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Let the Work (and Fun) Begin

Posted by Owen Fuller on January 31, 2011 in DRC Trip 2011, life less than perfect |
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On Wednesday night we a get call from Medecines Sans Frontier (French for Doctors Without Borders).  The two VSAT satellite Internet systems we were going to install for them were released from customs and moved to MAF’s storage at the airfield.  The systems had been on the ground for two weeks, but there was a disagreement on the price of the tax to be paid.  I have since learned that this is a common occurrence in DRC.  Solo and I head for the airport with Alex, a Congolese guy about my age who was recently hired by MAF to help out with IT projects.  Alex speaks English well, and he knows where to get things in town.  He will be a big help when we get to DRC for good after language school.  I’m looking forward to working with him and teaching him what I know about IT.

We arrive at the airport and head over to MAF’s building.  Part of the small building has an office used by the locals MAF employs to help with logistics and ground crew duties.  Another part of the building houses storage.  My eyes strain to adjust as we enter the dimly-lit room.  The strong smell of fuel catches me off guard, and as my eyes finish adjusting I can see a few dozen barrels taking up a good portion of the room.  Behind a closet door we find the VSAT systems and we begin carrying the boxes out to the patio to be inventoried.

Fully assembled the VSAT dish is over two meters wide. It is shipped in two halves along with all the fasteners, supports, cable, and electronics needed to make it function.  As we work our way through the boxes we realize that there is a problem; it seems the devices that make the VSAT transmit and receive signals are missing.  Without them the system is useless.  The customs office seems to be closed early today.  We will have to wait until tomorrow and hope that we can get the remainder of the items before we are scheduled to leave on our morning flight.

Tonight supper is at Joey and Suzanne Lincoln’s house.  I bring along the extra suitecase I packed containing toys, cards, and stickers for the kids.  Three-year-old Brooke greets us excitedly in the yard.  At home Joey speaks to the kids in French, while Suzanne speaks English.  Brooke is fluent in both, and I hear she is learning Swahili.  The kids all seem excited when I give them their gifts.  Brooke is eager to show me here school room in the house.  I can’t help but smile as I notice her Tinkerbell pajamas and the Curious George and Disney princess decals on the wall.  She is going to get along well with our girls!

Before we eat we thatk God for our meal, and ask that everything would be ok with the missing VSAT items.  Tonight’s meal is tacos. It tastes wonderful.  We have chocolate cake for dessert.  It’s moist and has a creamy chocolate frosting.  However there is an unfamiliar grit about the texture of the cake.  We all have a little bit of a laugh as Jon Cadd gives us a lesson on shopping in Bunia.  Evidently to get more for their money many vendors add sand to their sugar.  Most Africans use sugar for tea or coffee only.  When it’s added to a drink the sediment settles on the bottom of the cup and goes unnoticed.  When used in baking, however, it is very detectable due to the crunchy, grinding sensation it creates on ones molars.  The couple who made the cake just arrived in Bunia last week, and hadn’t learn this little trade secret yet.  We all had a little laugh about the whole thing.  The cake was so good though, that I don’t think anyone cared about the sand.

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