Lubumbashi, Sunday March 8th, 2015
The reduction in staff I’m overseeing includes expatriates. Since my arrival I’ve been living in a spacious seven bedroom house that used to house up to 8-10 expats going on and off to our field projects. Our cook Mama Denise tells me a story of up to 30 expats at one time and daily washer machine and ironing duties. I have since told her that I’ll manage with twice a week laundry: it’s still more than at home and otherwise, I had only unpacked three pairs of underwear.
This week our medical coordinator relocated to Kinshasa where our main coordination office is now located. I was planning to stay at my peaceful neighborhood until the end of contract, March 31st, but it happened Friday afternoon – the generator needed to be sent to our field project. Though closer to a highly transited area, the new place has avocado, lemon, and papaya trees (in order of importance to me). Guacamole and lemonade galore from now on – papayas will take a couple more weeks to ripen.
As every month ends, our financial deadlines are similar to any organization. Very sensitive, and rightfully so, crucial deadlines are taxes – rentals, employee withholdings and MSF’s contributions. I went around town with my assistant introducing myself as the new guy in town and familiarized myself with Lubumbashi traffic, pleasant government employees, and an intricate system of delivery and proof of delivery stamps – including the interesting récepisé valant accuse de declaration et d’attestation de paiement; meaning “receipt worthy to certify that you declared and claim to have paid” but not quite off the hook yet. Additionally, given last week’s mishap with payroll, and since payroll advances are due next week, I decided to stop by and see our banker to clear out any misunderstandings. He was unapologetic and entitled with stories of a promotion, training, and new responsibilities; so, I decided to mount the pressure in my attempt to make our business matter and avoid any future payment delays.
My assistant chuckled at my annoyance and reminds me that Mr Banker Man hasn’t changed in years as the “real service” goes to the numerous large mining corporations in town. But there’s no client too small right!? I’ll never forget my days as an account manager in LA and the attention small tier clients demand. I’m excited to return the favor now to Mr Banker Man :) Got a couple tactics and I’ll report next week how well the elbow twisting goes.
To finish the week on a high note, I spent most of my Sunday at a local hotel pool with my LogCo Nicolas and his family. The impeccable 25m pool was perfect for a small freestyle workout and diving for rocks with the kids and Nico. The live band must have quite a booking fee to explain the $15 USD pool entry fee but, as Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford from NBC’s Parks and Rec preach, I decided ‘treat myself’ after spending all day Saturday watching Congo documentaries (highly recommend Michel Thierry’s Mobutu King of Zaire and his Katanga Business series to better understand few aspects of the DRC’s past and present).