Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Congolese Candy

When I was finally recuperating but couldn’t quite handle the thought of real food, I sent Olivier out to buy some lollipops, which I knew existed because I had seen them when out in the market on Christmas Eve.

So he brought me some lollipops, named FORT POP and wrapped in shiny plastic.

And there is only one way I can describe the flavor:

Sugared Milk.

Literally, if you took powdered milk, and sugared it, and mixed it up with water and goo and put it on a stick, it would be a Fort Pop.

Which made Adam and I wonder if Congolese children are being unknowingly hoodwinked into ingesting milk, like those cruel parents who give their children carrot sticks as treats?

When I asked Polycarpe why the candy tasted like milk, he said, “it’s not milk, it’s sugar!!” and laughed. He was clearly hoodwinked too!

But I gave Adam the rest of the lollipops and he confirmed it absolutely: MILK. Now, there really are no varieties of sweets here (probably for our benefit) but we wondered if perhaps the idea of candy is just.... different? Chocolate here, when I’ve seen it in Goma (though very rare) is bland and flavorless milk chocolate.

Children do, however, eat sugar cane right off the stalk. Often, as a dinner! What was the deal?


Just when our sympathies were going out to hoodwinked Congolese children everywhere, a neighbour girl came by to offer us some “New Year’s Sweets” which turned out to be sort of peanut brittle.

Peanuts, cooked in sugar and water, and formed into little balls! They were actually DELICIOUS and I think Adam is secretly hoping that the girl comes back today to sell us more. Like Peanut Brittle, yes, but without that awful sticky, heavy, gooey peanut brittle thing that always happens.

So go figure! We’re not sure what to make of it, other than that we’ll pass the next time someone offers us a milk lollipop.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dancing In the Streets

While I was sick, very “inconveniently” for me, there was a loud, raucous party that went on literally until daybreak. The night rattled with sounds of drunk people making their way down the streets and the dull *thud thud thud* of heavy drumming reverberated through my sleepy head.

Ugh, I thought to myself. Do they have to party when I am trying to recuperate?

You could hear people calling out, and the rhythmic drumming beat changed up but was no less energetic. It seemed too like it was next door. I had never remembered seeing a discotecque opening up in our neighbourhood! There was even the nightclub “tweet tweet” of that guy who has the whistle and keeps time with the music. What gave!

Adam and I laughed as we recalled our infamous night with Fred at STEREO in New York. But we also grimaced at being woken up in the middle of nowhere not by some loud obnoxious bird, but by a loud party? Where were we? New York?

When the morning finally came (and they all went home) I went to consult Polycarpe, my sage ear in all things Congolese.

“Yagh!” I said annoyedly. “Did you hear all of that makalele (lingala for ”noise“) in the night?”

“Yes,” he said gravely, looking what I took to be annoyed. “That poor man who died!”

It was not annoyance, but sadness because this disco was not a disco, but a funeral party.

It’s times like these where I realize just how different our two cultures are. That all I can do is try to jot down the differences, but to understand the IDEA of an all-night disco funeral party? The concept is beyond me!

Or take, for example, the police who sing and dance together in the morning, nearly every morning out in front of the station, which we can see from the house. It’s absolutely beautiful to listen to -- they sing in elaborate harmonies, a mellifluous blend of deep men’s voices that just sounds natural and elegant at the same time.

But they’re not singing for their next recital; they’re singing for moral and cohesiveness as a military unit. Which boggles my mind.

It did make us laugh a little too, as we discussed what they must be singing and harmonizing about.

“Guns without bullets, maybe?”

“Oooh, how about the thrill of getting to bully and extort people for money!”

“I know! I know! It’s a sad song about working for 100 days without ever getting paid by the government!”



... We’re so cynical, and so mean, but maybe after reading this far into the journal, you can see why!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bidirectionally Delicious

I wonder if Adam and I will ever be able to mingle in polite conversation again, honestly, after this trip when we spend ALL of our time together and must discuss with one another all of our maladies, including status reports on trips to the toilet, feelings inside our guts and what not --- hence, our filters are just gone!!

After some of the first food I ate -- some fresh tiny tomato salad -- came back up, at least in part, Adam rushed over to see if I was okay.

“Yea, I’m fine!” I said, “that tomato salad was great -- bidirectionally delicious!!”

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas (Where's My Present!?)

Just a funny sidestory -- Papa B, our “friend” the official here, came by to wish us a Merry Christmas.

He was so impressed with Adam’s Congolese suit, and wanted to know who had tailored it! I said to him (in French) “Oh, yes, I got this for Adam as a Christmas present” and he immediately responded “Did you have one made for me too?”


Let me state clearly that this wasn’t really a “cheap” gift -- especially not in Congolese standards. It cost me $16 to get the fabric, since everything that comes here must come from SO far away, and $12 to have it made because the tailor a) did it quickly and b) did a bunch of fancy embroidering on the shirt.

I’m not about to spend $30 on some official, even if he is our friend!

So I just laughed it off, and he went back out on the patio with Polycarpe.

A fishwoman came by to sell fish, and Papa B called Adam out to the patio. “We don’t need fish,” said Adam, “we have goat!” (with French coaching from me in the living room)

“Not for YOU,” said Papa B, “buy it for ME!”

Huh! Merry Christmas! The fish was 2000FC (~$4) and I didn’t see much way of getting out of the situation diplomatically. I said to Papa B that it would impolite for me to give him MORE money than I gave to our own, good workers, so I offered to pay for HALF the fish, and he said that was fine.

Polycarpe seemed very put out! On all days, he said, Papa B has to come ask for handouts on Christmas!
Hey Everyone!!!!

Laura and I are engaged!

Merry Christmas!!!!!!

Merry Christmas everyone!!!!!!!!

Vomiting Builds Character

It’s never quite easy to be so far away from home on Christmas, and it’s tougher even when you’re sick!

On Monday, I’d had a fever and went to bed at 3 pm and it went away. Fearful of having malaria at Christmas (what a terrible gift!) I was so glad when on Tuesday I seemed better.

Then, Wednesday, I walked through the heat to the market with Adam to buy some prezzies for our staff -- nothing big, about $2 per employee (a lot when their salaries are $1/day) -- but it definitely felt holiday-spirity! On the walk home, though, I felt light-headed, distracted only by Adam’s seemingly same symptoms.

Getting home, though, he felt better after taking off his “real clothes” -- he’d said before we went out that it was the first time in a WEEK he’d worn a shirt!

I, on the other hand, only seemed to get worse and everything hurt! My fever came back with a vengeance, too, and once again, the thoughts of malaria on Christmas were terrifying!

After I vomited, Adam was incredibly worried but we made sure not to make the same mistakes and we held off giving me malaria medicine, opting instead for worms/amoeba medicine -- the final medicine that had cured Adam just two days before! And, when my fever and chills receded, it seemed promising!

And of course today, despite continually vomiting (and having to pause some especially nice Christmas-Day-phonecalls for a puke break), I do certainly feel better!

It helped especially that we were awoken this morning by parades of children and adults singing and dancing in the street, celebrating the Noël! We even joined in the parade, walking (slowly, tremulously in my case) down to the beach and clapping along to the beat since we didn’t know the lyrics that everyone else seemed to know!

It was such a wonderful beginning to the day, since I’d missed the midnight mass at the huge cathedral last night with Polycarpe last night thanks to my illness.

Most people have nothing here, but the Christmas spirit -- the wild revelry and fabric waving and music playing and just an abundance of happiness like I’ve never seen for all the trees and Messiahs and caroling I’ve participated in in the US -- was incredible to see. We took video too and hopefully will get to post it one day (perhaps without bandwidth restrictions!)

Christmas, despite the vomiting, is just feeling so, so special. Adam is wearing the Congolese suit I had made for him for Christmas (see the entries before this one for a photo) and we’ve gotten several visitors and wonderful phonecalls all this past week!

So thanks to all of you! And to all of the people here as well!

Adam's Christmas Present

I got Adam this suit made from Congolese fabric for Christmas -- I
wish the photo turned out a little better, but we're so eager to go
online today for Christmas I'm rushing a bit!!

The Antisocial Dog

Maybe ONLY Cleve will be amazed by this, but this is the dog from
across the street, dubbed (by me) "The Antisocial Dog" because not
only does he skulk around the yard at night, nearly invisible, but he
seems to want NOTHING to do with ANY people, ever! Any attempts to be
nice to him or give him food in the past have been a complete fail.

But just this past week, he's been hanging out with us on the front
porch and even came right up to take some beans I'd left for him on
the floor!

He has some sort of never-healing wounds on both of his ears, and is
constantly swarmed with flies! It's easy to feel bad for him!

Our New Huge Bed!

We had to rig up the mosquito net a little haphazardly and cut one of
our existing two mattresses in half (and use the other half as a new
pillow, yay!), but our new bed is absolutely wonderful!

Merry Christmas from the DRC

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Little Diplomacy

For those following the blog regularly, you know well the constant efforts by a certain FS gentleman to sabotage and undermine our work here.

Well, just yesterday, another effort was made to somehow subvert us, and I was extremely proud of my methods of handling it!

