African Magic

There are only two women on the compound, right now four because two of us are staying here as guests.  And at night during the weekend, the men gather around the TV to either watch Football or African Magic.  Yes, that is right when they have the time the men on our compound are watching a Nigerian soap opera with seriously bad dialogue, bad acting, bad everything but they are enthralled.  The women won’t watch it as our brain cells rebel and start jumping out of our heads. 

Being here is a little like being on the military base in the fact that you develop a routine, but that is about where it ends.  On Monday, I woke up, limped up to the pit latrine with my face wash and toothbrush in my PJs, then back to my tent to get dressed.  There is no need to set your alarm each morning a cacophony of birds wakes you up, roosters, doves, owls and several others I can’t recognize, it seems like they are all competing to announce the morning.  I headed to the food serving shed about 7:30, but there was no hot water and around 8:00 p.m. the ladies brought out water for the coffee and Mandazi, which is deep fried bread that is a little sweet.  So far I have eaten tortillas, pancakes and Mandazi for breakfast, the latter being my favorite.  Then you sit around the Racuba waiting for the generator to come one, so you can have internet.  It usually comes on between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. I’m going to have to start the day doing other things than checking internet when I’m in the field.  I spent Monday and Tuesday morning working in the Racuba, the only thing is after lunch it gets hot and you have to fend off flies.  Usually at three the ladies who wash our clothes, cook for us and clean our compound have English class so we get kicked out of the Racuba into the office. 

The office has four rooms, three small rooms, one for finance, one for operations and one for anyone and then a large room with four desks where program staff sit; it takes the Japanese style of open floor plan to a new level with two people at each desk.  There is no air conditioning just fans.  The advantage is that the flies don’t bother you as much. 

Working in the morning is o.k., but after 2:00 p.m. it’s like your brain turns to mush, the heat liquefies it and it becomes extremely difficult to concentrate.  If the showers were cold I would take a cold one after lunch, but because the water sits in the heat all day, they are too hot to use.  My most productive hours are in the morning until 1:00 p.m. and after 6:00 p.m. 

During 1:00 and 6:00 p.m. is when the computers start acting up, they get super hot on the bottom, the keys start not working and you have to pound really hard just to select something.  It is difficult to get through the day without some type of issue with your computer; mine is usually the keys start not working and then I press it again and again as if I’m trying to get the elevator. 

Another common question around here is, “Do you have internet?”  Trying to figure out if it’s the internet that is malfunctioning or just your computer. 

The ladies leave at 5:00 p.m. or so and leave our dinner is a series of matching metal pots.  Here they cook over coal and they also use coal irons, which has resulted in a few large holes in clothes when a hot coal fell out of the iron. 

For lunch we have about five different types of sludge, rice, bread and maybe a vegetable.  For dinner we have whatever sludge we didn’t finish at lunch and maybe a couple new sludges.  On Monday I ate beans and rice for lunch and then after looking under all the lids of the pans decided I wasn’t hungry for dinner.  At night people either hang out at Racuba, usually only to watch Football or African  Magic or they straggle in whenever they get hungry eat, then wander off to their tent. The finance guys lately have been hanging out in the office until late. 

Me I usually hit the shower anywhere between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.  After showering with the frogs I try to do everything in the shower, bring bottled water so I can brush my teeth, then I wash my face, put hair product on, comb out my hair and head for the tent. 

Once in the tent I crawl under my princess like bed, made so by the canopy of mosquito net and read.  Before turning out the light, yes there is a light in my tent, I make one last trek to the pit latrine, turning on the light to check for scorpions or snakes before I enter the cement stall.  Wash my hands thoroughly, I wash my hands a lot here it is one of the keys to staying healthy and the thought of being sick in a tent without air conditioning is not appealing, then limp to my tent, turn off the lights, crawl into bed and tuck in my mosquito canopy under the mattress to keep the pests away.

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