This is my last trip to the field and I am already getting nostalgic about the place. As usual, we are flown into Lodja on a nice plane by some polite American pilots. The plane is empty but for two of us, the pilot and copilot, so we are able to pack it up with flipcharts for community village activists, registers, tools for tracking Insecticide-Treated Net sales in the small health zones. This one trip alone saves us a lot of cash by reducing distribution of project materials from months to days.
A sister welcomes me at the airport. Just 10 minutes of standing around in the sun gives me a splitting headache. I just have the energy to make sure the porters don’t run away with our project materials and to hand the immigration man (my very best friend in the whole world) my Ordre de Mission and my passport. I don’t protest when the sister pays a bribe or when she reaches into her bag to pay the steep parking fee of $4 on the defunct airstrip. When I tell her she shouldn’t have paid this, she protests, explaining that these guys don’t get salaries and this is their only way to live. It’s hard to deal with bribing. On the one hand, you don’t want to encourage this ad-hoc, informal system of money flow. On the other hand, this is almost an official way to make your salary.
I arrive in the compounds of a Catholic-run “hotel”, visit my old friend Antonia the Bonobo—this always attracts fearful stares from Congolese men (which she often mistreats). I sit down with the brothers to eat. The meal is highly satisfying: fufu ball, amarentes leaves, and baked fish swimming in red/orange palm oil. I am well satiated and crash promptly to bed. I am awoken 6 times by phone calls from the office and never get to sleep my migraine off.
Since I always travel with copious amounts of Advil, pop two in and feel it very slowly diminishing. In the evening, we sit around the television powered by solar panels to watch the Soccer game. The brother explains that the battery will soon run out as this is the second time the TV is turned on to watch a match today. The World Cup organizers have no idea how much electricity is being used up in Africa just to watch their event. Little by little, villagers approach the hotel, hoping to catch the game. The brother grumbles at the disturbances but lets them watch nonetheless.