Ahh Sunday…my day off and a well earned rest. Sleeping in, making real coffee, reading a bit, exploring Shamwana itself and the luxury of a lukewarm mid-day shower. There is usually time to make and enjoy a nice meal for dinner, to catch up on emails and, of course, my weekly ‘date’ over Skype with my fiancée.
Sorry for the slight lapse of entries over the past month! I just got back from a 2-week vacation in Kenya… a bit of time on my own to rest and recuperate and then I met my parents for an 8-day safari through four of Kenya’s famous national parks and game reserves. It was a wonderful vacation and a great break and I returned back to the project energized and ready for part two.
Getting to my vacation was another story! Right now, the mission is in the middle of a transportation crisis. Largely due to funding cuts brought on by the global recession, our flight provider suddenly cancelled all flights to Shamwana and pulled their plane from Katanga. While this has far reaching impacts for our operations, it immediately meant that I had to get to Lubumbashi by car. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time as the rainy season is in full swing and the roads are quickly deteriorating!
…and that is exactly when I realized just how far in the bush I am living. Instead of the relaxing 1.5-hour flight, it was a gruelling 3-day, 32.5-hour, 600 kilometre drive. We got stuck 4 times and averaged 20 km/hr. In places, the ‘road’ is nothing more than a wide footpath. This was a mind-blowing realization of how remote and isolated we are in Shamwana.
During the dry season, I’ve heard that you can make the trip in 2 days. On the other end, a big truck carrying supplies for the project, plagued by breakdowns and constantly getting stuck, took 6 WEEKS to arrive. Crazy. In the DRC, they even have a verb for “getting stuck in the mud” and our cars are constantly “embourber” in this “saison d’embourbements”.
What is even more amazing is that the first logistician here in Shamwana actually built the runway. He didn’t have a satellite Internet connection and definitely wasn’t receiving a weekly supply of fresh vegetables. And that isn’t some story from the early 1990s… MSF opened Shamwana in 2006. Incredible and hats off to the team who started this project from the ground up.
While we sort out a more reliable solution to our transportation problems, I’m back in the project and have no plans to leave any time soon!