I arrived in Brazzaville safe and made a few friends along the way.
When I got to Brazzaville, the first thing I noticed stepping off the plane was how incredibly humid and hot it is – the only thing I think it can be compared to is turning a shower as hot as it will go and closing the bathroom door so it’s steamy, hot, and wet. (Besides the rain drops, there is no difference in the humidity etc when there’s storm. The only advantage is that it cools down slightly.) The first man that approached me, was supposedly with WHO, but did not have a sign or any other identification with WHO on it, which I was told he’d have, so I told him I wouldn’t be going with him. This wasn’t terribly helpful as he wanted to help me with my luggage and didn’t speak English, so he couldn’t understand why I was telling him no. Eventually, he called his supervisor who spoke English and she assured me he was with them. Yup, wasn’t going to buy that either, so finally she said the information she knew about my housing, who I was staying with, etc and I then knew she was telling the truth. This WHO man took me to another WHO man who was the driver. This driver had a WHO sign and I felt much more confident about things after that. I was picked up by a driver for WHO and was the only person on the large bus. It was fascinating driving through Brazzaville at night and all I can say is that my assumptions of what it would look like, how the people would be, etc. was accurate. All those movies, documentaries, etc. about the Congo and central Africa must have been filmed here because it really does feel like you’re living in a jungle. Even in downtown, you can still see the jungle-like vegetation despite most of it being removed for buildings, etc. As we landed in Brazzaville there was still daylight, so I was able to take some pictures and you can just tell that small parts of the jungle were removed so a house could be placed, but it’s still very much there. It was also interesting as we landed that there were people just off to the side of the runway collecting wood, etc. and walking along. Guess their airport security isn’t quite as tight as the USA where there are fences haha
When I got to the apartment, I was met by Jenny and David. Jenny is my new roommate who is letting me live with her. She is also American, but here working for USAID. David is from Belgium and working for a solar panel company. He had been living in the apartment recently, but moved out the same night I moved in. He and the night guard, Breese (not sure on spelling, but pronounced like Reese with a B), grabbed my bags and we headed into the apartment. We put the bags in the bedroom and she invited me into the kitchen since she was going to cook us dinner. We had a great time chatting about work, public health (she has MPH), etc. After dinner she showed me around the apartment, taught me to always run the water first since it comes out brown, what water to bathe in if the running water doesn’t work, and what to do when there’s no electricity, which I guess is frequent. I am playing it safe with the water so I will only use this water for bathing or washing vegetables with chlorine. (She also uses it to brush her teeth, but I don’t dare.)
After the tour, I began to unpack and it felt like my heart was getting ripped out with every article I took out of the bags – it’s going to be a long 3 months. I’m already finding that not speaking French is going to be difficult and Jenny said I’m brave for even coming, especially without the language – oh dear, maybe this is going to be worse than I thought.