The sun is setting as my belly rumbles.

Mandaba asks me if I happen to have food sitting around for dinner, leading me to pull out three of my trusty dehydrated meals. While Josue starts a small fire with coals, I walk around the semi-darkness, wanting to move after a day of sitting down. Mandaba warns me about snakes, telling me to stay away from grassy areas, which at this time, are getting harder and harder to see. Josue checks with me as to how much water should be boiled, placing the aluminum pot on the hot coals. With darkness having removed all shadows from the yard, the three of us settle down on low chairs in the front yard, waiting for the fire to work its magic on the water.

We talk about random things, hitting a variety of subjects that can only be discussed in Lingala, it seems. When this happens, I listen intently, trying my hardest to follow the conversation, which has now grown to six of us, as the house guard and the guards for the two neighboring houses have joined Mandaba, Josue and me. Voices participate in the conversation, their owners hidden by the darkness. We each have a flashlight but choose to conserve batteries by sitting in the dark, while a light breeze cools off the end of the day. Stars pop out, setting aside my dream of one last African rain storm, but the night, for once, is not muggy nor is it uncomfortable.

When the water is boiled, Josue and I “prepare” dinner on the extra chair in the yard, him holding a flashlight and me explaining that we’ll be eating risotto and mushrooms from Italy, chipotle quinoa from Mexico and chicken pho from Thailand. Digging out a couple of cups and a small bowl, I serve our first course, making a meal for three into meal for six. There is silence as everyone tastes each meal in the dark. Having added a little salt to the risotto, I find that I like it more than the last time I ate it. The chicken pho is pretty darn good for a ready-made meal, too! We eat every bite, scraping up each tiny veggie, rice and piece of noodle out of our cups, thankful for our tour around the world.