Two gentlemen came by the house, high placed in the local circles as was evident not only by their clothing but their comportment! They did not ask, but demanded to see Polycarpe and I asked them what the reason for their visit was. Not only does Polycarpe protect us, but I see it fine and good to do the same for him!“

”Ooohh,“ cooed the fatter gentleman slimily, oozing cologne, ”but we are friends of [FS].“

Knowing that trouble, it was a-brewin’, I went inside and fetched Polycarpe, letting him know exactly what he was in for.

Returning to the patio, I bade the men come in and brought them our ”good chairs“ and asked them just to wait a few minutes, letting them know that Polycarpe was on his way.

He went out to the patio to discuss with them, and we agreed in hushed tones that I would wait inside until he called out for me.

Neither Adam nor I have been able, after all this time in DRC, to distinguish between a normal conversation among Congolese men and a heated, near-brawl argument. I kid you not -- they sound the same.

This occasion was no different, and we sat inside, baited, pretending to do other things but really just listening and wondering what in the world was going on!

Finally, Polycarpe called me out and I sat down, ready for the worst. And it did, in fact, start off quite harshly with flying accusations (all originating from FS) that an employee had stolen the money to buy our new motorbike, among other things.

I denied them all, as they were all ridiculous, but did it with a smile and a Girl Laugh™, a light titter that masked the discomfort I felt at even being obliged to speak to these men at all.

At the end of all of the accusations, the bigger of the two men leaned far back, causing our white plastic chair to squeak and creak, and said, ”You know, you are very very nice!“ as though it were the biggest surprise in the world.

I can only imagine what FS told them about me after all our encounters telephonically where I refused to just do what he said because he’s a man and I’m a woman.

But what happened next can only be seen (or heard) to be believed!

The smaller of the two men said to me very tentatively, ”I has been studying English and would like very very muches to speak more with you!“ And after helping this gent with his English, the larger of the two men started asking me countless questions about America, and what there was there, and then about my relationship with Adam.

Some of his questions were HILARIOUS, like, ”If Barack Obama came to my house and said, ‘You should be my wife!’ what would be my response?“

Or, if I caught Adam with another woman, would I buy a gun and shoot the other woman? Seriously, you had to be there.

I continued to make jokes and placate him -- jokes like ”I hope you filed with the [government agency] for your research permit before coming here to ask me all these questions!“ (Ha I’m so funny!)

But in the end, what could have turned out to be the most unpleasant defense of our dignities and honor ended up being sort of a funny afternoon answering this guy’s questions!

My mother did thankfully call me for our weekly Sunday phonecall when we were nearing 2 hours of questioning answering and even my bubbly Hostess Spirit was waning and I was ready for the guys to leave.

The great result, of course, was not only did they come away realizing FS is a liar, but we might have even made some friends!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fights About Beans

Yargh! Penny pinching and project management make Laura go <something something>


Go Crazy!? Don’t mind if I do!

Seriously, I had a fight this morning with two of the staff about BEANS.

Because we’d sent 10 days worth of beans for 2 guys on the last mine survey, and they’d come back 4 days early, and told me that there were NO beans left.

THEN I discover that they have been EATING THEM, SECRETLY, in the night at their house, even after receiving money for food during the day!!!!

There comes points in your life where you say to yourself, “How did I come to this intersection? What were the events that precipitated sitting at 9 in the morning, and having an argument about cups of beans?”

When you are having a discussion about beans and lying with a man who is in his twenties, has one child and another on the way, who seems in all aspects of behavior to be an adult, but sulks and looks like he’s going to cry because you’ve uncovered his secret bean ploys?

Is it easier to be a bean fighter, or a bean counter?

It’s enough to make you laugh (perhaps while crying) but the end of the story is this:

Let there be beans!

The New Bed

Finally, after 3 months of sleeping in a twin sized bed, Adam and I got a FULL SIZED BED yesterday.

The night passed SO well, because not only could we each lie flat on the bed, but we could sit up in the bed and shift as we saw fit, and even each exit a side of the bed in order to go to the toilet in the night!!

And now, without the baby in the house, we could sleep in too!

We stayed in bed late this morning, until nearly 6:30am and laughed and talked. Even after getting this huge bed, it felt weird to be so far apart from one another, so we smushed.

“Remember that first night when we stayed at the church in Banalia,” I said, “when we were horrified to find the twin bed and I said, ‘Don’t worry, it’ll just be for one night!’”

“At least in Buta we had a double bed!” replied Adam.

“But we had no mosquito net!” I cried. “Did we even have mosquitos in Buta?”

“I don’t remember them being in Buta,” sage Adam replied, “they probably didn’t bother coming because they didn’t want to answer questions at the [immigration official]’s office.”

I laughed loudly. “Maybe they got taken in for questioning regarding Ugandan espionage at the ANR’s office!”

We laughed, echoing through our big cement room and into the cold, misty, sunless morning.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Use the Force, Aketi!

Aketi started playing with Adam's mini lightsaber (that I bought him
to compensate for the loss of the big one) so I turned it on just for
kicks!

Disclaimer: Chimpanzees shown here are not pets, nor should they be
considered as such. Chimpanzees are wild animals that belong in the
forest, and the pet trade fuels a vicious cycle of wild chimpanzee
slaughter and abuse. Chimps shown here are orphans and must be taken
care of in a sanctuary environment that mimics as best it can the
natural environment of chimpanzees and attempts to minimize the trauma
already inflicted on the infants.

Chimpanzees do NOT make good pets. They are wild animals, unmanageable
in a domestic setting, strong and willful and dangerous. For more
information, please visit:

http://www.hsus.org/wildlife/issues_facing_wildlife/should_wild_animals_be_kept_as_pets/fact_and_fiction_monkeys_and_apes_as_pets.html

The One that Got Away

We can't save everyone, and the sad news was this orphan, called Lao
Di Kia ("The present moment"), whose news came to us the 14th of this
month.

Adam was extremely sick, Aketi was about to be integrated with the
other chimpanzees at the sanctuary, and really, just the timing for us
was really bad.

When we heard of him, he had already stopped eating and was already
lethargic. He comes from the forests near Bili, where many
chimpanzees are still completely unknown to us.

Of course, there have been many chimpanzees that we couldn't save;
Cleve saw 33 orphans in just 13 months here. But to actively know
that a little chimp will certainly die because your budget and
timetable just can't take the strain is heartbreaking. Simply
crushing. There are really few words.

This entry is dedicated to Lao Di Kia.

One hopes that, through education and awareness and good policing,
that we won't have to turn away orphans like this one again.

Caché!

To get Aketi to and from the sanctuary for his 4 introductory visits,
I had to wear this sweatshirt in even the HOTTEST African temperatures
so that people wouldn't see a whitey going down the road with a chimp
and think that a) whiteys buy chimps as pets and b) go out to the
forest and kill themselves a chimp of their very own!

So, obfuscated he must be! He actually loved clutching onto me in the
front or back under the sweatshirt. He'd typically be asleep by the
time we got to the sanctuary (which is only 2km from the house!)

Durian (For Alex L!)

I admit to buying this durian for the guys solely for the purpose of
taking a picture of them eating it and posting it to the blog for Alex
L, who I have always remembered toting the virtues and interestingness
of the Durian. It's called MONDENGA here, and people love it. And it
smells JUST as bad here as it does in other countries! And of course,
it is super sticky.

The guys are Polycarpe, Richard, and Seba (left to right)

Babies Jessica

In case one might have thought that I was exaggerating about Big Smile
Baby, Big P Baby and Big Bellybutton Baby's forays into the
territories dangerous, HERE is our well, and here they are, sticking
their heads into it and laughing!

Big Bellybutton Baby is on the left, middle is Big Smile Baby, and to
the right is Big P Baby

The Sickie

Aketi keeps Adam company while, sick, he tries to keep cool on the
cement floor and stay hydrated (and not throw up into his green bucket)

Warming Ourselves by the eLog

We broke out the Christmas Yule Log DVD to mend our spirits the other
day, and Adam warmed his hands by the glow of its eFire!

Fast Asleep

To those who don't believe what a HUGE bedhog Aketi is, witness how he
sleeps on HIS bed!

Disclaimer: Chimpanzees shown here are not pets, nor should they be
considered as such. Chimpanzees are wild animals that belong in the
forest, and the pet trade fuels a vicious cycle of wild chimpanzee
slaughter and abuse. Chimps shown here are orphans and must be taken
care of in a sanctuary environment that mimics as best it can the
natural environment of chimpanzees and attempts to minimize the trauma
already inflicted on the infants.

Chimpanzees do NOT make good pets. They are wild animals, unmanageable
in a domestic setting, strong and willful and dangerous. For more
information, please visit:

http://www.hsus.org/wildlife/issues_facing_wildlife/should_wild_animals_be_kept_as_pets/fact_and_fiction_monkeys_and_apes_as_pets.html

Dirty, Dirty Miners

Greaaaaatttt Successss!

Olivier and Richard returned from my first mine surveyed -- Bodumbe -- approximately 30km from here and right near a big bunch of forest purported to have chimpanzees!

