I've spent the last few days not even sure what day it is, and I feel fine. But what's funny is that my experience has been unlike any experience I've yet had in Congo, underlining further the disparity of experience even within country and within people.
It's been one of the easiest transitions I've had thus far because of the very real Western standard of living enjoyed by US workers living and working abroad. Safely ensconced within the compound, I've been eating vittles from Trader Joe's, gnoshing on chocolate covered cherries, and marveling at the store of canned goods and other Embassy-proffered "consumables" that I rarely see in New York, let alone DRC. (as a sidenote, Trader Joe's is a relative novelty in New York and was, until recently, only at 14th street which is hardly nearby or convenient)
But it's been extremely peaceful and nice. My friend and I chat like city girls might, not about the field but about relationships and other emotional minutia. We watch movies from Blockbuster, and she knits socks while I work on my needlepoint and we laugh and kibitz and her cats snuggle us as we settle into her plush couches.
There probably could have been a full coup or revolution as we watched movies these last two days, and we wouldn't really know, since the sounds of the city are removed from this place.
I could, quite frankly, be anywhere. It's a holiday, with air conditioning, and I titled this entry "Holiday in Cambodia" not just because it's a great song but because this has been an experience not at all specific to Congo in any way. The view out her front patio is tropical and green, but we don't experience any of the heat as the air conditioners rumble away. Last night we lost power a few times, but unlike my time in Uganda where my flashlight was readily available and nearby, I just waited here less than a minute for the compound generator to kick in and the power to be restored
There are of course some giveaways, like walking outside to get distilled (drinkable) water and being barraged with the sweet sticky smell and fragrant humidity that I can only associate with central and eastern Africa. Or, for example, trying not to drown the tiny gecko in the sink while washing the dishes from last night's dinner.
I welcome these few days of tropical sloth. Already today I've received 3 phone calls, 2 before 8:30am, attempting to schedule the next phases of projects. My respite here is almost always short-lived.
There is also a sense too of restriction within the peacefully manicured isolation of the compound. Kinshasa is a huge city, and a bit unknown/volatile, and especially with recent events in mind, whiteys are recommended NOT to walk through the city unattended. Which of course is limiting, as I don't have a vehicle. I've always enjoyed the liberty to walk around, and in New York I walk constantly, but here, it does feel a bit trapped.
Nonetheless, these days of resting, enjoying the wonderful company of my friend, are a wonderful start to Congo, if not a non-traditional one for me.
Also, a note: I already am without internet most days, so if I don't post as frequently or don't respond to your email right away, that's why! Don't panic :)
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Location:Corktree US Embassy Housing Compound