22.11.2011 28 °C
There is something to be said for lifes little luxuries. I’m not talking about the things that people spoil themselves with, like massages, jewellery, trips to the Bahamas or sports cars. I’m talking more about things like taking a shower, wearing clean clothes, and sleeping in a bed. The kind of things that are almost considered a necessity in the west, or at the very least considered the basics.
The one thing this kind of job does is make you fully appreciate just how fortunate we are, how fortunate I was to be born into a modestly well off family in Australia. We did not have a lot while we were growing up (I can still remember the general excitement when Dad brought home a new colour TV to watch the cricket on. Setting it up, tuning it in and then standing back and beaming “Look at the colours kids”) but then again we never asked for anything. We were clothed, well fed, provided with sporting equipment and musical instruments, well-schooled and well looked after. In short it was a happy and stress free childhood. Well at least for us anyway, my parents may have seen it relatively differently considering they were raising 4 boys.
My point being is that a lot of the things we use every day are in fact a luxury. Running water in your house for example is a luxury item. So are electricity, cars, telephones, and pretty much everything else that is used on a daily basis by most people in the west. I am not pointing this out to make it seem like we are living a decadent lifestyle (though some are I am sure, lucky bastards) but more to say that I have learnt to appreciate a lot more all the little things that make my life so much easier. Working in the DRC is tiring, simply because there is nothing there that is easy. Any infrastructure that the country used to possess is now completely gone, leaving life to continue with just the basics. They may live in the remains of once nice houses, but they are living basically all the same. So we collect water and treat it for drinking and washing. Showering water (well actually it is more like splashing yourself out of a bucket) is treated with Dettol which has the added bonus of ensuring that you keep your mouth closed as you wash. Believe me when I tell you that Dettol does not taste good, nor is it particularly pleasant when it gets into your eyes. (Mind you if you swallow the water you are pretty well guaranteed to get very well acquainted with the toilet.)
Having said that we are not completely roughing it. I have a nice tent, we carry a portable generator and a satellite receiver to get basic internet so I can send my reports back into HQ (mine didn’t work, which has the added bonus of not having to talk to HQ at all, something I enjoyed very much). I also carry a satellite phone and HF radio for emergency comms. So we are not completely isolated. However the downside is that if you turn your back for more than 5 minutes the locals will make off with your fuel, chairs, tables, food, water, equipment and really anything that is portable and not nailed down. If the locals don’t steal it then the people working for me will. Everyone is out to make a quick buck, and they don’t seem to put together the fact that theft will lose them their job. Unemployment in the NW area of DRC is running at around 90% so there a lot of idle people lurking about. This means that you are constantly watching everyone.
I have never been happier to leave a country than I was to leave DRC for that reason. Never being able to relax can get quite too much after a while. That plus the fact that I realised I don’t get along with people who are out to save the world. I am not saying this is a bad thing, but the people who are aligned along these lines tend to be on the extreme end. They detest war movies because it glorifies suffering and killing, hate video games for the same reason, believe that all military personnel are a bunch of adrenaline fuelled knuckle dragging idiots that just want to destroy everything (close but not entirely accurate) and honestly think that all the worlds ills could be solved if we all gave each other a really big hug. I may be broadly generalising here but they generalise about us so I feel that makes it fair. Anyway let me say that we have rather different views of how things should happen. Add to this that the ones I have met have no real life experience and would be rather quickly out of their depth if they actually got into trouble. So I have decided to leave MAG for that reason, I will leave the save the world brigade to carry on their crusade and go back to a company where I can just concentrate on destroying things. I will be so much happier there.
But first I have a couple of days in Nairobi to wind down. I have decided to rough it in the Intercontinental Hotel, it’s basic but it will do. After a quick swim and a meal at the buffet I may stroll into town and buy myself an iPad. I have no idea how I have managed thus far in life without one.