Parts of my hypothesis are dependent on conditions found at many other mines in developing nations -- poor sanitation, poor health, and a resulting susceptibility to new diseases.

These conditions proved to be too true -- as Richard and Olivier regaled me with tales of just how disgusting the conditions were at the mining camp.

Additionally, while doing transects and looking for evidence of chimpanzees, they found a LOT of human feces in the forest. In terms of an area primed for an emerging infectious disease, this area was great!

The downside of this mining camp, though, was its lack of chimpanzees! The miners there love eating chimpanzee SO MUCH that most of the chimpanzees in close proximity to the mine have fled (or died) and little evidence remains of their presence. There were a lot of monkeys, but unfortunately, Olivier and Richard also found a LOT of hunters during their walks in the forest.

The next mines will be surveyed in January, and with luck I’ll be able to find conditions that can best exemplify my hypothesis.

Polycarpe tells me too that hunters and miners and fishermen alike all come, village-bound, during the holidays to celebrate with their families. But come January 2nd, it’s like a party in the forest, he says. There will be “no people on the roads, because they’ll all be hunting in the forest!”

So we shall see!!

The Issues of Money

Money becomes such a frustrating issue here, because, as referenced in previous entries, everyone assumes you have tons OF it and unless you are SUPER AWARE of every penny that leaves your hands and every penny that is SUPPOSED to return, you end up “losing” more money than you care to think of.

Take, for example, my most recent survey of the diamond and gold mine, Bodumbe.

I sent Olivier and Richard to check the conditions of the mining camp and check for evidence of chimpanzees in the surrounding forests. And of course, also to see what the state of hunting and chimp-eating there was there.

I gave them about $30 in money for food for 2 guys for a week (trust me, here, it’s actually a lot) in addition to $8 to get some fish, and some extra money for some very specific tasks.

Instead of being gone 10 days, they were only gone 6. So today, we did a wrap-up of the expenses. They gave me a little list of things they remembered spending, but in the end, there were 3000FC (~$6) unaccounted for.

They had NO idea where it went (kongolo) so I had to deduct it from their salaries.

And it makes me feel bad, because when they’re earning a dollar a day, deducting $3 is a LOT.

Another example -- when one buys unités (prepaid cellphone minutes) in CARD form, they are 800FC for 100 units. But when they send you the minutes using your number, without a card, it only costs 700FC for 100 units.

When I gave Seba 1600FC for 200 units today, and I received the units on my phone (instead of getting 4 cards), I had to ask for the 200FC difference.

I guess the resentment comes from having to ask. Of course, 200FC is a whopping 30 cents, but shouldn’t one enforce the principle of honesty? (and CHANGE!)

The Aketi 5 (Now Plus Aketi)

It might be confusing for some -- the name of the town here is Aketi and the fifth chimp confiscated is also called Aketi Kigoma, but often just Aketi, or “Detective Munch” or “Little Mister Mess Mess”

So, the Aketi 5 - our five little sanctuary chimpanzees in Aketi, now have a chimpanzee NAMED Aketi among their ranks!

It’s a somewhat standard sanctuary practice to name chimpanzees after their forest/location of origin, too. It is a potential confusing-name landmine!

But, as of this past Thursday, Aketi Kigoma is a part of our little sanctuary officially, having successfully finished his quarantine period and after having had a couple visits to the sanctuary to acquaint him with his fellow chimpanzees.

Aketi Kigoma is still friendly with Bolungwa, and likes playing with Django (that is, until Django starts playing too rough)

He hasn’t quite gotten the hang of Kathé, who is probably 4-5 times his size! But he was comfortable enough to spend the day there with me there on Thursday.

Of course, night came and he was so excited by the day’s events! He didn’t really want to go to bed even at 6 pm (way past his usual bedtime) so I went into the chimp house to lie down with him.

The chimp accommodations there aren’t quite as swank as they are at our house, since during quarantine he was given our second sleeping bag bunched up to sleep on. But the chimps at the sanctuary have Cleve’s old Thermarest, and are quite comfortable.

While there, I realized that there are things I take for granted in the house, away from the “forest” proper and there are so many things I don’t have to deal with!

Take for example the Invisibles -- a kind of teeny tiny bug that is literally nearly impossible to see 99% of the time. But they bite you, leaving huge red welts which then raise into SUPER HORRIBLY ITCHY BUMPS. If you recall my photos from Yoko Forest, when my chest and parts of my face and arms and feet were covered, those bites were from the Invisibles (whose name in English I am completely unaware of!)

The extra crappy side of the Invisibles is that they also carry FILARIA!! Which any doctor can tell you is evil, evil, evil. It can cause elephantitis (would you like to carry your body parts, still attached to you, in a wheelbarrow?) and also river blindness, both of which are unpleasant enough to make me not want to spend extended periods of time next to the river, camping!

Anyway, the point being that the forest where the sanctuary is nestled is FULL of invisibles at night, so, while lying on the ground with Aketi at night, waiting for him to fall asleep, they all ate me while I remained blithely unaware!

So now I am itchy, but content to discover that Aketi isn’t crying for me like he did the first time he woke up. I did manage to make the transition as painless as possible by waiting to leave when he was asleep, but a transition with a chimpanzee infant that small is never easy.

I’ll probably wait another 3 or 4 days before I return to the sanctuary, to give Aketi a chance to acclimate to the other guardians, but it feels a lot emptier here without him already!






Better Now!!!!!!

For all of you who have read that I was sick, from Laura's many blog entries detailing her worries, don't worry I am better. The main reason for the worry was we didn't know what it was exactly. At first, with the fever, we thought it might have been malaria. I took the malaria medicine, knowing that it would make me feel worse before better. It made me feel like crap, but not better. I then started taking antibiotics. I was then thinking the rash that I scratched at until bleeding on the back of my leg was bleeding got infected. Sure enough, that was it. It took a while for them to work and go up and down in my recovery. It was like taking three steps forward, then two steps back. Now, I am better. I have touch of diarrhea, but I am taking Immodium for that. Sometimes I get fatigued too. My fever is completely gone and I am no longer nauseated. I will take antibiotics for another day or two.

On other news, Olivier and Richard came back from their investigation of the mine. We found out the miners are dirty, promiscuous, diseased, eat chimps and monkeys and go into the forest a lot. However , there are no chimps near that mine. So we have to knock that one off the list for sample collection, but the data gathered there was very useful.

That about sums up my week. I know it was very pleasant but thats what it was. I'll write again soon with hopefully better news

Thursday, December 18, 2008

98.7º

Adam’s fever, after his morning dose of Ampicillin, is normal for the FIRST TIME in nearly 5 days! YAY!!

A Note About Calling On the Phone

Someone called us at MIDNIGHT last night! When I asked who it was in my nonsensical, sleep-groggled state, the person hung up!

I tried calling back and they hung up again!

I’m not sure whether I’ve been the victim of an international prank caller (sort of an expensive joke!), but all I could suss out from the conversation is that they’ve “read my blog”

So!, blog reader: Please remember that we are anywhere between 6 and 7 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, depending on Daylight Savings Time.

I think right now it’s 7 hours. Remember too that, without electricity, darkness is pretty lulling and that we do tend to go to sleep anywhere between 7 pm and 10pm. Usually closer to 7pm.

We’ll probably stay up later on Christmas, but overall, no more midnight phonecalls, please!

A Lack of Christmas Spirit

Finally, after four days of wondering and worrying and giving Adam a variety of drugs, hoping that something would work, we found that after giving him about 2500mg of Ampicillin twice a day, his fever has finally come down to 100º, which is 4º from what it was originally, and a whole TWO degrees from what it’s been hovering at for the last two days.

This news, is of course, great because I know for sure now that he’s actually getting better and that he’s not going to die here, in the relative middle of nowhere, on our tiny, smelly twin bed.

Being sick has its real penalties, though. And a lot of it has to do with being discouraged, and craving creature comforts like hot showers and air conditioning that couldn’t be farther from the realities of our happy and simple life here.
Which is entirely understandable. When I had malaria, I was nearly ready to throw in the towel and go home if only just to have that (false) sense of security.

So I understand when Adam hangs his head, tired and continually feverish, and I feel a good deal responsible for his suffering because he would not be here (and ergo sick) were it not for me.

And, while being tired and stressed when Adam was at his sickest, an official cornered Polycarpe on the road from the sanctuary, demanding to see our paperwork for the “legal detention of Congolese fauna.”

AKA -- where was the permission to have the Sanctuary/Rehabilitation Center? Or were we just a FRONT for FedExing chimpanzees to all those jerks in Indiana who keep coming to my blog via google searches for “pet chimps for sale”?

While we may be waiting for the eventual completion of the huge sanctuary in Kisangani, and may be waiting for some sort of paperwork here, everything is moving on Congolese Time and we have none of the above at the present moment.

The crazy part is that this is a “normal” routine in Congo-- this obsession with documentation and “legality” when, in fact, I have no idea where these countless pseudo-meticulous “fiches” go to.

Does paying some guy $17 in the middle of the jungle really make us any more legitimate?

And IF these environment guys were doing their jobs (and protecting the fauna of Congo), would we HAVE so many orphans to take care of?

