So we’ve been here at the headquarters of this cattle ranching company for 3 days. The welcome has been wonderful, we have 2 well equipped houses (one of which is the CEO’s second residence) for our10 people, rainfed water system for refreshing bucket bathing, a little man who makes coffee in the morning and serves breakfast and cleans up, at night we eat dinner with the operations manager , monsieur Ntondo in his home. We eat beef. Lots of beef. Grilled, roasted tenderloin, liver, you name it. Mr. Ntondo seems tob e vegetarian. He says meat is bad for your health. He doesn’t mind serving us lots of beer, which he also doesn’t touch. There’s a generator that provides enough electricity to charge up our phones and computers, we really couldn’t have asked for more. When we are not on a trip visiting villages or pastures, we sit around our plastic table on the veranda, the germans chain smoking and trying to crack the problem of how to figure out a feasible emissions reduction project. We play a little frisbee and make fun oft he complaining journalist, talk politics with the congolese and receive our share of visitors. The DGM guys who ask for our passports, the Public Relations guy who seems to like the Yankees. It’s a very nice ambiance and could almost be like vacation if i wasn’t ask to pull up imagery or a map every 20 minutes, and if lunch didn’t consist of stale bread and sardines.
When i have some downtime, i’ll take a walk through the worker village to find the „reseau“ the one square meter where you get vodacom reception. The first night i found it by walking towards the little glitter of lights that resembles fireflies – as i got closer i could discern the little nokia screens lighting up the faces of their owners. As i got closer i met a man who goes by the name rambo, who lit the way through the field his phone flashlight (the nokia really has anything you can need). On this little mound in front of a hut, seems to be some church or something. we all gathered around, phones reaching fort he sky, shouting eagerly like at bingo – i have 2 bars! And then we all huddle closer, then one person breaks away, and the crowd follows him and so on. I was able to download a few messages, and send some more, trying to get an update on my lidar plane! After i started getting devoured by mosquitos, i headed home.
The next day was Sunday. We had a lazy morning around the house and mina and i decided to take a walk and go check our voicemail. We went through the market, some houses, saw some lazy dogs and acquired the usual 50-75 kid following. We get to the little spot and it’s a rather crowded. Kids, mamans, it’s a bit chaotic and hard to hear your messages and write down numbers when kids are tugging your hands and hair and pants. The phone is cutting in an out, you have tob e really careful not to move an inch when on a call. I’m desperately trying to understand what my LiDAR plane pilot is saying in 1 second intervals between 4 seconds of silence. This is really challenging. When i finally find a moment of streaming conversation, 4 kids turn the corner with drums and flutes. These are the kimbangiste congregation, mass is starting!
The drums and music drown out my phone, what did you say? Can you repeat? Gahhhh, this is not going to work. i give up. The kids all cheer when i hang up, dance! Dance! Pictures! And so begins the conga line, the jumping, the cheering, the hair pulling and hand shaking, total excitement because mondeles never dance, i guess. The angry pastor comes out oft he church and demands everyone come in. Oooh le big boss, smirks one little boy. The adults are getting angry, we are distracting everyone, we really should go. NO! Les copines restent! The little girls demand! They are grabbing our hands and clothes, trying to get us to join them for mass, which for these guys lasts aaaalllll day. Non non we have to work! The pastor bangs a bell hanging from a tree, which is an old truck tire hanging from a branch by ropes. Don’t leave! For a second i consider it – well, if there is good reception inside, i could sit in the back and surf facebook or chat with my friends? Non non, désolée les amis…i really should go. I’m in a fin fond of Congo, i’m going offline, i don’t need to checking my email!