"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

2.22.2006

there's only 2 things I want when I'm back in my doublewide


I am missing Texas sunsets. Because we're so close to the equator here in Goma, the sun rises and sets at the same time every day – around 6:30 in both the morning and the evening. There are twelve solid hours of daylight and of dark year-round, and night comes really quickly. There just isn't much of a twilight hour. Since it's not safe to be on the roads after dark, unless I'm at a friend's home for dinner, that means I get home pretty early every night.

Now that I can use my computer, evenings are a little less boring. Sometimes. My apartment has a generator, but when it's on (meaning the regular electricity is off), you can't charge anything that needs an adaptor. My battery only lasts about an hour without power, but then there are days like today when the electricity is on and everything is fine and I can hook up my iPod and use my laptop as a stereo while transcribing interviews or reading articles downloaded at the internet place. So between cooking dinner, cleaning up, and doing all that, evenings go by pretty quickly.

After eight years of traveling to Africa, I have finally acquired my first-ever set of third world cookware and the obligatory "cutlery-on-a-spinning-wheel" set. At Esther's advice, I also got a frying pan with Teflon. She was so right – it wouldn't have been worth the effort to get the cheaper one. Because of the scarcity of goods (think about wartime economies), things in Goma are really, really expensive, even for locals – this set of five pots with lids that would have been 50 cents in the markets in Kinshasa was $9 here. A basic loaf of bread costs 60 cents, which is hard for people in a city with 90% unemployment in the formal sector and where a huge number of people try to survive on FORTY CENTS per day.

Anyway, now that the kitchen is equipped, I've started cooking most evenings. Finally managed to find some spices, which helped a lot. I am sticking to simple things – soups and pasta sauces and grilled sandwiches so far, but I may branch out into something more complicated as time goes on. It just takes so long to cook dinner, especially if we're running off the generator and power is limited. When that happens, every lightbulb is dimmer and my hotplate takes a lot longer to heat up – it took 45 minutes to boil water the other evening. But I am so glad to have a kitchen and to be able to cook that it's worth the trouble. Here are some pictures of one of my recent culinary triumphs, tomato soup with improvised croutons made of broken pieces of bread. Of course I'm using paper plates as much as possible to cut down on the dishwashing!

Goma is a little tense today. I'm not really sure what's going on, but MONUC is very active. There was a convoy leaving town as I was coming in, and while I was at the research institute's library reading, I hear a noise, look up, and see a South African APC. On top of that, I haven't been feeling very well the last couple of days. It's allergies and all the volcanic dust I breathe in every day, I'm sure. My head feels like it could explode.

In other news, I think I may have a Congolese reader or two. I am on a computer I've never used and my blog's url is in the history. That's a little disconcerting.

1 Comments:

Blogger BT said...

Hi L:

Sounds like you're making the best of things. Amazing how a few creature comforts can make a day isn't it?! (i.e., I like the pots and pans and am very familiar with the ipod/laptop set up) -- Do you get mail? Send me your coordinates and we'll see if the BA - Goma line is up and operational.

BT

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 4:05:00 PM

 

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