Wednesday, February 29, 2012

some stories from bombo lumene

so here we are in bombo lumene, one of the parks closest to kinshasa. just a few hours away, people come down here on day trips to swim in the river, or, if you're like us, you come and stay in one of the old belgian military cabins. since we are technically ministry of environment on official business, it's even better, we are here to play, and work, and eat wonderful congolese dinner prepared by the park warden herself - that's right, a woman runs this place. and not just any woman, a beautiful, feminine badass woman who has a brown belt in judo and did paramilitary training in eastern congo, completing her target practice shooting at real live poachers. she has lots of great stories about weak, pitiful men who just can't handle it out in the wild. i imagine her eating the heads off of live scorpions and stuff.

my collegue staying in the room next door got her ankles munched by a spider the first night, and when we saw her swollen infected wounds, it was upon my wimpering that the warden came and did a thorough search of my bedroom. she says the search came up empty, but still, i bet she didn't tell me that she bit the head off a live spider or maybe a snake.

so the view is nice, and there's a little river just a scramble down the ravine that you can swim in, though watch out you don't get caught up in the current because according to all the kids there's lots of dead bodies under those rocks. and there are adorable goats everywhere that follow you to the one square meter area in the entire park where you get cell phone reception. yes, it's only right there, ok for vodaphone, for airtel it's just over there, but in this spot it's like there's an invisible phone booth, you have to squeeze in next to the other guys to make your call. the guards all wear hunter green with berets, with their knockoff giorgio armani sunglasses and do a very serious, coordinated flag raising ceremony everyday, in front of the goats.

the second day, the phone booth was empty, and that's because everyone's battery died, as the park generator has had a blown fuse for a few days. we brought a tiny generator with us from kinshasa, strictly to power our computers to do our work, and nothing else, yet, everytime it starts up, it's like children of the corn, people coming out of the forest in every direction approching you with their phone charger.

so then they asked us to hook the generator up to a plug that lit up our entire house, which, unknowingly also lit up the entire guard village a few km away, and they wouldn't let us turn it off. it was especially annoying since all the lights in our bungalow go on with the generator and can't get turned off and is a ridiculous waste of energy. the light in my bedroom is right above my bed, and so all the mosquitos and bugs were piling up on my pillow for hours and i had to get the warden to come do a room check and tuck me in.

we quickly ran out of gas, obviously, but as it turns out one of the guard's wife was going into labor and needed a ride to the town, 15km away. our driver took her there in exchange for 20 liters of fuel which they would get in town. i was trying to get some sheets or something to put on the seats cuz i didn't really want to sit in a pool of embryo water or blood the next day but there wasn't much time. but it was the driver who said "hey, hold it in, i'm not cleaning this up!"

it was a girl. they said they are going to name her after the driver, which means they need to feminize the his name (boniface). or they could name her after our project, why not, that would be just as impersonal. anyway.

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