Regardless, fighting with this super-portly leather-vest clad official, wearing his neatly pressed pants and his insanely buckled and Elf-like pointed toe shoes as he pranced from brick to brick in our front yard to avoid the mud, was not something I had the energy or inclination to do.

But it had to be done. Because it always has to be done, and it is my job and responsibility to do it.

How does one manage to preserve diplomacy, gentility, and more importantly, sanity, when yet another official arrives at your door, pushing his huge motorcycle, because he has automatically assumed that you will pony up for gasoline for his ride home?

It turns out that the inquiry into our legitimacy comes via letter from Kisangani, the home of the infamous FAT SHADY, which leads me to wonder whether this little foray into the land of More Tedious Bureaucracy isn’t in fact another one of his devious maneuvers.

***********

Adam and I did eventually conquer our blues yesterday, but we splurged and spent $3 on 2 Cokes. After not having drunk soda in so long, it tasted really funny (and pretty bad) but the sentiment was still intact. It does certainly help that, even though his fatigue remains, that his fever has diminished a little and that he feels less like death.

We might need to break out the big guns today -- and start watching the Christmas Yule Log DVD, which plays Christmas songs and has either a picturesque snow-covered cabin or a Fireplace burning.

That should get our Christmas fires burning!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Even Language Barriers Can Be Funny!

One day, I was home without Laura to be a translator. Our new friend,
Papa B, came to the house and he said something to me in French. Or
at least I *assume* it was French. It might have been Lingala!

I had no idea.

He seemed to be asking me for something for his ear. He was pointing
to his ears, and I was so confused!

So, I tried to use reason and be logical, and I went to the room and
got 2 Q-Tips.

And I gave them to him.

I can't tell whether the look on his face was that of confusion, or
satisfaction.

But regardless he then used the Q-Tips to clean his ears!

Can you imagine asking someone for something in a language they don't
know? When you get results, can you be disappointed if it's not what
you wanted?

Was he really asking for Q-Tips? I'll never know!

But all in all, it was funny and made Laura laugh a lot!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Gamut of Options

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, that there is nothing worse than watching a loved one suffer.

The longer Adam’s fever persists despite the malaria medication, the more I wonder if it’s not malaria after all, so I put on my impromptu doctor’s coat once again.

After he takes Tylenol, his fever diminishes and he sweats profusely, which, in an already hot climate, isn’t much fun at all. So I helped him take a warmish bath this morning and I looked at all of his scratched/mangled mosquito bites to see if any of them was infected, to see if I could determine an alternate cause of the fever.

There was one bite on the back of his leg that looked especially gory, so we decided in our two-person consensus that perhaps the fever was not malaria-related, but infection-related.

Understand that at any one point, Adam and I probably have a combined total of 100-200 mosquito bites so tracking down one that might be infected isn’t as easy or obvious as it sounds.

Even so, I’m trying my best to take care of Adam, and minimize his effort and of course his suffering. Tonight he’ll take the third dosage of the malaria medicine, but also continue on the ampicillin treatment he started this afternoon. If we treat enough symptoms, perhaps the actual disease will be conquered!

***********

He and I have been having extensive conversations about the kind of life we’d like to live when we get home, taking away from this experience already the importance of fresh foods and vegetables.

Thus while I heal Adam I’m also trying to better handle my stress, by, instead of eating or smoking, listening to music (a little Brandenburg Concerto) and devouring articles for my literature review. YES, MOM, I AM NOT SMOKING.

I cannot imagine my stress level at home could be higher than this is, so perhaps being able to minimize the effects here I can take that as a lesson to practice at home as well. Finding good things to take away from this time, where all I really want to do is wave some sort of magic wand to make Adam better -- that’s the goal.

Monday, December 15, 2008

So Sue Me, I'm Selfish

Because of Adam’s sickness and somewhat minimized language barrier, I’ve delayed Aketi’s official/formal introduction into the sanctuary until I can actually afford to leave the house all day to be at the sanctuary and feel comfortable with Adam home, alone.

It does, of course, lend me extra time with Detective Munch that I’m valuing greatly, though the additional responsibility and stress of taking care of the good Detective AND making sure Adam has everything he needs to recover is taxing to say the least, especially because where previously we had four eyes on the mischievous meanderings of Mister Munch, now there are only two!

We’ve learned to compromise, though, Detective Munch and I, where I’ll put him on my back, African-baby-style, and he’ll just come with me as I run all my errands around the house, from hanging out Adam’s sweaty towels to finding him changes of clothes to lugging huge buckets of warm water into the bathroom for his baths to pouring the water down the toilet for him because he is too busy, lying dizzy on the floor.

At night when I lie awake, sleeping in the tent to give Adam a little more comfort, listening for the sounds of Adam’s breathing, having the warm little body of Det. Munch by my side is reassuring. I’ll scratch his belly and he’ll laugh and laugh, and even when I am feeling dismal and doom-filled, I just have to think about him getting tangled in string while playing and falling down, laughing, or his face after eating tomato soup and it makes me smile.

It’s times like these (as opposed to times when he’s shrieking because I’ve left him alone for 3 minutes or pooping down the back of my pants while I’m pouring water or picking up other poops) -- where I’m extremely sad that he’s going to the sanctuary.

I know that his life there will be so different -- so much better in so many ways because he’ll actually get to play in the trees and with other chimps and not just dangle from the gate on our patio. But at the same time, he’ll probably get his food stolen, and with only three caregivers, it will be impossible for him to get the level of attention and security that he gets with two devoted full-time caregivers.

And there is, of course, a point where you love a baby and want the best for them but feel selfish and want them to stay close by and have what you, somewhat biasedly, consider “the best”.

All other internal conflicts aside, as soon as Adam is well Aketi/Mister Mess Mess/Detective Munch will go to the sanctuary and join his family there. And it will be different for him, and maybe sometimes upsetting (who else will tickle his belly before he goes to sleep?!) but I do strongly believe that it will be a more normal life for him.



The Owl

It isn’t the owl hooting that’s keeping me awake.

Nor is it the occasional twitching of the sleeping baby chimpanzee next to me, or the drip drip sound of water as the thick fog condenses on our shifty tin roof.

It’s the feel of the skin of the person next to me.

It isn’t warm... it’s HOT.

I think about getting up to get the thermometer, but the thought of what it might tell me will be more worrying than reassuring. It’s the same fever Adam has had for a day, but it feels much worse and all that it will mean for him, and for US, is that it hasn’t gone away, but gotten worse and that we still aren’t sure what its cause is.

I feel sort of like Dr. House at times like this. Without a real means for diagnosis, we tend to just administer drugs and hope that one of them does the trick.

Yesterday, I gave Adam Tylenol and it did diminish the fever. We used this as an excuse to think it wasn’t malaria, since his previous encounter with malaria didn’t respond to Tylenol at all. Anything to avoid having to give him the quinine again!

We thought perhaps it was another infection, so even after examining all of his mosquito bites and scrapes and finding nothing, we still gave him some Ampicillin.

Later in the day when his appetite disappeared, we thought it might be amoebas again, so we administered more Metronidazole.

At 1 am this morning, however, as the irrational parts of me feared that Adam might boil from the inside out, we decided it was time and bit the bullet and gave him the malaria medicine.

He had had some very weird and vivid dreams in the intervening hours before the malaria medicine, which is really one of the only definitive malaria symptoms that we can really establish out here.

With a combination of tylenol and malaria medicine, Adam’s fever is down from 104.6º to 99º, so I can only hope that the trend continues.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Aketi's First Trip to the Sanctuary

Aketi’s quarantine period was officially over as of the 11th, but it was important just to check him for a few additional days after his bout with amoebas.

Plus, it gave us a chance to take his integration into the Aketi Five Community a little slowly -- in fact, yesterday, before his official “move” date, I thought it would behoove me to bring him over to the sanctuary to get to know his new “brothers and sisters”.

I wanted his final integration day to perhaps be a little less new and scary, and additionally, it gave me a chance to go to the sanctuary again. Since Aketi came to the house, it really wasn’t wise for me to go, since i interact with Aketi so often and he’s in “quarantine,” so going to the sanctuary would really defeat the purpose.

Taking Aketi to the sanctuary was going to be no easy task, since he’d be coming with me, and the last thing I wanted was for the whole village to see a white lady parading around with a chimpanzee. Next thing you know, they’ll be the biggest rage! (as if they aren’t already in the US, according to the Google hits I get on the blog)

So, we decided to go on the moto with Seba, and I wore one of Adam’s sweatshirts and zipped Aketi up into the inside of it, with me! He didn’t struggle as i thought he might. Instead, he just pressed in close to me and went to sleep!

I don’t know whether the village noticed him inside the sweatshirt, or thought that I was hugely fat(ter) or megaboobalicious, but no one said anything. Except, of course, “MONDELE! MONDELE!” (the Lingala for “whitey”)

Once at the sanctuary, we drove right up to past the second barricade and the three chimps - Kathé, Bolungwa, and Django Mayanga all ran out, wondering what was going on!

