I pour hot water from a thermos into my Coca-Cola cup (thanks, Erin Hoover !) and sprinkle instant coffee grounds into the water. A spoonful of powdered milk follows and I sip the mixture, smiling to myself, knowing my morning is truly starting, even though I have been awake for a long time. In another cup, I stir my last packet of instant oatmeal and add some walnuts I brought to increase my fat intake so I will be full for longer. After breakfast, it is time for my bucket bath, which is the fastest way to bathe, hands down.
Dressed and ready, I lay out solar lights to charge in the already-hot sun. I do a little yoga to ease the pain I carry between my shoulder blades and then, get as comfortable as possible on a plastic chair to read until the guys arrive. Today is inventory day, so we work steadily on that project until lunch time, brought to the office by Joy. Amaranth greens, rice and a packet of tuna I brought with me fills our bellies and we take time to just sit.
The sun is now high in the sky and although the table on the veranda is long and perfect for the next task before us (going though papers and filing), our eyes water in the blinding sun and we postpone that project to tomorrow morning. Instead, I ask about the grinder and motorcycle issues we are facing and agree that we’ll purchase a new grinder ASAP so we can put it to use immediately. We still haven’t raised enough money for the motorcycle, so the conversation turns to our upcoming trip to Tandala. They speak in fast Lingala, leaving me to figure things out as best as I can. I am so hot and sweaty and brain-fried from French and Lingala, I fade in and out of the conversation until it is time to wrap things up and give a summary of what I think they said.
I ask about someone getting me coal and matches so I can make a real breakfast tomorrow, as I am out of my packets of oatmeal. Someone will drop the items off, I am told. “Just ask Papa Mbaya (our guard) how to make the fire …he will show you”. I mention that he speaks Mbaca and I don’t. They tell me not to worry as he also speaks Lingala, although he doesn’t know French at all. “Haha”, I say sarcastically. And that is the end of that conversation.
Once the guys leave for the day, I get some water from the amazing water catchment system we have at the office and wash clothes from the past few days, hanging them in my room to dry. Then, I share a bowl of rice with Papa Mbaya outside, just as the sun sets, and confirm in two seconds flat that the man doesn’t speak a word of French. Oh boy!
Another bucket bath to get rid of grime and sweat and another bottle of water to chase my malaria meds and it is time to check out my monetary situation, which frankly, is not great. I have spent more money than planned since arriving (expensive last minute tickets, a new printer for the office, food so much more expensive than in years past, etc) and have come to the realization that chicken and other animal protein will be a rare occurrence during this visit. I don’t know how people here are dealing with these prices! Gasoline is almost $9 per gallon and a chicken is $6. When you earn $2-4 per day, those prices are impossible.
The rains didn’t come today, so the air is heavy with humidity and heat. As I lay under my mosquito net, I feel the skin on my back prickling and so wish I could just sit in a cold tub of water. Instead, I turn on my little portable fan, using it for a few minutes at a time, as I forgot to charge it today and don’t want to use all the power up in one go. It needs to last through the night, as I will turn it on when the heat is too much and sleep is impossible.