I should be in Gemena, Congo. Instead, I am in Bangui, Central African Républic.

It is 1:28am and there is a zero possibility of me sleeping since a memorial service started at 11:30pm RIGHT outside my window and the singing is loud and off key. Prayers, speeches and music have not stopped, all happening under the UNHCR tarps that were erected throughout the day on one side of the road (mine) while family and friends sit on the other side of the road. The sitting area was constructed today, as well, with loud banging throughout the day, with truckloads of stone dumped in the late afternoon to create walking paths, yards of metal sheets going up quickly on the wooden structures that were built. Ginormous photos of the deceased decorate the arched entrance. We watched as this was built by men toiling under the incredibly hot sun and I wondered out loud if the ceremony would be held tomorrow.

The keyboard plays repetitive music while someone prays.

I am tired. It has been a long few days with a long 14 hour stint in the hospital on Saturday with Mandaba, AFCA’S logistician, followed by daily visits for antimalarial shots and blood work. While he is slowly getting better, there is no way to make the journey to Gemena due to the turn-around time for required Covid tests between countries.

Clapping after a speech.

There is so much to do in Gemena, so much work. Instead, I found myself cleaning cupboards in the guesthouse kitchen out of sheer boredom, with no TV, no internet and little conversation with my sick colleague.

It is so hot under my malaria net.

I am grateful we were not traveling when the convulsions happened. I am grateful for the clean clinic we found. I am grateful for the kind guesthouse manager who graciously gave of his time again and again in Saturday, roaming around the city in search of medicine for Mandaba, taking me to exchange money, taking us both to the scary brain scan center, driving us back to the clinic to await results, and finally, back home. I am grateful we found potatoes to mash so a shredded tongue could handle something softish. I am grateful we have a safe place to stay. I am grateful for so many details.

The singing continues loudly and incessantly.

1:36am – a beautiful voice is singing now. Such a hauntingly beautiful melody.

1:52am – a duet is taking place. Shame…it is just bad. Wow…but they are very much into it, repeating the same line over and over and over again.

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