Fieldset
Flying termites

"Very soon, the room had dozens flying across the TV room and minutes after they were falling to the ground, losing their wings, and wondering all over..."

First I thought they were any other of the plentiful insects around. We were in the middle of watching the quarter final soccer match Holland vs Costa Rica when a couple moth-looking critters flew in. Initially we blamed someone that had left the door ajar; but soon after, a couple more crept under the door and I guess window cracks and/or kitchen backdoor.

Very soon, the room had dozens flying across the TV room and minutes after they were falling to the ground, losing their wings, and wondering all over, easily reaching to a couple hundred - quite an amazing spectacle! Turns out they’re flying termites and, that night, they were out all over town. We had plenty of sweeping at our home base the morning after. (I wonder what triggers the whole thing; no time or wifi to research online hopefully some reader of this blog can post a comment and educate me). I am told they’re quite a delicacy deep fried and will try to score a stash next week. If they’re anything like the fried crickets from Oaxaca, Mexico, I’m in for a treat to bring along as munchies for the world cup semifinals.

This week I’ve handled employees’ tax, retirement savings, performance reviews, healthcare, and benefits questions the best I could. Very technical French often mixed up with creative “Fragnol” (French & Spanish) words of my own invention but in the end I got my points across. Needless to say, I have bountiful reference documents and a USB drive loaded with all the pertinent internal, local and national laws and regulations I’d ever need, so plenty of reading material for the evenings. Never expected I would end up learning so much of local laws and income brackets and taxes of all sorts. Sure does not sound very interesting compared to our work out in the camp, but, in the end, clarifying these questions has put some employee anxieties at ease and hopefully facilitates their focus on the field.

On simple matters, our cook situation has improved drastically. Meals are usually shared by the group at our home base. We hire a local cook and one of the expats oversees purchases. Upon my arrival the menu was very limited and costly. In the spirit of facilitating work and some savings, we relied on local contacts to identity suppliers for our ingredients.

This week our project coordinator (PC) and I negotiated agreements with a local butcher and fisherman; similar to my previous job, I played good cop and our Ivorian PC bad cop. It was fun. Local suppliers would see us arrive on the MSF truck (and my pale doxycycline-infused face) and initial prices shot up obviously. However, I had done my homework last week relying on a couple of locals to run price census in town to get a grip on real market prices. We caught our suppliers off guard as we consulted our ‘market research’ during negotiations.

Good cop - bad cop with Emelie our fish supply lady © J.J. Téllez

Good cop - bad cop with Emelie our fish supply lady

All went smoothly in the end and we shook hands on the weekly order commitments and implemented a double notebook order/receipt system. Two days after however, I caught “mama poisson” overpricing her carp and having sold us some iffy filet (though I was the only victim); we laughed about it and I reminded her she’d see my face if the expired fish had done it again… no sense in taking things too close to heart. We’ll see how the upcoming week goes.