Mixed First Impressions – CAR, Part 2

In Appropriate Technology, Capacity Building, International Development on November 16, 2014 at 12:17 pm

11/11/14, Tuesday
Bangui, Central Afgrican Republic

I arrived last Saturday, I wish I could say the same for my checked bag, it’s apparently on extended leave from me in Douala, Cameroon, where my plane stopped on a layover. I didn’t deplane but I think by bag did there. I can expect my bag tomorrow, hopefully. My Anti-Malarials are in there, I only had enough for 3 days and my dose wears out today… It’s nice to be back in Africa, this is more familiar to me – the sounds, smells, the African French… Using CFA… Eating local-ish food with the super spicy peppers that we can’t seem to find in the US.

So CAR is a really messed up country. It’s beautiful and lush, the trees and birds are amazing, I’m sure at one time there was amazing wildlife and gardens here. It’s not rainy season but it still can rain, so I’m sure they can grow almost anything here. At least water is not the problem here.

The roads are awful, comparable to Juba. There doesn’t appear to be the one nice area or colonial-era neighborhood with the nice stuff – it’s all pretty run down. There are decent places to live, in terms of the expat apartments. There are a couple of good supermarkets that I haven’t visited yet, but I’m told you can get most things you could buy in France, for exorbitant prices.

There are a lot of European UN Peacekeepers, which is new to me. There are Peacekeepers from several countries but seeing the Europeans feels unusual to me, maybe I’m being a noob.  When I was in South Sudan the peacekeepers were all African or non-European it seemed. Seeing French or Italian Military out there, the truckloads of European soldiers tells me that it must have been really bad here for it to get to this point. People were at each others throats here, literally.

The capacity of the professionals here is frustratingly low. Many well-intentioned people but they seem to have trouble really following through with things to a level of thoroughness or completeness that seems to frustrate those with more experience.  But in my experience, you have to be patient with people and teach them, it takes time.  Imagine you get your school years cut short because of government not functioning, for whatever reason (economic collapse, war, etc) and then you claw your way through school, learning 1950’s French era ways of building a bureaucracy.  Then fly-by-night, innovative, highly confident westerners come here and expect you to pick things up that are in no way intuitive.

I’ll hopefully pick up more about the local, work culture as I go here.


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