Archive for August 1st, 2018

August 1, 2018

A Day in My Life in Beni

To give you a better idea of what my life is like here in Beni, I thought I would try to describe for you a typical day.

I wake up at 5:30am every morning. My schedule has totally shifted because the sun starts to rise at that time and in the evenings I usually climb into bed early to get away from the mosquitos. I sometimes do exercise because I find I am missing the regular activity I had from walking and biking all over Toronto! At around 7 I eat breakfast that consists of tea with either buns with avocado or honey, wheatabix with milk, and/or rice pudding (rice from the previous night, milk powder, a bit of hot water, and banana… yum!). Before leaving the house I have to make sure the cats have something to eat. There is Mama Cat, George the papa, and four energetic kittens that are growing fast. Soon we will be giving them away to some of our friends and colleagues. At 7:45 I am out the door to head to the university.

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I usually drive to get the university though it is also possible to take a motorcycle taxi or “moto”. I feel fortunate to be able to use Mary and Jessica’s car while they are away. Driving here is an interesting experience because all of the roads except the main one are bumpy dirt roads, and the car is from Uganda and therefore the drivers seat is on the opposite side. Fortunately it is a Toyota Rav 4 and so it can handle the bumps pretty well. It has taken several weeks to get used to the turning signal and the windshield wipers being in the opposite positions. On the road you always have to be 110% focused because there are motos and pedestrians everywhere and there is always the possibility of vehicles going in the wrong direction, not having working lights, etc.

UCBC is about a 15 minute drive away. I park near the welcome centre and then walk to the office of the Integrated Research Institute. The campus is small but growing. The community centre project is still ongoing (a project that EMI has been assisting with for several years now), this time with four classrooms complete and two more classrooms and a hallway being worked on. IRI is located in two of the newly built rooms; one of them is more of a meeting style room with a large conference table, and the other has individual desks. A few times a week we have meetings, but other than that everyone works fairly independently. On Monday and Fridays there is a chapel time at noon before lunch with some worship and a message. UCBC had a huge tent donated and built that they use for these large gatherings. At lunch most people gather on the balcony of the Academic 1 building. The school has a cook who prepares Kiringiti which is rice and beans. There is usually also a choice of Ndizi (a savoury plantain but ironically I don’t care for it because I find it too sweet) and greens that could be Sombe (made from cassava leaf), Aubergine (eggplant), Chou (cabbage) or others. I often eat with the group from IRI and try my best to follow their fast conversations in French!

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New classroom block where IRI is located

The school day ends at 4pm. Some days I leave an hour or two earlier to take calls or do work for my job with E4C. I also try to devote some time to learning Swahili. Slowly but surely my knowledge is increasing. Often I’ll make the short walk to a nearby small corner store and market to buy things like toilet paper, canned sardines for the cats, bread, bananas, and avocados. Othy sometimes visits and we sit and talk or watch a TV episode and then he stays for dinner. Dinner is prepared by two mamas who we hire who also help take care of the house. They are the main people who I try to practice my limited Swahili with. “Mama” is the term given to any woman who is married, and similarly “Papa” to any man, and so soon I will be called “Mama”! Dinner usually consists of a meat dish of either goat, beef, or fish, a carb dish of rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, ndizi, or fufu (a thick puree made from cassava root flour), and a vegetable dish of various kinds of greens (cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, cassava leaf, and even some greens I don’t know the name of). I enjoy dinner time because I always eat together with whoever is staying in the house at the time; it feels so different than my solitary meals during my studies and time working in Toronto. After dinner we usually enjoy tea and some fresh fruit like pineapple, mango, or passion fruit. After dinner I try to do one more hour of work, e-mails, blogging, or Swahili, and then I get ready to turn in between 9 – 10pm already! That about sums up a typical day! In the next post I will share some highlights from the last two months because not every day is like this!

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