card to put on packages and get my act together to drive to a hotel where an acquaintance of a friend from Canada is waiting for package drop off (the package will be carried in his luggage from Kinshasa to Montreal). It's 6:09PM and I still haven't packed for tomorrow.

Stressed? Who me?


I get the money for partners, and the packages containing flipcharts, pens, pencils, sharpers, erasers are packed up. Due to weight restriction, we choose to pack an important computer and leave behind boxes of candles, matches, soaps and toilet paper. I manage to take 4 rolls of toilet paper for participants, three soaps for hand-washing for participants before meals, 6 personal candles and a few books of matches.

I receive the loan of an LCD screen for Powerpoint projections.

I also plan to pack candies (both hard and soft) for the last day. Surely, even grown Congolese doctors on the field like candies.

4:15 PM

I have received confirmation that I have a spot on the nice airplane.

One down, 4 to go.

It's 4 O'Clock

in the afternoon and I should be leaving for an evaluation on the field tomorrow.

(1) I still don't have a plane ticket:
-I have been told I could either take a nice flight,
-A flight that has been banned by our organization, or
-I might be asked to stay in the office to work on a new proposal
-As a matter of fact, I have been told that I may be contacted by email while on the field, return early, travel all day by motorcycle, take an unsafe plane boack and leave the next day to Kenya. In that case, I will be packing a small backpack. Suckers don't know that I have no email access while on the field

(2) I don't have money for my trip and am still waiting to hear from finance before they leave at 5PM (on the dot)

(3) I don't have the thousands of dollars I am supposed to bring to the field--still waiting for finance

(4) I don't have the flipcharts, markers, pens, pencils, pencils sharpeners, toilet paper, soap I ordered three weeks ago for this evaluation

(5) I haven't gathered all my reports and read all necessary materials. Am doing that now while writing this post.

God, please help.

November 21, 2005

Holy Cow!

I'm not much of a hippy though I don't like to shave so I suppose I may have been one in my previous life.

I have never met anyone making their own yogurts--the weird thing is that I've had three separate conversations on yogurt-making in my 8 months of being in Congo. These relatively normal people seriously took me through the art of making a home-made yogurt.

Why, you may ask, do normal, down-to-earth, positively unJoplinesque people make their own yogurts? The reason is that a single, small, unflavored pot of yogurt costs...brace yourselves....$1.50!!! I can tell you're not shocked, but consider if you will, a weekly normal yogurt intake. That's about, what, 4 to 6 yogurts right? You are are paying 6-9 dollars for a bland, boring set of yogurts.

The first time I saw yogurts here, I was so excited (Senegal was definitely yogurt-poor), ran to the display fridge and proudly set my yogurts on the non-functioning cashier belt. Boy was I shocked when the cashier ran the price of the items...But I kept my composure, smiled idiotically while blanching and ran back home to hit myself in the forhead.

It's almost like cows are holy here. As a matter of fact, I'm never seen a single cow in the Congo, even during my visits to the field.

The next time, I bought one yogurt, manufactured my own (using an internet recipe) and let it sit for 24 hours. Excited, I tried it with a little bit of sugar, and was disappointed to find out that it tasted like baby puke. Ok so I've never officially tasted baby puke but I've baby-sat enough to know what it smells like.

A bunch of friends are considering having a BBQ in a few weeks with a live demonstration on how to make yogurts. A sort of Tupperware party for 20 somethings.

The hippies of Kinshasa are at it again.

Writer's Blog

I must admit that I'm a little wiped out by the whole Congo experience right now. There are so many little things happening around me that don't phase me anymore.

I think I'm scarred forever: I'm afraid I'll still be driving like a maniac when I get back to the States. I'll be counting and examining each and every bill for sign of wear and tear. I'll be locking my car doors and checking they are still locked 2 times before I walk away from the car. I'll be making sure to have little bills around to pay the various people helping with my errands. I'll be avoiding tap water like the plague. I'll refuse to do errands unless I feel like I'm ready to tackle the crowds.

I was having a long conversation about blogging and my sudden lack of interest in writing down my experiences with Diego and Lulu .

Lulu said: "So you're having Writer's Blog?"

What can I say? Yesterday, I found out that if I'm paying someone, the rate of change is CFA500 to the dollar, and if someone is paying me the rate of change suddenly drops to CFA450 to the dollar. My cleaning lady took my $10 for three tomatoes, 2 avocadoes, 2 carrots and some greens. I was quoted the price of $20 to decode my cell phone. My phone bill is astronomical.

