Guest post by Sandra Basgall, Catholic Relief Services Central Africa
I may never return to the United States as my new furnished bungalow in Kinshasa is so nice. I am in a compound with about ten other bungalows and a good sized swimming pool. My bungalow is separated from the others with nice plantings and grass, and it feels quite private. There is a heavy gate with two guards that make sure the residents are safe.
I have three bedrooms and three bathrooms. Now don’t get too excited, the small bath is just as you enter the house and for guests. The middle is for the two smaller bathrooms and has a nice shower. And the master bath has all the comforts of home as well as a nice tub! There are lovely built in drawers, shelves, and closets in the two small bedrooms and a large set in the hallway going into the master bedroom suite. What more could a girl ask for? And there is plenty of room for guests.
Now, the hard part is getting the sheets, pillows, and duvet. Those just for my bed were $150 and I bargained hard! Things all have to be imported and they are expensive. It took $650 to buy the cleaning supplies needed for the house and I almost had a heart attack when I paid.
There is massive leather furniture in the living room and a long glass topped table in the dinning room, and I have my own ‘live-in lizard’ that hangs out on the back wall next to the house. I am used to geckos in the house, but I have only seen lizards outside. I do not know if there are house geckos here or not. I also have an occasional bug or spider, but they have not yet overtaken me.
One of the funniest things has been my adventure with having a mosquito net installed. First some papa came and pounded wooden poles up on four sides of my bed. When I put the mosquito net on later that night, it would not go down over the bed as the poles at the head were attached at the top of the bed. A mosquito the size of a microwave could have gotten through.
That happened on a Friday, so I was not able to do anything about it until I went to work on Monday. There I drew a detailed plan of what I wanted. When the papa came by to talk to me (I spoke English and he French and it was translated), he was reluctant to do what I had designed so I gave in and said to just do it. He bought the wood and came the next afternoon. What he did was beautiful, but I could tell from the beginning he was in trouble as he drilled holes in the frame into which to put the ropes to hold it up. The problem was that with the netting on top, there was no place for the ropes to come through. I helped him tie it on the bottom of the frame and decided I would take care of it myself later, but it would be fine for a few days.
That night, I went to bed safely under my mosquito netting. I had been asleep for about an hour and then everything—the frame and mosquito netting—dropped on me as it was too heavy for the hook in the ceiling. I was startled awake and not hurt, but it took me a good long time to extricate myself from the netting as it was everywhere. The frame and the netting are now sitting beside my bed. I guess if I see a mosquito, I’ll just throw the mess over it and trap it!
Originally from the United States, but currently living in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sandra Basgall works for Catholic Relief Services for Central Africa as their Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor. She has provided similar services to government agencies, NGOs/PVDOs, the United Nations, and educational institutions throughout the world. Organizations for which she has worked include UNESCO, the International Rescue Committee, BRAC Bangladesh, the Jamaican-Dominican Republic Integrated Rural Development Project, Pan American Health Organization, Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute, and USAID. She has also taught undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of Iowa and the School for International Training.
She has extensive experience working, living, and traveling in many cultures and countries include Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Northern Caucasus States of Ossetia, Ingushetia and Chechnya, Russia, Bangladesh, Singapore, Mexico, Burundi, Rwanda, France, Denmark, Panama, Trinidad-Tobago, Jamaica, to name a few—and in various states in the United States.