Friday, December 7, 2007
when it rains, it's brown
it's been raining for the past two days. it's a total mud pit. my little hawk friends (i found out they are kites!) are all pathetic and wet with clumpy feathers. i don't know why they don't go under a table or something. when it rains there are people everywhere, all over the streets, sidewalks. you'd think that they'd all be taking shelter somewhere but it's quite the opposite. and that's because when it rains, public transportation, or what little there is of it totally shuts down. they have no windshield wipers, well, no windshields really, no mud-capable tires etc...so everyone is in the street, a whole mob trying to hitch a ride. one car will slow down and pick up some people but 35 of them will try to get in. i saw these guys punch each other in the face to get in an old subaru, and i was told that that still, it was relatively tame. often it's a ginormous angry mob.
this morning my shower was cold, but also brown. the water in the sink was brown as well. sediment i guess. at breakfast, i poured hot water into my cup of tea and wondered....how do i know that water isn't the same as shower water? i filled an empty cup with hot, brown, water. then i recalled the electric kettle in my room, and savvy UN guy who steals instant coffee, sugar and cups to brew his own in his room. i have bottled water in my fridge. i conceal a teacup under my shirt and head back to my room. my kettle is brand new, never been used! i fill it and go to plug it in. the plug does not fit into any of the sockets in my room. this is a very strange three socketed plug that i have to this day, never seen. i get out my trusty 9 continent adapter but it doesn't fit into any of those holes either. this kettle must be from mars. no wonder it's never been used.
so i head to work without any tea, a warm brown shower and sticky hair. i get a text message that a driver is coming to get me. my ride shows up and splashes my toes with mud. UN guy says, oh, i thought you guys were supposed to SAVE the environment as he is inhaling diesel fumes. this is going to be a good day...
at work, my assistants are missing as usual. they disappear for hours at a time and i never know where they hide. when they're here, they're always on the phone, or writing text messages. worse is when they answer the phone right in the middle of my sentence with a boisterous "Ami!! comment ca va!" they take long lunches and come back all sweaty.
double-guy comes by and says "hey, maman sharpie (my new nickname) jack wants to see you....in his office." jack doesn't have an office. i look awkwardly at the woman leading the project, with whom i share both an office and these cat-herding responsibilities. she's on top of things, and constantly asking for progress and i feel pressured to speed things up. double-guy leads me outside and i'm all where are we going? have you seen jean-paul? where is everyone? and we go across the road and down this dirty muddy alley full of trash - one of those side streets i see all the time but should never go down - we jump over a calvert and he slides open a rusty metal door and we're in a courtyard. there's jean-paul and more than half the office, including all the drivers whom we have been looking for, sitting in plastic chairs under a ratty old tarp, picking fish bones from their teeth with toothpicks amid a bunch of liter-sized beers. there are dogs and kids and chickens and this young girl spooning beans into a bowl. (oh my god, vegetables?!!!).
then, it starts to pour. jack isn't even here, not sure what i am doing here, but it's raining hard, we can't leave without getting soaked and then everyone will know we were outside the compound. 20 minutes go by. i'm almost finished with my second beer. we're making plans to see the bonobos "settle their conflicts" this weekend, arguing about which nightclub to take me to on friday. it's been almost an hour. i have a meeting in 5 minutes. i'm kind of drunk. it's still raining really hard.
jean-paul starts flirting with a girl next to us who just showed up with her driver. he's totally working it, it's amazing. he calls her "maman jolie..." finally he goes, "bottoms up guys! i got us a ride!" we all down a full glass as the woman's driver, who was just about to dig into his foufou takes out his keys. we run to his car, an oxfam-quebec land rover. a minibus crammed with about 80 people in it nearly hits me, guy-guy grabs me out of the way in a knick of time. i had been standing still, staring at it because it was a beat-up french minibus with "tourisme aveyron" and a french phone number written on it. i was shaking my fist and saying maudits aveyronnais!! i didn't pay for my beer and had nothing to tip our friendly driver as i didn't even have my wallet. then again, we were only across the street. but now i know why my assistants all bear the sarcastic nickname which you say when rolling your eyes "les merveilles."