Wednesday, November 28, 2007
so i have an awesome GIS team. these are the young guys assigned to help me with the map making, updates, analyses. they're all guys, which is sortof off, i haven't seen a single local woman scientist here. anyway, they're a whole group of nerds, but they're young, funny, good vibes. so there's patrick, frank jean-paul and another with a double name: guy-guy, also known as double-guy. whenever i need them i say, "gis team - assemble!" and they do, and we laugh sheepishly, not wanting anyone to know we're nerds. they compare software extensions and utter double entendres about their memory sticks. they follow me with their laptops and today, i needed them to determine the area of a hexagon with an 8km side. they eagerly calculated away, my GIS team. it's not as easy as it seems, all those triangles! they all argued between themselves before presenting their result. they also argue about whose mercedes is nicer, whose hard drive has more capacity. so then the minister of the environment showed up, even though he had been fired the previous night. apparently Kabila decided to reduce the ministry from 60 to 32 ministers and our guy was one of them. it was noble for him to come. he looked like mohammed ali, had blue eyes and everyone stood when he entered and he gently bowed and let us sit down, like a king or something. then we sang the drc national anthem. it was awesome. it's all about nature and peace and love. and then i gave my talk in french, in front of 80 people and it went rather well. i could have done without the american guy who pestered me for 20 minutes "maybe i don't understand french, but pouvay voo muh deer communt vooz avay dayseeday day ooteeleezay set donnays la?" some snarky girl from my office told me afterwards "you have an accent, don't you, no wonder why i couldn't understand you." yeah, whatever, she can't even order a glass of wine. she says "un bateau de veenyuh, seel voo play" which is a boat of vines. idiot. everyone else loved it. the rest of the questions involved more guys giving their long-winded speeches about something, and then came lunch, the hotel conference room type of lunch. i arrived pretty late, having only a few seats to choose from - do i sit with all the belgians who just got off their overnight flight (and smelled like it)? or that one seat in the corner with the taxonomists (uh, boring)? i'm looking around, trying not to be seen searching for a seat with so many empty before me, when i hear, eh! aurelie! and one of those loud two fingers in the mouth whistles. over here! it's my GIS team, in the back! holding up 7 liter-bottles of primus beer, yesss! those are my guys. we stuck olives in frank's breast pocket when he wasn't looking and made jean-paul spit beer through his nose. what a great lunch. double-guy likes to take pictures of me with my own camera, which is funny, i never have pictures of myself, but now i have tons. so we had to work pretty late to get these maps done and ready to print. the large-scale printer unfortunately, is at the university, an hour away where patrick lives with his parents who are professors. we were in a big hurry to finish our maps because the university is on strike (they're so like the french down here) and it's a congolese style strike, which means military lockdown of the school and mandatory curfew. so if patrick gets home after 10:30 pm, he could go to jail, or get beat up, or both. or he can try to bribe a guard and spend the night at the lab. so i'm snapping my fingers, come on guys, the faster you work, the more beer you get...we were racing against the clock and patrick's mom was calling every 10 minutes. we gave him SO much shit for this. poor guy. then his computer crashed and we had to start all over. i finally sent him away with all he needed to make the prints, along with a 20 dollar bill for the bribe, which i am charging to my expenses as "printing fees." so after this 13 hour day, my last task was to get the door to the conference room closed. i go get the security guard to come lock the door. i'm starving, i'm tired, i haven't even stepped outside since yesterday, i'm holding a million things, i want to go. the security guard comes up the stairs and walks S O S L O W L Y towards the door of the conference room. he looks inside, he inspects some maps, he starts looking at his cuticles and i'm like buddy, please, can you lock the door? oh, i don't have the key. sigh, that's how it is.