Fun, fun fun! - Communications in Kinshasa

Ever have a day that just sucks?

Ever have a day that just sucks?

It started before dawn.  Last night was sleepless.  Was it the handful of milk chocolate covered espresso beans I ate at 7 p.m.?  Or that it is 80 humid degrees at night and for the last two weeks I have not stopped sweating?  Or possibly the conversation outside my window at 11 p.m. extolling the virtues of a particular brand of dried Belgian sausage?  I have to be at work at 7 a.m..  Since the world was conspiring against me and sleep was clearly not going to happen naturally, I did what any sane person would have and took a pill.  Benadryl twenty-five milligrams.  Just a mild sleep inducer.  No big deal.

It worked.  I slept well but when Couvent's workers began noisily cleaning the dining room at quarter till six in the morning, I was not happy.  With a Benadryl hangover—mouth like Arizona and vision unable to focus—I stumbled into the bathroom, washed my face with cold water and dressed.  I poured a cup of coffee and again wondered why. We are not far from Rwanda, where some of the best coffee beans in the world are grown.  Why must I drink bitter lousy coffee to rouse myself from this hangover?  I would happily trade the four kilograms of Belgian chocolate in the refrigerator right now for one Starbucks latte.

That settled, it was off for my 3 minute 24 second commute to the hospital.  The day loomed especially loathsome.  It was evaluation day at Mungele.  I have no problem with evaluating people, but the MSF forms are extremely long and involved.  I was still only fuzzily awake and couldn't yet focus on the written word.  Though important, the process is painful for everyone.  The person being evaluated fills out a section about their job, usually copied verbatim from their Profil de Poste.  This very detailed document describes work duties and responsibilities, for each position in the organization.  Employees are expected to comply with each word of their Profil.  After I read aloud what the employee has written about their job duties, we get into the nitty-gritty.  This is a discussion of several aspects of the job, like Autonomy and Accepting Responsibility.  As an evaluator, I chat with the employee, come up with a quasi-mutually agreeable grade, and write everything down. It is a thorough evaluation and each one takes at least an hour.  Since I had six evaluations, I had six straight hours of going over the same forms glowing in the distance.  And my vision was so blurry I couldn't read anything.

But I'm way ahead of myself.

Almost exactly three and a half minutes after leaving Couvent, I arrived at the hospital to find I had no transportation to Mungele.  The logistics/ transportation people know the SSP (Soins de Santé Primaire—Primary Care) team needs a car for Mungele each day.  Once every two weeks, for some reason it does not happen.  A 7 a.m. departure time sometimes happens much later, once a vehicle is found.  I have learned that the best way to resolve this problem is to walk into the Radio/Transportation Room and demand that they do their job so that I can do my job.  It wasn't actually as bad as usual, and we were off by 7 25 for the standard trip to Mungele.  I still wave at kids and look at the incredibly green jungle, but mostly I use this time to read.  As the Benadryl was lingering and my vision was still nuts, I held The Devil Wears Prada six inches from my nose, laughing like a maniac as the driver took me safely to EvaluationLand.

Mungele!  Finally it could begin.  But first I needed to get out of the truck and rip open my right elbow.  You remember my right elbow?  The one with the 5 inch gash from last month?  The one that had twelve stitches, a surgical drain, and eighteen dressing changes?  The one that finally healed two days ago?

I suppose the newly grown skin was thin and fragile.  I bumped it or scraped it and off it came.  Blood dripping down my arm I walked into the clinic for a wound dressing.  I sat down and felt like crying.   Only last night I was talking to someone about how much I was looking forward to returning to swimming at Lac Vert this weekend.  For the last four Sundays I have patiently waved to the group as they depart to this little piece of heaven.  Finally my elbow had healed and I could join the group on Sunday!  Only now I couldn't because there was no skin left and it was bleeding like crazy.

Bandaged up, I plowed through the evaluations and survived.  The exploits of Miranda Priestly entertained me on the drive back to Lubutu.  I felt like I could be that mean today, no problem.

One unmemorable lunch later, I walked to the hospital to start the task of typing the evaluations into the computer.  At 32 minutes each, it only took a little over three hours.  Finally at 6 p.m. I turned the computer off and headed for home.  On my way out, I was told that next week I get to do evaluations at Kalibatete, where there are twice as many employees.  Yippee.

Dinner, beer, chocolate- my Holy Trinity tonight.  I lay in bed writing and am listening to the humongous anvil-headed fruit bats make incredibly loud mating cries.  You know the lovely relaxing sound of frogs?  I'm hearing that, too.  Just add a second layer or deeper, louder, and longer fruit bats into the mix.  In Lubutu, nature is really loud.

I suppose one has to have days like this to appreciate the good things in life.  Honestly, I can deal with the lousy coffee, begging for transportation, evaluating people, and the Benadryl-hangover lack of vision.  But my elbow?  I have to go through a day like this and then get to feel my elbow seep bodily fluids into the sheets all night?  It's looking that way, Tonto.