Man, they seemed HUGE by comparison to little Aketi, when just a month ago they had seemed so small! Kathé especially just seemed monstrously huge, and was already upset that I wasn’t paying her the proper amount of attention upon arrival, whereupon she bit me hard on the middle right finger.

The irony does not escape me, with Kathé, that I could lose a finger to a chimpanzee who does not even have any of her top teeth!

The chimps were all SO curious to see what was under my sweatshirt, and Aketi seemed relatively nonplussed. I did also see Mangé there, and, while he’s not really socializing a lot with the others, he did seem more mellow.

I sat at the bench and let things just unwind slowly. Bolungwa, usually shy and hesitant about coming over, came right over and stared me in the face, looking at me and then at my zipper expectantly until I unzipped completely to reveal little Aketi!

Django was once again jealous (like he had been with Mangé) and attempted the coward’s revenge: smacking Aketi and then fleeing and hiding.

Kathé was much more interested in playing with me, and then, when I seemed more willing to groom her, to have me continue grooming her.

Aketi remained by my side, with Bolungwa to our left and Kathé to our right.

Eventually without being forced, Aketi came down to the ground and started playing with Bolungwa. She seemed to enjoy his company already, and he had been looking for someone to play with while in quarantine, so it seemed a perfect match.

And of course, for the bleeding heart of anthropomorphizing and empathizing and cooing like 30-something women at new babies, they hugged each other so tight, and when Aketi finally broke the embrace, Bolungwa made sad little cooing noises until he returned and they started to hug again!

It did become a bit of a miscommunication, as Bolungwa wanted to just hug all day and Aketi was keen on playing, but they would find suitable compromises, running around after one another in endless loops and circles, and ending the bout with a hug.

Of course, being the littlest of a group of five doesn’t always mean hugging and playing and cuteness.

Bolungwa, convinced of the depth of their friendship, naturally assumed that Aketi would share his banana with her. When a squabble broke out, breaking the banana in half and sending them on another running-playing-hugging cycle, Kathé surreptitiously wandered over and collected both banana halves and ate them up as quickly as she possibly could.

After about 4 hours, Aketi seemed utterly tired and things at the sanctuary were winding down. Additionally, I knew my mother would be calling soon and the danger of pulling anything out at the sanctuary is that some chimp there will steal it!
Even so, Kathé managed to snatch money from inside my pocket, and it was only because I surprised her catching on so quickly that I managed to wrestle it back out of her greedy hands!

We returned back to the house, once again hiding Aketi inside the sweatshirt until finally we arrived home to find him contentedly sleeping inside the sweatshirt against me.

***************************

When he finally woke up, seeing Aketi by himself, playing in the house seemed strange. It seemed so natural to watch him frolicking around with the others, and so unnatural to watch him find entertainment in climbing the porch gate or playing with the motorcycles on the patio.

I had hoped ot make today his second visit and try to get him to spend the night there tonight, but I’m no longer sure about leaving the house today for so long now that Adam is so sick.

But it certainly is tough, watching him alone while Adam is incapacitated!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Without Even Knowing It!

Adam and I actually both slept through the night last night -- perhaps we were both so exhausted that our bodies gave up!

The funny part was waking up with Aketi suckling the skin between my torso and my arm as though it were a nipple. He left me a hickey!

But he had managed to come into the bed with us without us waking up at all. We’ve been spoiling him a little extra of late, and we let him stay, because we know that it might be one of our last nights with him!

We’ll take him over to the sanctuary to join Kathé, Django Mayanga, Bolungwa, and Mangé on Monday. If he’s doing really well there, we’ll let him spend the night there, but we’re taking it slowly ... Malembe, malembe (in Lingala).

Still, after tonight, that’s only 2 or 3 more nights, and I am already sure that our twin bed will feel huge without a little hairy bedhog sprawled in the middle of it!

...Okay, well, maybe not huge.

Aketi Discovers Spaghetti

To try and diversify the foods he eats, Aketi usually gets to have a
little of whatever we are having for lunch or dinner, since often
we're eating local fruits and vegetables that grow in the wild too!
Sometimes, though, we splurge and Aketi discovered the deliciousness
of spaghetti this week. He was hilarious to watch as he shoved noodles
into his mouth. What a mess he was! (and usually is while eating)

Of course, he got SO caught up in eating that he forgot he needed to
pee, and started going right NEXT to the plate of spaghetti, and even
IN it! Oh no!!

*****************************************************
Disclaimer: Chimpanzees shown here are not pets, nor should they be
considered as such. Chimpanzees are wild animals that belong in the
forest, and the pet trade fuels a vicious cycle of wild chimpanzee
slaughter and abuse. Chimps shown here are orphans and must be taken
care of in a sanctuary environment that mimics as best it can the
natural environment of chimpanzees and attempts to minimize the trauma
already inflicted on the infants.

Chimpanzees do NOT make good pets. They are wild animals, unmanageable
in a domestic setting, strong and willful and dangerous. For more
information, please visit:

http://www.hsus.org/wildlife/issues_facing_wildlife/should_wild_animals_be_kept_as_pets/fact_and_fiction_monkeys_and_apes_as_pets.html

Lola Na Mwindo

12/8

When it finally rained after many weeks without a drop (dry season),
it really unleashed quite a fury of clouds and lightning and thunder.
Even though it was only 3 in the afternoon, you can see how dark and
foreboding the sky was!

What a storm!

Poondoo (With Rice)

Part TWO of the What We Eat, Live! Series. This is poondoo -- a
spinach-like green leafy veggie that reminds Adam a lot of Saag
(Palak). It's pretty yummy, but sometimes it causes unfortunate
poondoorea too!

Two Different Worlds!

Adam teaches karate in the garden, and Detective Munch plays on the
(caged) veranda!

The funniest things happen, too. For example, during forms when the
whole class cries out, so does Detective Munch!!

Dead Monkeys Abound

While Adam was teaching karate, I spotted a woman heading down the
road with this huge guenon dangling from the back of her bike. She
was stopping to gawk at the karate lesson, so I took the opportunity
to run outside and take a photo. She was super proud of her "catch"!

Religious Olivier

Every day that Olivier goes to "church" (Islamic Mosques are still
inexplicably call "l'eglise" here in French) he wears this white
"dress" which I am amazed stays white!! Even in the mud!

Beans Beans (Musical Fruit)

Olivier's beans are some of the best, but here is part of our series
of WHAT WE EAT, Live!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cold Food on Christmas!

We decided perhaps that our staff would appreciate the day off on Christmas, so Olivier is going to cook us some Christmas food on Christmas Eve and we’ll just eat it cold on Christmas Day.

We WILL however be holly and jolly, having moved our Internet Day from December 28th to December 25th! Yay!

And if anyone would like to call us and wish us a Merry Christmas, we are 7 hours ahead of you on the East Coast!

Our cellphone number is:

+243992288216.

I think the + represents 011 in the US, but just check with your operator, if such a thing exists anymore.

243 is our country code, and it is free for us to receive any calls, even international calls!

We’d love to hear from anyone who wants to call and say hi!

Infantalism and the Congolese Condition

Nothing is worse than being a whitey project manager and worrying about money. Your staff doesn’t ever think about money, except when they want some, but you are are always expected to have some.

Lots of it. Of course you have food to spare, and money, and cigarettes and gas! Everyone asks. And when you say “No,” the inevitable reply is “Why?”

Why indeed? I recall my time in Goma as being especially cheap -- I think I lived for 3 months on $700. But I wasn’t paying salaries with the same money I used to live on, and I had no gas costs (which seem to be particularly expensive).

What seems amazing is that we can employ 8 people and pay their salaries, feed them AND five chimps daily for $800 a month.

So why do other things seem to cost so much money?

Aside from money, the frustrating aspect is that I’m not only looked to for management, but like a father/mother. Because I pay their salaries I must also want to care for them completely and for all of their children.

Things that would be unheard of in the US are completely expected here. When Olivier and Seba moved house, I had to pay for wash basins and lamps for them. When their flashlights die, we’re expected to buy new ones.

There is no insurance, but when an employee is sick, we are expected to pay for their medicine and hospital bills.

Frustratingly though, today, Papy, our former security guard at the sanctuary and newest chimpanzee guardian came by to tell me that his son was gravely ill. I asked him to talk to Polycarpe (mostly because he doesn’t speak a lick of French).

He was hoping/expecting that we would pay his son’s hospital bills. And this is, of course, his second day in his new position. Oh, and on his way around to the back of the house, he said, bluntly, “Adamu! Cigarette!”

No “please” -- no “s’il vous plait” and to me it just embodies this generalized HandOut culture here. Of course it isn’t a blanket statement applying to all Congolese, but for the most part, the Belgians left here a sense of infantalism that seems to still be pervasive today, 50 years after the Belgians left.

I told Papy that he did indeed earn a good salary, and that if I pay for every thing that comes up in his life, what in the world is his salary for?

(I should mention to that, in addition to a salary, each employee receives money for food daily, so salary isn’t going to food.)

I’d eliminated the advance policy previously in place here, mostly because I can’t imagine another scenario where people get money for work they haven’t yet done. Even so, the first pay period I instituted I was asked for an advance by a certain employee, pleading the need to “send money to his family.” Of course, the next day when salaries were doled out, he went out and bought new pants and new shoes.

