It’s often not the events of the field that make you smile. They’re likely frustrating or discouraging, but the company you keep can be a buoy.
The company I have here - not just Cleve and Adam, but Seba and Polycarpe and even Dido is a constant joy. Valuable yes for scientific feedback and local knowledge, but also the happiness you get when smiling at someone out of the corner of your eye -- it’s something I promise myself not to take for granted.
Our routine is settling in here at the Aketi house. It’s quite a nice house -- indeed a Belgian house with a few remnants of its history remaining. The soldiers ransacked it during the war, convinced the Belgians had hid diamonds and gold in the walls and the ceilings. It is still in mostly good shape, and Adam and I have a nice room in the front with a big window. And of course, a little twin bed, that I think we are actually getting accustomed to sleeping on together.
We put a shelf from the living room in our room and unpacked most of our things. I wish we’d bought more fun books to read, but it’ll encourage me to work on my thesis more.
There is a nice living room and dining room in the house, and a front porch and a back porch. The living room has comfy couches, too, which is a nice change from the back of a motorcycle to sit on.
There is a single bathroom out on the back porch, with a real porcelain toilet and bathtub. The bathtub has definitely seen better days, but I think after a proper scrubbing it will be a lot more sit-and-bathable.
We have a generator that we tend to only turn on at night. We then rush like hyenas to the powerstrip, plugging in everything we can think of. Power! Courant! It’s precious. We tend to never turn it on during the day, and just extend the batteries of our various laptops and devices as far as can be managed.
The funny thing about Aketi is that, since it’s so remote and isolated from nearby towns thanks to the deplorable conditions of the roads and the abandonment of the Belgian railroad, things that exist here for sale all have an artificially inflated price.
Beers are $3 a piece, and sodas are $2. Every beer that comes here comes on the back of someone’s bike, which is a real eye-opener, too, because every empty bottle goes back to the distributor the same way!
There are no large mattresses for sale here - how would they get here? It’s really quite funny, if you think about it!
We just have one chimp at the house here - a male baby Mange - who is still too young to be integrated with the other three who are already at a temporary “sanctuary” in the forest about 15 minutes from here, living with 2 caregivers and their wives, feeding in the forest naturally and also being provisioned.
Two nights ago we splurged on 2 beers a piece, and 1 for Mr. Polycarpe, and turned on the generator and we plugged in the laptops and played music and danced around and had rousing conversations about anything.
Sometimes it’s these times that I come to appreciate the most - times where it feels like there is no responsibility and we can just enjoy the night. We played Bob Marley for Polycarpe, which he loved, and I just felt warm and happy.
I hope for more nights like these in the future!