July 04, 2006

June 16th 2006

I am still waiting in Lodja for the trainers for Safe Motherhood. I hope they arrive today as planned because, without a car and in a small town, I don’t have much to do. I’m almost at the end of my New Yorker magazine. Damn! I should have brought more reading materials. I also vastly under-packed in order to leave space for the various presents I plan to give our partners.

This morning it is cold and misty, I can see my breath. I have not brought a sweater and wrap myself in a bright pink Kenyan cloth instead. I look strange and mismatched but hey, it’s fashionable in the village to be wearing a patterned green skirt, with a polka-dotted torn red shirt, blue flip-flop and a yellow hair wrap.

In the late afternoon, the sister leads my through a large, dusty, busy market to buy items. This is for a kid for the distant village of Vango which I am putting through school. We buy a cheap pleather (plastic leather) suitcase, three second-hand pants, a fabric belt, four second-hand shirts, a towel, a year’s supply of soap, a year’s supply of clothing soap and a toothbrush + toothpaste. I am horrified by the expensive prices, even as the sister bargains them down. 50% of the used clothes are brand names I recognize from the United States, and 30% of those come from Old Navy. The sellers get huge balls of clothing for $100 and sell them in large markets such as these.

For lunch, I get the daily meal of fufu, rice and fish, improved by two roasted pigeons. For a French girl, it’s awkward to admit that this is the first time I try this poultry. It’s nicely grilled with Maggi bouillon cubes, and the meager pieces of meat taste delicious.

The afternoon is spent at the pitiful airport, waiting for two Congolese trainers from Kinshasa. Immigration officials pester me non-stop and ask me for $4 just to reach the tarmac. Besides me, people come and go freely without concern. After a futile attempt at getting angry and scowling at them, I walk away dejected, absolutely powerless to do anything about it.

During the day, I also go visit a depot we share with sisters (filled with boxes upon boxes of condoms. The afternoon gives way to numerous political debates and thoughts between residents of the hotel. They also discuss how campaigners have sent three city buses to Lodja, a city that has very poor roads and sand banks (during the rainy seasons, deep pools of mud water stagnate in the middle of the road)—and where they most likely will not run. This just reinforces their notion that politicians are completely disconnected from the realities of the field.

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