Anyway, I digress. I told Papy he could have an advance to help his son, and that I was very sorry, and he gave me this very sour look. I will mention too, that in the time it took me to get money changed from dollars to francs, he just sat in our house, not visiting his son in the hospital or going back to work, but just hanging out.

He got his advance, but he gave me this incredibly sour look that I wasn’t just vomiting money up for whatever cause he desired. Even worse, one of our other employees started giving me a bad attitude, shooting me accusing looks.

Yet I maintain that I am in the right -- and what’s worse, my normal stance in situations like this is to try and not take things to heart and too seriously, and to try and smile and relax and just do what I can. Even if I paid Papy’s son’s doctor a million dollars, it wouldn’t make his son any less sick.

While trying to relax in the yard though and let Detective Munch run around in the grass and chase the chickens, though, I felt judged for smiling and relaxing. Why was I not serious!? It’s a problem I’ve felt here before, and I feel this pressure to be serious and dire all the time might just kill me! (or make me prematurely white-haired).

I think it should be telling enough that in Lingala, there seems to be no word for “funny.” There are SO many scenarios here that are just laughably ridiculous, and there is a word for “sadness”, and a word for “hardship”, but no word for “funny”!!?!

All one needs to see is Adam, stopping through the yard in flip flops, hollering at the goats and chasing them out of garden where they are eating all of our herbs and poondoo, and one would know right away that there needs to be a word for funny.

They did plague me for a good part of today, the parts of me that needed a mental health break and the parts of me that wanted to be reverent in times of “crisis” before I realized that, in the last nearly 3 months here, there seems to be a constant state of Potential-Crisis-Possible-Frenzy and that, were I to pull a hair out every time things got a little crazy here, I’d be bald already!

I worked really hard this week -- in fact, many fewer blog entries since I used all of my computer battery power to work on my literature review and my modified permissions for my research -- and I deserved a little respite, dammit!

A New House - Update

Finally, today, after our demand, we received a “formally” typed response telling us that in 14 days, they would come by to show us houses, and thanking us for our patience.

Patience indeed!

Kids in Adult Bodies

There were not too many new exciting things this week. The exciting things are happening next week. First with Olivier and Richard going to the forest to start Laura's research. Then, us getting our new bed and finally, Aketi will be going to the sanctuary.

As for the subject of today's blog. It has to deal with almost everyone in the Congo, with the exception of a few. The view of self-sufficiency is quite different here. A lot of people will see you and notice that you are white or from the first world. They assume that you have tons of money and will ask for a hand out, saying they are hungry or they need something. There is part of me that wants to give to them, but I shouldn't. Why? If you give to one person, the whole village will come looking for a hand-out and will come repeatedly. This might sound cold, but this is a country of infantalism. The phenomenon where people are treated like infants, no matter their age. They are then expected to act so. This is the state the Belgian Empire left the Congo in 1960. After this, no one really came to help and there have been two civil wars since. Where people would rather guilt you into charity than work for it. Like I said, there are exceptions to the rule, such as our staff.

I didn't want to paint a completely sad picture of Congo's people. These are people who need foreign help, and not just some shitty workers form the UN who only get drunk and sleep with prostitutes. These are people who need education and birth control. Also, guidance from uncorrupted hands.

I say the people are like children because they are xenophobic, look only for the material thing and don't know how to handle their emotions rationally. This is mostly found in people in government and positions of power and influence.

Despite all of this, I hope that one day this country can learn that it can be proud of its resources. A country of conversation, since it is home to the world's only population of okapis and last great chimpanzee culture. I hope its a dream that will come true.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Grand Espionage

Quelle evennement!

One would imagine that the drama of two weeks ago (was it really two weeks ago?) was over, but it doesn’t seem to be quite yet, and, in fact, it becomes more sordid by the day!

An employee NOT involved in the Great Tin Affair of 2008 was sent to work on a project in another town but did not, in fact, go to that town as instructed.

Instead, he consorted with FS for two weeks and got drunk and told him all of our secrets!

“What can you expect,” said Polycarpe, wisely, “he probably drank so much there he couldn’t help but vomit up lies!”

It’s like a bad detective novel with less fine ladies in furs and more cackling two-faced drunken weasels!



Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Three Neighbour Babies

It never fails to amaze me how little children can be content with. I recall being a child and watching television and wanting everything I saw. Obviously there is no television here, but I will take into special notice our three neighbour children.

Our neighbourhood seems FULL of children, and while about 7 of them walk into our yard from the same general direction on the same path and seem to know one another very well, I’m not actually sure which of these children belong to the woman who also lives in that direction.

Three I’m sure are hers, though they all look quite different from one another and all seem to be under the age of 4. They wander into our yard in various states of undress and stick their tongues out at us and smile when we return the gesture.

We don’t know their names at all, so we call them Big Bellybutton Baby, Big Smile Baby, and Big P Baby.

They are generally dressed in rags and are completely unattended. Their pants are more holes than pants, and Big Bellybutton Baby’s huge bellybutton protrudes extremely from her ratty, tattered and filthy Winnie the Pooh adult t-shirt, which she wears as a dress.

But none of these children seem unhappy in the least. In fact, they seem EXTREMELY happy with the littlest of things -- they paraded around the yard two nights ago banging a dirty white bucket and laughing.

Big Smile Baby’s favorite toy is a doll torso -- literally, a plastic white doll baby with no arms, legs or head. But he loves it!

As cute and as endearing as these children are, their utter unattendedness -- whether in regular mothering or proximity of mother or the logical next step -- medical care -- still keeps us from letting them anywhere near the chimps.

We watch them “cutely” stick their heads into the well, “adorably” poop in the front yard and “lovably” scratch their heads with knives they find in and around the kitchen area. I’m amazed that the worst condition they seem to have acquired is the one with the huge bellybutton (and no, it is not just an overlong umbilical cord).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Regularity

We have such a routine here; the same collection of foods every day, and every week. The same weather every day. Watching Aketi play during the day and making sure he doesn’t eat anything dangerous. Running the generator every other night. Pulling out the laptops to work (or in Adam’s case, play Techmo Super Bowl on his NES emulator). Picking up chimp poop. Hiding from mosquitos under the net at night. Drinking water.

Some of these things are soothing in their regularity, though others are a bit numbing.

There are some, however, that just make me smile. My mom calls me every Sunday at 10 am her time, and we talk for a half an hour and I hear about all the snow in Ohio! I love looking forward to that.

Sundays are email days, and it’s so thrilling to wonder what wonderful emails will be waiting for me, since I really don’t have the bandwidth to check Facebook or Livejournal and discover people’s news the indirect way.

Even going on Facebook for the first time in a month yesterday was bizarre, because it was a reminder that life at home never pauses, even when you’re unaware of what’s going on.

Cleve and I have plans to talk on Mondays, and waiting for a phonecall in and of itself is exciting!

Even waiting for the man with the key to the new houses has become routine.

Perhaps it’s just after the rainstorm last night, but everything feels cleaner, and fresher and happier.

Oh, and speaking of regular, Aketi finally pooped! Yay!

And the Rain Came Down

Let no one say that nature is ever half-assed here. Because it may be the dry season, but man did the rain come down last night!

During the day, despite the constant grumbling in the sky, the impending rain actually brought a noticeable cool to the air. The wind was chilly, and Adam even said “Ooo, I’m cold!!”

But there was no rain! So we waited and waited.

Finally, around 5 o’clock, right after Olivier had gone out in his white dress to fetch us pineapple for the next day’s breakfast, the sky became suddenly DARK!

I’ll upload pictures on Sunday but really, it was just beautiful...

The wind was whipping up a frenzy and the birds had all gone silent. Everyone on the road had suddenly vanished -- people knew what was coming and Seba asked to go home early to avoid the rain.

“Uh oh,” said Adam, “I hope the power doesn’t go out!”

It literally took me two beats before I realized what he had said and we laughed and laughed and laughed.

When the rain finally did come, it came like a wave, sounding like the surf as the combined sounds of every leaf being splashed and every tin roof being hit just swelled together.

The lightning was fierce, at one point hitting so close to us that not only was the thunder loud enough to make me shriek and to shake the house, but we could see the residue of the lightning in the sky; it looked like a sliver of fire, crackling and orange!

The especially nice part about huge rainstorms like that is their ability to keep the mosquitos at bay -- with drops that big, mosquitos don’t dare to fly out into the night to bite us!

And we sat, sitting on the back stoop, huddled together for warmth, watching the lightning and listening to the rain. And the rain, in turn, washed everything away.

Amoebes (The Worried Mother)

Even if it’s not your own child, when someone you are caring for is sick, the worries nibble at you ever so slowly so that you don’t notice them until ahh! Your whole left big toe has been consumed!

Such is the way with Aketi and amoebas. Adam’s “sickness” went away after a day of Metronidazole. But Aketi’s diarrhea got worse, so much so that last night, the second day of thrice-daily dosage, I gave him only 2 doses.

Some of his “outputs” seemed solid and normal, but some were so runny they were hardly distinguishable from pee.

