Finding My Pants and Some Deep Thoughts – CAR, Part 4

In CAR, Environment, Governance, International Development, Travel on November 18, 2014 at 1:41 pm

9:20am Bangui
At the moment, I’m most concerned with my pants. They’re the only pair I came with and they’re drying in the sun right now. It seems to rain pretty frequently here and it’s pretty humid, so I need to keep an eye out for rain. I washed them last night for the first time since I got here, I figured it was only fair.

I’m wearing a pair of swim trunks that a colleague’s husband generously loaned me, I’ve been wearing them without underwear when I sleep, while my lone pair of underwear dries overnight, along with my only pair of socks. I’m never checking a bag again when I come to these parts, or when I fly Royal Air Maroc.

My bag may or may have not come on today’s RAM flight that arrived about 90 minutes ago. I tried calling a bunch of times but to no avail. I’ll check in on it in another half hour I guess.

Yesterday was a busy work day, I gave my first presentation in French yesterday, well at least my first since grad school 8 years ago. My first professional presentation… not saying much. But it made the day exciting and it went by fast. I leave a week from today! So there’s that.

Even though there’s some insecurity here, it’s still nice to be with Africans again. I still like the pan-African vibe I get here with more enlightened people, which is to say most people. While there is kind of perfunctory pride in their countries, there is still more feeling of African-ness than being “Central African” or “Nigerien” or whatever. I think people probably feel more kinship with their ethnic group or family clan than they do in their colonially drawn up country.

As it happens, my bag arrived! After I stopped writing and started to arrange my day… I got a call from the airport, and my bag had indeed arrived!

I went to the airport, it took a while because, as my driver told me, we have to pass through an area of town where a lot of displaced people live. What I had thought was a bustling market is actually an overcrowded ghetto with stuff to buy in it, and people are living there because they’re afraid of getting killed in the other neighborhoods of town where they used to live. My driver told me this, he’s one of them. In this neighborhood, it’s mostly non-Muslims fleeing from Muslim-associated violent militias (the Seleka basically). There are other similar areas scared of non-Muslim militias (the anti-Balaka). He also told me about how the Chadians and other various military mercenaries were causing a lot of the unrest these last few years. What an insane mess – so many moving parts.

So with that sobering conversation tempering my enthusiasm, I was happy to get my bag. At some point in the journey they’d wrapped it in cellophane, which I guess was well-intentioned. Everything was there, nothing was stolen. I’ve got my clean pants on and fresh skivvies! It should be a good second week to my trip.

I spent some time just sitting today, for the first time in a while. Got tired of looking at my phone or watching BBC. It’s Saturday and the office is closed, and after a while the internet makes me crazy, a lot of what would feel productive for me involves a lot of internet access to a cloud site.

In any case, I sat on the front porch of my guest house. Across the street is this really pretty and lush hill with a “Bangui” sign up on it. I’m told it used to say “La Coquette” underneath but it’s overgrown. The hill is full of a diverse range of trees and undergrowth, and the guardians told me that there are normally monkeys up there, that come down and steal stuff. I was just kind of reflecting and feeling a weird sense of positivity. Mostly about how amazing the world is – think of how many cool birds there are up there, you can hear them. Think of how beautiful it is here – the river is flowing year round, there’s tons of water. You can grow anything here. There are a ton of natural resources. How easy it would be to be prosperous here if they could only get their shit together. It’s both beautiful and extremely infuriating at the same time. Mankind is the root of all evil.

Anyway, those are my deep thoughts for the day.


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