Highlights from Beni

Since my last post focused a typical day, this post shares some highlights from my first two months in Beni!

I lived for two weeks with a lively crew that included Jessica and two visitors, Blaise, and David. I enjoyed spending the evenings with them. Jessica, Blaise, and I (and Matt one time) went on runs together to ENRA which has a decommissioned runway. It is a beautiful spot that I would love for the owner to turn into the central park of Beni! I enjoyed David’s insights into politics and other topics (including an excellent impersonation of the French president calling Justin Trudeau’s wife “delicious”).

Only a few days after arriving I celebrated my 30th birthday. I invited Othy, Hortense and their two roommates to come for dinner. Everyone came dressed to the nines. Before eating we played a game of Codenames. It was difficult to play with language and cultural differences but we had a fun time! The dinner was chicken with cooked cabbage and fries. It was probably the toughest chicken I have ever eaten! Jess made a delicious cake and Othy and Hortense surprised me with gifts of a dress and wrap.

The second weekend after I arrived, Jess, Matt, Othy, and I went to visit Butembo. On the way there we had a flat tire, and the jack wasn’t working because it needed oil. Fortunately a moto driver stopped for us, went to get oil for us, and even helped Matt and Othy change the tire. In the meantime Jess and I were drawing the attention of a small cohort of children who had gathered on the adjacent embankment to see the site of two “wazungu” waiting on the side of the road. Once in Butembo Othy’s family welcomed us with open arms. We visited Othy’s parents, his brother who was in the hospital, and his older sister. We had dinner at Auberge Butembo so that we could stay late without having to go out again. Jessica and I shared a room there and Matt stayed with Othy at his parents place. The next morning Othy and Matt joined Jessica and I at the Auberge for a devotional time and then afterwards we had some fun taking some engagement-type photos. After stopping in on Othy’s family, we headed back to Beni. We were sent off with an abundance of delicious food including a live rabbit! The Tuesday after the Butembo trip I invited Lauren, Ben, Davide, and Othy to enjoy the rabbit together. It was tasty!

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Jessica left for the US at the end of May and a colleague from UCBC named Vivian came to stay at the house. I have enjoyed her company and it has been nice to be able to switch between speaking english and french with her. Othy would often come for dinner and we had a lot of fun conversations. Vivian went with me to visit a tailor to get a dress made and also inquire about the cost of making a wedding dress. We also went to the big market and she helped me in my search for fabric for bridesmaids dresses. There were a few fabrics I kind of liked, but no outright winner that I was ready to buy!

Soon after arriving in Beni, Ben, Lauren, Othy, and I were talking about the idea of having a double date at some point. The challenge though is that the international staff in Beni have a curfew of 7pm. But then I had the brilliant idea that Jess’s room was free and that Ben and Lauren could sleep over! So one Friday night in mid-June they came over, Othy brought a projector, and we shared dinner and watched Les Miserables because Othy had not seen it!

On the first weekend in July Othy wanted to visit Butembo just for a day to visit his brother who was now out of the hospital. I came along and we went on his motorcycle. We left at around 6am on a Saturday morning. It was wonderfully fresh and I enjoyed feeling the wind in my face and seeing the landscape around me without the windshield in between. Othy then stopped, we switched places, and he taught me how to drive! It was a lot of fun and I am looking forward to having more chances to learn so that I can eventually ride on my own. Once we got to Butembo we visited with Othy’s parents and sister where his brother was staying. I’m glad I brought a skirt to change into because we were both covered in dust! Othy’s father than took us on a tour around Butembo to stop in and visit some friends and family, and also visit several plots of land that he owns and wants to develop. I took notes and drew quick plans for each property. I have no time now, but hopefully in time I can propose some ideas for these sites! It was hard to believe that we accomplished as much as we did in a single day! We had to head out by 3pm to make sure that we were back in Beni before dark. The journey back was a bit less fun because I was burdened with more gifts of food from the family and the road was much busier and dustier!

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Sketching a site

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A few days later Othy went to Uganda for his graduation from Uganda Christian University where he did his masters. I could not join him because I was in the middle of leading the GIS training and also the staff were not allowed to take the road to Uganda. I woke up early and drove to his place to pick him up and bring him to the terminal to get a taxi. I am glad that his brother and cousin could be there to celebrate with him. I am so proud of him!

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Othy was away another few days in July because he went with a delegation from UCBC to visit Uganda Christian University (UCU) in Uganda. While he was away I hosted Hortense and Wivine for a sleepover on a Saturday night. We did errands around town in the afternoon and then came back, had dinner together, and watched About Time. The next morning we got up early and went to the church together. At the end of that weekend I was starting to feel fatigued and had a sore throat. After several more days I still wasn’t feeling well and so Othy convinced me to go to the hospital to make sure I didn’t have a tropical disease. After a blood test we found out I had some Typhoid. The doctor prescribed me antibiotics and after a day or two I began to feel like myself again. This wasn’t a positive highlight, but still memorable!

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