So, Jenny and I got up and did yoga at 5:30am this morning. I didn’t feel too tired, but perhaps this is because I still can’t sleep more than an hour to an hour and half, two (if I’m really lucky), straight. The time was kind of perfect though – about half way through the sun started coming up and by the time we were done, we both agreed it was the perfect way to greet the day.
Today I had to wash my hair. I’ve been avoiding it because there’s no heated water and with how much and how long my hair is, I know it’s going to be extra painful to wash.
I went with Jean (driver) again today as my phone is still not working. I was hoping to stay at the apartment, so this was frustrating. We got to the store and from what I gathered they said it would work at 10:00am, but it was only 9:20am, so I tried suggesting we stay at the store just to be safe, but with my lack of French skills, this didn’t really work out.
Today has been a relaxing day overall and I have tried to view this whole experience as a vacation. However, I have to admit that I’ve never been good at vacations. Even on vacation, I am always doing work via internet, or writing documents. Even during movies I can’t not do something or I start to get stir-crazy. Jason has helped a ton with this, but there’s still a long way to go. Today I watched Jenny’s “Walk the Line” dvd and painted my nails. Yes, I brought three kinds of nail polish with me to the Congo and yes, I brought files, cuticle pusher, cuticle clippers, and nail polish remover – I am so glad I did! Now my cuticles look great, they have a fresh coat of clear polish and my toenails are pink. Plus, it gave me something to do and I lasted between that; video recording the apartment, compound, and street (unfortunately I can’t get any of those videos to upload); and reading, until 12:40pm when I realized the day was less than half over and wasn’t sure I would survive sanity-wise. (I think starting work tomorrow will be a tremendous help!) The same thing happened yesterday, so I’ve learned to take naps. I’ve figured I’m probably quite sleep deprived considering how little I’ve normally slept in the states, so I feel I can justify it what way. After a couple of hours, I got back up, did a second coat on my nails, spied on my neighbors, read, listen to the music Jason put together for me and started my letters to family and catching up in my journal. While I’m enjoying “vacation,” I’m really looking forward to starting work tomorrow and hopefully having access to the internet once again!
I just finished getting re-dressed and now I’m waiting for Jenny to drop by with Jean so he can take us to the place we’re meeting her friends. While I wait, I figured I should tell you what transportation, driving, etc. is like here in the Congo. People drive the same you do in the USA or Europe – on the right side and many of the roads are technically paved. (I’ll explain technically and how loosely I’m using the word paved in just a bit.) All the roads are two lanes, except for a couple of main roads that have two lanes on each side (they just turn it into 3 or 4 if they can – you’ll see what I mean) – there’s nothing bigger than that, but they are fairly wide, so often you will see two cars driving next to each other (one down the middle of the road, whether there are lines or not) and another driving the opposite direction for a total of three. This is especially interesting when both the lanes make their lane two cars wide as there is BARELY room for three total and you wonder who is going to die, but the Congolese people seem to have great reflexes as I’ve spent A LOT of time driving around the past two days, but haven’t seen a single accident. Also, sidewalks are simply suggestions for both the cars and the pedestrians haha Cars use them to create another lane if they feel like it – no I’m not kidding. You’ll often see cars ½ or ¾ of the way up on the sidewalk and driving at an angle. Pedestrians essentially do whatever they want. You’ll see them in medians, the middle of the road, and they’ll cross whenever they please. I watched a man holding the hand of a 2 year old or so girl the other day who walked straight in front of a bus and then tried to kick the bus as it drove around him because it had cut him off. Now back to the “technically paved” – it seems that under the mud and incredibly broken down streets that many of them were once paved, but the potholes are huge and cars can easily get stuck. Last night there was more rain, so when I went with Jean this morning back to the phone store, people try to repair these holes by filling them with rocks and then young men stand in the middle of the street and try to get the large cars to drive over them. First of all, the rocks stick out of the top of the street by about a foot on average, so it’s not a slight pile or gradual bump. Second, most people who own a large car such as a mini-SUV are not Congolese and therefore try to protect their cars by not driving over the large piles. The whole process is quite interesting to watch. Since Jean only has a car, we end up spending a lot of the time dodging any holes by driving on the wrong side, or on the sidewalk. When he is forced to stay in his lane, he’ll often go very slow and I just start praying that we won’t get the car stuck since these holes are about half the size of the car and at least as deep as ½ the tire – not kidding!
Tonight we went out with Jenny’s friends and it was fun. We went to a place called la Bodega and it was filled with other Caucasians – European, specifically French, Irish, etc. Jenny introduces me as petite seour, or little sister. In the Congo, everything is viewed as a family relation even if there is no blood relation. Out of respect, you call women mama if they are older than you (ex. Mama Valerie, who does our cleaning, laundry, and occasional cooking.), you call men papa if they are older than you (ex. Papa Jean, our taxi driver who takes care of us.) Jenny calls Michelle grande seour, or big sister since she has been here longer than Jenny and has shown Jenny what to do. Jenny calls me this since I am younger and she is taking care of me by showing me the ropes here since she’s been her longer.
Lastly, Jenny found out today and then told me, that our guards have been syphoning gas from the generator and replacing it with water, which is not only wrong, but dangerous. She found out when she took it in to see what’s wrong with it. Now they may all have to be fired since they’re all claiming they didn’t know, but their answers cover for each other, guess we’ll see…
Here is a VIDEO of the outside of the house and our street: http://youtu.be/ZWALMgFmAS0