Guest post by Sandra Basgall, Catholic Relief Services Central Africa
The unsung heroes in the development world are the local staff. If it were not for the regional administrative assistant, I would be completely in the dark.
He has organized temporary housing and working on permanent housing; he has helped me interview and hire household help; he has made sure I have drivers to take me around and without them, I would be lost; he has made sure that I get groceries; and he has just been there to answer questions. He works long hard hours, juggles many priorities, is constantly on the move, and an amazing asset. I take my hat off to him and others like him who have taken care of me around the world.The house is in the works and I hope, if there are no glitches, to move in the end of the week. I have hired a widow with six children to work five days a week for me. She has some English and will clean, wash and iron my clothes, and cook for me. It’s a little incestuous as she is the sister of one of my colleague’s housekeepers and the aunt of another. Just goes to show that it pays to have connections. As soon as I can move in, we, she and I will go the house and see what we need and go out and buy it. I look forward to getting settled.
I inadvertently pulled out the refrigerator plug and lost all my food. I was already concerned about it as the refrigerator was not on when I put it in and about an hour later, I lost power for a couple of hours. I was concerned it never initially got cold enough, so I was reluctant to eat most of the stuff in there. It was a relief just to throw it away since I was concerned. I went to a new market that is owned by Jews and so was not open when I went shopping with colleagues last Saturday. They have really nice meat and lots of cooking equipment. This is where we will probably go when we stock the house. There are a number of markets and each seems to be better in some areas than others. There is one with lots of cheese and a great deli and another which has lots of fruits and vegetables.
I had to buy a five litter water container for $20 and will fill it up for a $1 when it gets empty. I do not know if there will be a filter on the water in my new house, but if there is, I will boil the water before I use it. If not, I will continue with the bottled water. Interestingly enough, the place is owned by Lebanese.
Friday night, I went out to eat and dance with my regional director and another colleague and their husbands, plus some other people from other organizations. The place was in a big open building with mud cloth on the ceilings and walls. There must have been several hundred people there and the music was great – Afro Pop They had a buffet and the food was tasty, but I reconfirmed that I do not like plantain and I did not eat the grubs! The rest was very good.
We have two days off for Christmas and New Year and most of the staff will be gone so I will probably just stay in my new digs, watch TV, play on the computer, and relax. I went swimming yesterday in the pool where I am staying and I plan on doing the same where I will be moving.
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.