demark!

Seeing (and soon fleeing) the country

In Uncategorized on September 10, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Where I’m at: back in Brazza after some time up-country and in Pointe Noire

What I’m doing: prepping for the return of the rainy season…by prepping to leave the country

Why I’m posting: forgot I had a blog

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Once upon a time, a long time ago, I remembered to post on my blog. And people read it. And all was good.

So actually, I intentionally wanted to leave my last post up for awhile for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, it’s been an exciting few weeks and I haven’t effectively continued to use this blog as a place to keep up with us, learn about what it’s like in Congo, or hear about exciting things in the life of a diplomat (that might be an oxymoron, though “diplomat” sounds so much more exciting than “bureaucrat.”). But enough apologies.

A few weeks ago, a group of us headed up to the Lesio-Louna Gorilla Reserve, run by Project Lesio-Louna and financed mostly by the Aspinall Foundation in Lefini National Park. A little bit after that, Colleen and I headed to Pointe Noire for a work-cation where we stayed at a beautiful lodge by the ocean (unfortunately, my cell phone stayed longer than we did; d’oh!) and visited Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Sanctuary, run by the Jane Goodall Institute. Colleen’s blog did a great job capturing the mood and the pictures of these trips, so click there if you’re interested in seeing how cool it was and to see me making out with a baby chimp.

The other big news for us in the last few weeks is my wife Colleen’s departure. She left last week to head back to the U.S. to prep for her masters’ exams. I’ll follow her in October after attending a couple conferences on implementing measures associated with the Reducing Environmental Degradation and Deforestation Plus (REDD+) program, which is poised to potentially be the biggest environmental-related program ever. We’ll spend a few weeks traveling the states, hitting up the ND vs. USC football game, visiting my mom’s new bar, and generally enjoying modern amenities for a few weeks.

Missing modern amenities is my transition to admit I’m considering something I never thought I would: hiring someone to help clean the house. I never thought I’d be the type of person to hire someone to do something I could do myself. But between the ever-present dust and soot from trash burning and the single-parenting of our dog (who is basically our intermediate between trash and the garbage can; he shreds anything paper or plastic first), I’m finding the house is getting dirtier than my cleaning can keep up with. Today, I actually used Raid spray for the second time since arriving, which is a bad sign as to both the state of cleanliness of the house and my level of involvement in addressing the situation.

Another transition here: linking modern amenities and level of involvement to explain another pervasive feeling that Congo has made me feel. I’ve always been on the Locke side of government theory, believing that people create government to ease their own burden. But seeing the horrific state of solid waste management and the driving situation in Congo, I’m starting to fall into that theoretical Hobbes camp of believing that government is there to protect us from ourselves. With no real trash collection, public trash cans, landfills, or effective anti-littering laws, the city here just fills with garbage. And people’s response: there’s trash everywhere, so I’ll just further contribute to the problem and dump my trash anywhere I want. And without regularly functioning stop lights, police issuing traffic citations, and with the worst city planning (esp. around intersections) I’ve ever seen, driving is more than an act of faith here. Here again, the response from most people: driving is insane, so I better drive faster, push to the front, and create my own lane. These responses despite the fact that litter clogs the drains to the extent that waste flows into the streets in the rainy season and that there’s a fatal accident practically every morning on my way to work. It’s really very frustrating and despite our individual, diplomatic, and civil society pleas to change this behavior, I’m starting to believe that only government can step in to make people obey laws to protect their own health and well-being. Ugh, I can’t believe I just wrote that.

Well, now that I’m back in the blogging game, expect super profound thoughts like that more frequently again. Thanks for reading!

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Who said it: Thomas Hobbes

Why it’s relevant: who will save us from ourselves (and our garbage)?

The quote: “During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.”

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