Bangui, Central African Republic

As I untangle myself from my mosquito net in the morning and I dash into the shower, the cold stream of water is a genuine relief from the humidity of the warm night. I wash the sleep out of my eyes and make a mental plan of the day ahead. My breakfast consists of bread with homemade peanut butter, a banana and some chia seeds I brought from home to raise my energy level. I don’t know if it works but I like to think that it does. I fill my thermos with tea or coffee and I rush to my small office where a chaotic mess of documents, posters, t-shirts, powdered milk and, oddly enough, a whole array of Giant Eland miniature figurines awaits me. The air conditioning in my office is deafening and my day is spent turning it on and off, which is not exactly environmentally sound but the other option is melting away into oblivion and I’m not up for that yet.

At 9 am my Sango teacher presents himself and I launch myself into an hour of additional transpiration over words and sentences I’ve only just begun to understand. I take Sango lessons every day, one of the two national languages of CAR, French being the other one. It is not a difficult language, vocabulary is limited, but it does take some time before speaking becomes natural. Some words make me wonder. The word “nyama” for example, means “animal” as well as “meat”. In conservation terms this is not exactly sustainable when you try to raise awareness about the need to protect wildlife in remote areas. Another one: “Wali” means “woman/wife” and “koli” means “man/husband” but when you ask people the direction on the street, “wali” also means “left” and “koli” means “right”. It’s easy to see the cultural inclination to good and bad, right and wrong with women being on the wrong end of the spectrum.

Apart from working, there is not much time for anything else and distractions are hard to find. I sometimes go to the French restaurant around the corner from my office in Bangui. It has a delicious “tarte fôret noire” that I mistakenly refer to as “tarte eaux et fôrets” because that is the name of the Central African ministry I have to deal with the most. But my personal favourite is having a cool drink at the Ubangui hotel. It has a bridge that leads directly to a rock formation in the middle of the Ubangi river that separates the Central African Republic from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I watch as fishermen in pirogues brave the heavy current while other young men peddle like crazy to get people from one side to the other. The view calms you down instantly and all the daily worries are quickly forgotten. And you can’t help but wonder, why can not everything in this country be as beautiful and as simple as this peaceful scene on a weekday in July?


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