As opposed to the first day of his sickness, when he was sleepy and lethargic and not-hungry, Aketi has been bouncing around, hungry, active, and lively.

Yet still, since yesterday’s runs, Aketi hasn’t gone poop! For a little chimpanzee who poops as often as he does, this feels very troubling! It’s already 11 am, and he usually poops in our room in the night, but he didn’t last night.

It’s not for lack of eating; he’s eaten a ton, both today and yesterday! He’s still excited about food and as snatchy as ever.

But why isn’t he pooping?

I look skeptically at this medicine, METAZOL, that once again has an endlessly long and Engrish-tastic explanation of side effects and uses. It was manufactured in India in 2006 but says it will last until 2009. It is advertised as being

Colour: Sunset Yellow
Flavour: Mix Fruit

Though the color could be described as nothing less than Grainy Tang and the flavor Adam described as “licking the floor of the children’s ward at the hospital”.

I will continue to watch him and assess his progress -- though the rational part of me knows that he will probably be alright, the panicky mother part of me has these visions of death and horror!

Oh, and for the medically inclined,

Composition:
Each 5 ml. contains Metronidazole Benzoate BP equivalent to Metronidazole 125mg and he was getting doses of 2.5ml

Literature Review in the Bush

I never imagined that, when I printed out all of the articles I intended to include in the Literature Review of my thesis, that I would have to trick my computer into extending the battery while I highlighted, made notes, and cited articles that I hoped to download once I was back in the States.

But man, it’s tough! When you’ve got a WHOLE lot of things to write on the computer, and you rely on a generator to charge up your computer battery, and the gas for the generator costs at least $3/liter!

I am contemplating becoming a L’Essentrepreneur in December when I send Seba to Kisangani to renew mine and Adam’s passport visas... I mean, gas is SO much less expensive there! I could use the generator so much more!

Think of all of the work I could get done!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

And It All Came Tumbling Down

It’s quite amusing, though also terrible, but the huge sanctuary in Kisangani is on hiatus right now, because, I’m told, the only cement factory in this part of Congo collapsed in on itself.

So now, there is no cement, so no road, and no construction.

D’oh!

I'm the Bed, He's the Toilet

For some reason, Aketi just loves to sleep on me. At night, when it’s time to go to bed, he jumps all around, playing with Adam. But when he sits on me... ZONK. Sleeping.

Today, while we ran the group after Adam’s karate lesson (we were too tired to run it last night) and did our internet things, Aketi fell fast asleep on my lap. And MAN are little chimps WARM and HEAVY. Especially during the day when it’s already warm and there’s so little breeze!

So I pass him over to Adam after about an hour.

He wakes up briefly, heads back to bed, then blinks his eyes... and pees, all over Adam. Adam gets up, rushing to pull at least Aketi’s body apart from his to get the pee to go to the floor -- and not his chest! It’s a neat trick Adam does, that I’ll hopefully be able to snap a photo of one day!

But instead, Aketi isn’t just peeing! He’s pooping too! Haha!



Congolese Time

It is pretty funny out here in the Congo. Mostly doing with time. I have a group of students that take karate with me. I told them one day to come at 3 PM. They showed up after 4, after I was done teaching. So I told them to come in three days. They didn't even show up. So then when they did come, I told them to come today between 9 AM and 10AM. They showed up at 8 AM?!! At least they showed up today.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Aketi vs. Goma

At the risk of this breaking the format of the blog (and sucking major
bandwidth), Adam and I thought it might behoove us to do a quick
geography lesson of Congo. While we appreciate people's concerns
about us with regard to affairs in Goma (red star) -- a favored topic
of NPR and other drastically woe-ridden news agencies -- Goma is
*extremely far away* from us. We're estimating over 500 miles from us
(yellow pushpin)!

That's around a 9 hour *drive* on a clean, well-made American road.
Here, it would probably take someone a month to get from Goma to
Aketi. Giving us plenty of time to hide our valuables in our
underpants.

We will not forget to mention either that the major roads in Congo run
mostly perpendicularly - Kinshasa-Kisangani-Aketi. There are
absolutely no roads that go Aketi-Goma. Or even Buta-Goma!

So worry not. I promise, if you SHOULD worry, we will tell you.
Hehe. But for right now, we are safe, happy, and hot and sweaty!

Learning Lingala is Delicious

I feel like Cleve would be so proud of me, but a girl came up to the house today selling bananas door-to-door (there are a lot of girls like this, who carry big trays of things on their heads for sale), and I said to her, in Lingala, “How much” and she replied, in Lingala, “3 are 20 francs.” I THEN said, in Lingala “We will take 100 francs worth”

And now we have 15 delicious fresh bananas to eat! All three of us (Adam, myself, and Detective Munch) are so happy with my Lingala skills!!

The Man With the Key?!

Don’t hold your breath, but we have been told that we are getting the keys from the man with the key today and will be able to go and look at houses at TEN today!

When I was told yesterday, Papa B told me 9 am, and I said, “Real 9 am or Congolese 10 am?” and he laughed and said “10 am! Really!”

So, 10 am it is. Will keep updating!

A Quiet Day

Sometimes, at night, when Aketi is sleeping and sprawled, he is illuminated by only the light of our LCD crank-lantern, and only his pale skin reflects the light. You can’t see how hairy he is, and he could just as well be a little human!

Last night it rained fiercely, one of the scarce rainstorms during the dry season. We awoke this morning to two sickies -- Aketi and Adam both seem to have amoebas. Surprise surprise!

Of course, Aketi complains less than Adam does but Adam also doesn’t poop in my lap.

We sent Seba out to the pharmacy to get some WORMEX for Adam, and I gave Aketi some metronidazole that was in the house from a previous chimpanzee’s infection.

It’s always a worry, giving medicine to chimpanzees here but one just has to make due. I thought perhaps the medicine was old, and might have gone bad, and the last time I administered medicine to chimpanzees I had an eyedropper that indicated number of CCs.

But we plodded ahead anyway, using a spoon and having Adam hold Aketi’s hands (to prevent him from once again flinging medicine in my face) while I pried his mouth open to pour the tiniest bit in.

Aketi is the smallest ward I’ve ever had, which makes me somewhat nervous because I know how precarious his health could be. It’s quite amazing that little chimpanzees can compromise as well as they do -- in the wild, they’d be having almost nothing but milk until the age of three, but here, Aketi contents himself by eating bread and veggies and bananas and drinking water and milk.

Other times, however, Adam and I are both so aware of what he lost, and of how recently it was that he had a real mother and a normal chimpanzee life. He’ll wake up sometimes in the night, desperately searching for a nipple.

Two nights ago, inexplicably, he got up in the night and went tearing across the house, making the “momma” call repeatedly and searching for something that obviously wasn’t there. It’s times like that which make me particularly sad, because as much as we can do for Aketi in making him happy and well-adjusted, there are some things we can never give back to him.

In the meantime, we’re taking it easy today and Aketi is fast asleep on his little bed. Adam and I are sitting next to him, keeping ourselves busy and listening to Christmas music. The rain cooled things down, and it feels peaceful!

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Demand, A Demand!

Yesterday, our friend the official, Papa B, came by to help us make our “demand” to another man who has access to houses for rent.

For some reason, in order to look for houses, we had to write this official letter to a man whose name we did not even know. It seemed to be the most superfluous, repetitive thing I have ever seen or been party to in my life. Excerpts (translated from French) with relevant names omitted

OUR FOUNDATION NAME, Aketi

Objective: To find a house for rent in Aketi

To: Mister Director of AGENCY, Aketi

Dear Mister Director,

We would like your help in finding a house to rent in Aketi. We are currently in Aketi working with OUR FOUNDATION NAME and we are looking for another house in Aketi. We have been told that you and AGENCY can help us find a house to rent in Aketi.

Thank you so much.

Laura
OUR FOUNDATION NAME



I wish I was joking or exaggerating! But it is apparently “necessary” in order to have permission to get the key from the man who has the key. So, we wrote it up and it has be submitted! Cross your fingers!

It's Not What It Looks Like

Prone (+2 to Attack)

Adam is conquered by the tiniest, hairiest of foes! But he doesn't
seem at all unhappy about it!

Disclaimer: Chimpanzees shown here are not pets, nor should they be
considered as such. Chimpanzees are wild animals that belong in the
forest, and the pet trade fuels a vicious cycle of wild chimpanzee
slaughter and abuse. Chimps shown here are orphans and must be taken
care of in a sanctuary environment that mimics as best it can the
natural environment of chimpanzees and attempts to minimize the trauma
already inflicted on the infants.

Chimpanzees do NOT make good pets. They are wild animals, unmanageable
in a domestic setting, strong and willful and dangerous. For more
information, please visit:

http://www.hsus.org/wildlife/issues_facing_wildlife/should_wild_animals_be_kept_as_pets/fact_and_fiction_monkeys_and_apes_as_pets.html

The Last Coke in Town

I've written before about the limited availability of items here, so
here is Adam, with the VERY LAST COKE in ALL of Aketi! After having
amoebas this week and seeing his dinner twice (if you get my meaning)
he was dying for a soda. So, we asked for two, and ended up with the
very last one!

