A doctor in DRC: They call me Erik in Kinshasa

12 September 2017

Ludvig shares his diary from his time in Democratic Republic of Congo, where he was working with the emergency team. The team is known as the PUC - the Pool d'Urgence Congo. This week: first days in Kinshasa...

 

March 2017

My third day in Kinshasa. Sitting on the small patio. It's too hot to be in my room, which has windows facing south and west. Have tried with the windows open, windows closed, curtains drawn, but nothing seems to help. It is 32 degrees outside, it's at least 35 degrees in there. I have a fan, but right now there is a power failure. It happens a few times a day; fortunately, there is a loud diesel generator in reserve, but there is a little delay before it kicks in. Right now it's extra annoying, partly because I was in the middle of a FaceTime call with Cicci and partly because I cannot fry my eggs like I planned to. I have to eat a sandwich for lunch.

If I had a button I could press to get back home, I would had used it several times by now...

I do not really know where to begin. The first two days have been overwhelming in many ways: new faces, a constant struggle to keep up with the French and the attempts to reasonably maintain my normal routine. And an emotional roller-coaster, where downs are just as deep as I knew they would be (if I had a button I could press to get back to Sweden, I would had used it several times by now...).
 
I live in a house with a woman from the Netherlands but living in South Africa, a guy from Madagascar and a girl from Belgium. There is a kitchen, a bathroom, a toilet, a small "salon" with a hard couch and a table, plus a small terrace with a sofa and a table and chairs. About 200 meters away is MSF's main base. From there it is about 150m to the PUC's office, where I am most. The houses are not located next to each other.
 
The grocery store, by the way. I had heard that Kinshasa was expensive. But it was this expensive, I had no idea. A litre of milk costs 25 Swedish crowns (around 3 USD / 2.60), six eggs cost 30.
 
Another new thing for me is that I now answer to the name 'Erik'. It's actually my middle name, but because it's the first name in my passport everyone thinks that’s me. And 'Ludvig' is too difficult to say with a Congolese accent ('Ludovic' will do in case of emergencies), so I have begun to reconcile myself with the fact that I will be Erik for the foreseeable future.

Another new thing for me is that I now answer to the name 'Erik'

Today me and Marleen (the Dutch-South African woman) have been running in the one area where we are allowed freely - an area along the river framed by a high wall. Obviously we had to be taken there in the MSF car and then back again. It was hot, but nice to move a little. Then we had breakfast at a small cafe next door. They had something like Belgian waffles that I bought because it's “Waffle Day” today in Sweden. It turned out to be mostly a kind of checkered sponge and  the main consequence was that I suffered from getting homesick. It happens all the time - all of a sudden a reminder of home hurts in my soul.