We had a whole conversation on Air Miles and I'm proud to say that Air Miles are more complicated than a Johnny Cockran contract. Did you know for example that you get more Air Miles if you apply for a card from the United States than from France? That there is a secret form on the internet that allows you to add miles you may have forgotten without dealing with Air France Flight Attendants? That you can be up-graded without hassle for having a Silver status? That the attendants give you champagne before you board the flight if you are frequent customer?

Somehow, traveling seems so much less glamorous.

November 19, 2005

Smuggling Goods in Congo

You probably thought this post would be about the secret Congolese police and special smuggling techniques that my colleagues and I have used to transport diamonds across the border. Not so.

This is just a big thank you to:

-FloraJ and Em for sending some Halloween candies to our apartment in France (it was a federal offense for my mom to pick up the package on my behalf but she pulled the "my daugther lives in Congo" card and the mailperson took pity on her),
-Justine for sending me a book called "Wild Women!" that was just the right size to make its way undetected into the monthly DHL pouch
-Steve in Wisconsin for sending me a copy of the great movie of the story of Lumumba, wedged and hidden between pamphlets
-Stephanie and Vicky for sending some presents (still haven't picked them up) through an acquaintance that is coming to Congo for work

It almost feels like there's a postal system here!

November 18, 2005


16 Nov 2005
It’s 5 AM and I’ve just had the most terrifying Zombie dream: think Betty White of the Golden Girls dragging her stiff, white body in your direction.

Except these zombies were superzombie. You had to get in a boat and row like mad because they were fast and they were mean. You could try to swim away if you wanted but the fuckers were excellent swimmers too. Everywhere you looked there was moaning zombies and you had to keep the presence of mind not to freak out at every turn.

The antidote was to carry around a navy blue floatation device or have a dry Kleenex in your hand. How weird is that?

It was very similar to the movie 13 Days Later which is, by far, the scariest movie I’ve every had the (dis)pleasure to see.

Work’s really been troubling me lately I think.

November 11, 2005

Health Activities

There's a cool article in the latest Time Magazine about Global Health and 18 Heroes working in the field of development: page 95 details Léon Kintaudi work in the Congo. Though he can rub people the wrong way (a good self-marketer and interested in image), the article is very interesting as it is almost exactly what our partners on the field do.

Though be proxy, it's nice to be recognized for the work we do.

Time Magazine, november 7th 2005

(note: the picture is very poorly scanned but I encourage you to pick up a copy of the magazine if you are interested in the field of health and development

November 08, 2005


To quote my brother: “so. much. work

(his three-word answer to my long-assed email of two months ago-slacker)

I am overwhelmed with work. I am planning to get up at 5:30AM to work on a report, database and update my blog tomorrow morning. I swear, I'll do it. Uhem. But I must add that it’s sad when your comments become a lot more interesting than your actual posts (see comments on November 2nd post).

I would like to share with you an recent security email that I just received. I signed up for this security service while in Senegal to alert me on unsafe African areas one should avoid while travelling. This one came in a few days ago about France. Freaky.


1. This Public Announcement is issued to alert Americans
to ongoing security concerns in France. Significant unrest
that began in the northern suburbs of Paris October 27 has
now spread to several locations within the city limits of
Paris, and to many other cities throughout France. Angry
youth have set fire to many buildings and thousands of
vehicles. While damage to property has been extensive,
there seems to be no pattern of arsonists directing their
anger at ordinary citizens or tourists. This Public
Announcement will expire on December 7, 2005.

2. Travelers should be alert to news media reports for the
most up-to-date information, avoid areas where riots have
occurred, move quickly away from any demonstrations they
may encounter, and exercise particular caution during
evening and nighttime hours.

3. Travelers using the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris
should be aware that train service between the airport and
Paris runs through an affected area and has occasionally
been disrupted. Travelers should rely instead on airport
buses or taxis to downtown Paris.


6. Minimize considered.

I don't know what point number 6 means, but it sounds a little scary. "Minimize considered" **say in robotic futuristic voice**

November 02, 2005

Riots in Paris

There have been riots in Paris and though I don't follow French news very often (despite it being the land of my ancestors), riots are not hugely common in the country.

Although very sad, this does not surprise me (or anyone else I imagine) as societal unease has been building up into unresolved tensions between french citizens and immigrants. As I read this, I instantly think of my incident in the plane on the way from Paris into Kinshasa--which I have still to finish writing about.

Will update Welcome Back to Congo soon.