The Toupée Chicken and Its Offspring, Baby Toupée

I've noticed this "breed" of chicken in Congo -- hens that look very
much like they are wearing a toupée (and sort of a neckerchief/
ascot)! It makes me laugh, mostly because I think of my dear friend
Lauren, laughing at a commercial in the US of a duck in a wig.

To me, a chicken in a toupée is equally hilarious, as is the fact that
its infants are also sporting mops!!

Gaboon Viper!

Here is the headless snake that Adam wrote about in the blog, with
Polycarpe holding it! Beya, Seba's girlfriend, was getting on the
motorcycle to leave and started screaming! Olivier beat the snake
with a stick and then cut off its head with a machete.

Then, they took the body home, cooked it, and ate it!

Nothing goes to waste! But for the animal lovers out there, the
gaboon viper is one of the deadliest snakes there is. I'm told that,
if it bites you, you would probably die within 20 minutes!

Our Bathroom

Someone asked me what our bathroom and bathing facilities were like,
so, this is it.

That tub is actually connected to drainage, but has no means of water
input. In that huge black tank is lots of (freezing cold) water that
we use to pour down the toilet bowl to "flush" it. The bottom of the
tub doesn't really have any lacquer left, so it's not very
comfortable, or clean, to sit in, but it's still a nice place to get
clean and feeling clean always feels good!

Wicked Karate Lesson!

Adam is teaching the local kids some great karate, and they are so
eager to learn! Amazingly, one of the kids in the village already
knew Taegot 1!
Nearly every day, (at any time) kids come by and say "Karate sikoyo?"
*(Karate now?) The classes just keep getting bigger and bigger!

Thanksgiving Dinner!

Our worst and best day -- Thanksgiving. But we still all sat around
together, with flowers that Dido brought and smiles all around, and
dug into our HUGE meal!

Why is it always a Man with a Key?

We had this constant joke in Uganda about the man with the key. It always seems in some parts of Africa, whenever you have a task that needs to be accomplished, that there is a man with a key that is necessary to accomplish this task, and he is missing.

In Uganda, when we were tiling the floors of the bedrooms at the Chimp House, the tilers came, on the scheduled day, with all of the cement and all of the tiles, but none of the tools and told me, grim expressions on their faces, that they could not begin work.

Of course, the man with the key to the room with all of their tools was “gone.” Considering at the time we were rushing to finish before Debby got home, it was especially annoying, but it wasn’t the last time!

When leaving Goma and staying in Gisenyi at the Kivu Sun, I went for a super early morning swim, and had to endure the freezing cold mountain-lake air afterwards, because there were no towels available. The man with the key to the towel cabinet was “gone.”

And now, here we sit, waiting, for another man with a key.

Which, hopefully, will be retrieved today!

If anyone wants a funny look at the life here, Dr. Ian Clarke, a nifty friend I met in Uganda, wrote a book called, conveniently, “The Man With the Key Has Gone.”
I’d definitely recommend checking it out!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Integration of Mangé

Integration of another chimpanzee into a pre-established group is always tricky, but does tend to be easier when the chimpanzees are all as young as the Aketi Five are.

Still, when it comes to the integration of a chimpanzee with as obvious social deficiencies as Mangé, it’s always going to be a challenge.

Troubling too was the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to be present at the integration, since my responsibilities to Aketi Kigoma left me stuck at the house.

Regardless, I have excellent faith in Polycarpe, even if his patience as a chimp mother was noticeably absent during Mangé’s last month at the house. So off he went on the back of the moto with Seba, and Seba recorded it all on video for me to watch later.

It strikes me as remarkable that one of one species can be so utterly afraid of others from his own species. That Mangé felt more at ease with Polycarpe than he did with other chimpanzees is a troubling statement, but one we had to try to counteract nonetheless.

I might consider being afraid too at first especially when all three chimpanzees at the sanctuary -- Kathé, Bolungwa and Django Mayanga, all descended upon Mangé at once, curious to see who had arrived!

As he fled and the three followed, Djodjo did eventually intervene and collect Mangé from the ground, though he continued to scream.

Djodjo sat with Mangé and the most remarkable thing happened. Django Mayanga came in to jealously swat at Mangé (he has enjoyed thus far being the “baby” of the sanctuary), Kathé, the biggest chimp there (a female) came running over to Mangé’s rescue, chasing Django away while beating him.

It gives me such hope that perhaps Mangé can form normal chimpanzee bonds with the others!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gruesome, but Interesting!

A guy came by the house yesterday, hearing that we were interested in
stories about chimpanzees and chimpanzee slaughter. This man is one
of many who carry a camera around and charge $1 a photo. They finish
the roll, get the film developed (though who the hell knows WHERE) and
bring the photo to the person who bought it. I guess it's good work,
and they get to take a lot of interesting pictures!

This photo, however, is a bit on the macabre side. These three men
have just shot and killed a red-tailed guenon and this big chimpanzee
and are showing off! "Look! Dead primates! Yay! Picture Time!"

Some things I might never understand...

12-2-08

Wildlife in the Congo

Well lets start off with the surprise. About two nights ago, one of our employee's girlfriend was about to go home for the evening and was about to leave our residence on a motorcycle with her driver. As she lets she let out a terrible scream. I ran out side to see what was the commotion. When I got there, I saw the headlights of the motorcycle fixed on a snake on the ground, and our cook beating it with a huge stick. They weren't sure if it was dead so they started to poke it. I, being safely far away from this, suggested they get a machete and cut off its head. After they cut off its head, they held up the body and I took photos. The scary thing was the snake was a gaboon viper, one of the deadliest snakes in the world. If it bites you, you would be dead in 20 minutes without medical attention. Well, after the workers killed the snake, they took it home and ate it. Nothing goes to waste here in the DRC.

The other thing that is going on is our chimp, Aketi, a.k.a. Det. Munch. Nothing says good morning than having a baby chimp smear banana across your bare chest at 6:30 in the morning. Also, when he wants to climb up r down on me, he will grab onto anything. Body hair flesh and “other” parts. IT can be painful being a surrogate parent to a chimp, but his cute face make it worth it.

Happiness, in Perspective

I realized recently that a lot of the recent entries have been negative, but I thought I’d share a conversation that Adam and I had recently.

He said, “Had you known that there would be all of this hassle and stress and bureaucracy, would you have still wanted to come?”

And I, after thinking it over, said, “Yes. You?”

Adam too said “Yes.”

So “Yes.” Things may be difficult now, but the worst seems to be blowing over and overall, our everyday lives here are peaceful and happy.

I just thought it was a necessary thing to convey!

Karate in the Garden of Eden

A great regular thing that’s been fun to look forward to has been Adam’s regular karate lessons.

Our most recent karate endeavour was yesterday, (Tuesday) where, for once, everyone seemed to show up ontime!

Except, of course, for Mr. Eyebrows’ children, who showed up an hour late and were told to come again today. Hehe. I guess if Mr. Eyebrows was my dad, I would show up everywhere late too!

But the lesson itself was great! Adam, despite the language barrier seems to be imparting the joy of Tang Soo Do to the kids, who laugh at even some of his worst jokes!

It does seem to take a lot of special attention to get some of the kids on the right track, though, so during the last lesson, I looked on and saw two boys in the back, a bit older than the rest, who really seemed to -get- what was going on and were already helping correct the other students.

So, we asked if they would come for private lessons, and then act as the assistants to the class! We even offered to pay them a little money for it!

The funny part is, though, their names -- Dieu (“God” in French) and Abel --

Aketi Karate Instruction will now be taught by God, Adam and Abel. In our garden (of Eden)!

Movin' Right Along

It feels like such a quiet day, but the last couple of days have been so busy. Salaries were paid on the 1st, I had to finish all of my reports, work on my modified IRB, and today and yesterday we’ve been out, scouting for new houses.

And yet now feels so calm, as I sit in the sunshine and listen to the birds, while Aketi battles his arch-nemesis, the toilet paper wrapper, on the bathroom floor ten feet from me.

I’d gotten most of my scouting done before 9 am -- starting with the attached house for rent at the HUGE cathedral at the edge of town. The rooms are quite nice, as are the grounds (sort of like where we stayed in Banalia) but I’m pretty sure it’ll be too expensive.

They’re used to MONUC (the UN) coming and staying there, and in comparison to MONUC’s endlessly deep pockets, we’re always going to come up short of the desired asking price.

Seba and I scouted out a couple of other houses, purportedly empty and locked, and we spied inside the windows to see what we could of the interiors.

Thus far, none are quite set up like our current house, and numerous houses we saw today were riddled with problems -- dirtiness (easily solvable) -- but excessive leaking during heavy rains, which, PS, there are a lot of here, is going to become a problem really quickly.

Even older beautiful Belgian houses seem so debilitated -- dirty things scribbled on the walls inside, old corn and insects and rodents -- it does indeed make me wonder what they were once like!

But we continue to look! Our new friend the official is helping us (and we in turn are “helping” him with gas for his moto) and allegedly at some point today, we will go on a tour of several houses and select the best one!