Lest I’ve given the impression it’s all work in Kalemie, let me reassure you there are regular opportunities to let one’s hair down, albeit (for me so far) limited to the community in and around the UN compound. Some staff members are lucky enough to have houses with a lovely view over Lake Tanganyika (I’m on the waiting list!), and colleagues issue invitations for dinner or parties at the weekend. And there’s always the over-priced Musalala hotel down the road where you can enjoy a beer on the shallow strip of beach at the back while the sun goes down. The breeze off the lake keeps the mosquitoes at bay.

The Bangladeshi military police were very generous during Ramadan and then invited some of us again to celebrate Eid al Fitr on 6th July. However, the atmosphere was marred with sadness at the horrible killings that had taken place in Dhaka the weekend before. It was the night of Wales’s stunning victory over Belgium, which I managed to miss by falling asleep. So the next morning was a mix of good news and bad. Actually every day seems to bring ever more depressing news from my beloved Syria, and Iraq and the whole region. I watched a BBC Newsnight report on Aleppo yesterday, and struggled to eat the food I ordered afterwards. Don’t mean to be maudlin…

During one of the happy hours in the cafeteria soon after my arrival, I got chatting to the Uruguayan contingent who have the contract for water purification here. I made no attempt to hide my excitement when they told me they cooked on their own make-shift barbecue, and true to their word they came and gave me a shout a few evenings later. I’m now a regular pizza scrounger at their place of a Friday evening, prior to making an appearance at happy hour. They are really laddish, work out a lot and sometimes keep us up all night with their loud music. But it’s impossible to get annoyed with them because they are so good-natured, and I do enjoy a bit of improvised salsa on their patio! They speak no word of English or French – or of anything other than Spanish in fact. So I communicate with them through Italian, which they mostly understand – I’d say about 85%, and I understand them about 70%. These are very unscientific estimates, I hasten to add. I’ve promised to do some English classes on the compound, but have been too busy with work and being sick. Probably won’t get to do this until I get back after my long leave in September.

Twice a week the Beninois soldiers lead a fitness class. I have made the grand total of ONE on a Saturday morning, which consisted of jogging up from the compound to the large football pitch-cum-everything at the entrance to the sprawling “Filtisaf” estate where many internationals live, interspersed with Congolese families who were “allowed” to stay when the Belgian company went into liquidation. I was the only woman and wimped out unashamedly on the push-ups. How I miss swimming! It’s exasperating being on the lake and not being able to go in. People do, but I think I’ve had enough physical challenges for now without getting some nasty parasite on top. Oh well, at least there’s the sound of the waves. I never tire of the sound of the sea. And this lake is so big, it feels just like the sea.

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4 thoughts on “Downtime

  1. Hi Julia
    I have tried to post comments to your blogs…but I am not quite sure I have succeeded ! I fear I cannot equal your expertise…you declare yourself a technophobe…I don’t agree, I think you are a genius !
    Anyway… happy to see you are having a good time and I look forward to actually see you when you come back to London in September – I am going to Italy this Thursday for a much less adventurous time than yours but it will be really good to see my sister and my niece after almost a year.
    All the best


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