It’s Sunday evening. I’m writing this post by candle light, while drinking a very cheap whiskey from a plastic bottle, being eaten alive by mosquitoes, sweating a lot from the heat and having pain in my butt from spending two full days on a motorbike driving a bad quality road. Last Wednesday I arrived by MONUSCO plane in Maniema. After several days at Care International’s HQ in Kindu, this weekend I went out into the field to visit part of the enumerator teams in Kibombo. The latter is the capital city of the territory (an administrative unit below the province) with the same name. Kibombo city is located around 170 kilometers from Kindu. The road to get there though is horrible. Bridges are missing, there are big holes spanning meters and the whole road, many parts of the road are flooded during the rainy season (which it is 9 out of the 12 months), etc. Often one has to walk and push the bike to make progress. As a result, I was planning to post the three pictures below and write something how cool I am and how much it was like being Indiana Jones, etc.
But whom am I kidding. From the pictures above, for example, it is clear I am little more than a muzungu tourist. First, I am wearing the wrong shoes. You need those plastic boots. Not only because you get often stuck in water, they also protect better against biting snakes. Second, I am wearing a shirt. Nobody does that – and definitely not with sleeves up given the sun that burns heavily for most of the day. Third, there is a full 25 liter jerry can on the back of the bike. With petrol prices at over $7 per liter, few of our enumerators have a full 25 liter can on their bike. Fourth, in the evening you sleep with your bike (picture 3). But notice that the place where I slept actually had proper walls. Although molt is literally drooping down, the enumerators sleep most of the time on the floor in villagers’ half-finished adobe houses. It was good luck that the teams were in Kibombo when I had time to go into the field. Kibombo is only 170 kilometers away. Most places where the enumerator teams work are over 400 kilometers away. After arriving in Kibombo I told the teams that the road was horrible. Their reaction: they laughed at me! The road Kindu-Kibombo is by far the best road in Maniema! Also, for me these difficult conditions are like an adventure holiday; Indiana Jones-y. I know that in some days I would be back in Kindu and could have a cold coke again – something you won’t find in Kibombo let alone in other villages. These guys, on the other hand, will be in the field for almost a year! It is their reality every day.
However, despite all this, the enumerators keep on going and doing excellent work. They are really very impressive! As an indication what these guys are going through I have posted the following 4 posts for them called “Maniema: bridges and water”. We gave the teams digital cameras and writing pads to document their experiences during the evaluation. Below is a sample of the many pictures they have made about the conditions on the road – specifically focusing on bridges and water because they are the main obstacles faced on the road. I post these pictures without additional comments because I think they speak quite well for themselves.