First Days in the DRC

These are some examples of my living situation here in Kisangani and not particularly related to the project itself. Tomorrow I’ll finally get over to the base to work on the project.

This is a poor country. Kisangani is one of the largest cities in the country yet it’s devoid of new construction. The buildings are relics from colonial times, many of them crumbling and abandoned to squatters. I live next door to Mobutu’s magnificent river palace; though magnificent can only be applied if you see a photograph from the past. Now, out my bedroom window, I see an ant farm of squatters ever in motion, and hear the sounds of their radios, at all hours.

As is a necessity for all foreigners here, we live in a compound cut off from the world by high walls with barbed wire and rotating guards manning the gates. Inside those walls we have a large house shared by three of us. It’s a nice place, though not without its 3rd-world problems. The power has been problematic, the internet is almost unusable most of the day as it’s incredibly slow, and there are some problems with the plumbing – at least we have water for our cold showers.

We also have some gardens, including a spice and squash garden which was planted last month but already the basil is usable. There are two parrots living in the yard, though they aren’t very friendly, a pig in the back who was supposed to be roasted but the gang got too attached, so now he’s named Sausage and gets to feast on cassava. There are also a few cats, but they’re on the way out. Beau, our project manager, just finished building his Tiki bar outside of my room, where we’re able to play darts late into the night.

When we travel around town we go everywhere in our black SUV, amazingly dodging the masses of motorcycles and bikes that are weaving through the city. Sometimes we come so close to bikes that they end up diving into bushes to get out of the way, though often the bikers are pushing the limits of the road themselves – usually they don’t know the rules of the road as they’ve simply purchased their license.

My boss also has a boat and likes to spend the evenings fishing — trying to catch the monster fish of the Congo. But weekends are filled with exploring the river, doing some tubing, or heading to beaches. On the river you can see all of the fishermen in their dugout canoes, somehow navigating the strong currents while standing upright in their tiny boats. I swear, if Africans could monetize the skills of standing in a dugout and carrying things on their heads they would be set.

The photos are of my house, including one of our guards and our gardener.


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