If that title sounds random, it is. (It’s also alliteration, which I like.) I keep thinking of little things I want to write about life here in Bunia, but then get lazy and don’t. Now it’s piled up to a random collection that I will write about in one post.
Football and Bombs
For the final World Cup, we went to the UN club here, called the MONUSCO House. MONUSCO is the name for the UN mission to Congo. It used to be MONUC but as the mission mandate changes, so does the name. It stands for (in French) “Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo”. Try saying that 5 times fast. I may write about the UN another time, as that is a whole other story.
The MONUSCO club has an indoor/outdoor restaurant, weight room, tennis court, and a track/field. There are barricades and a wall on the outside, a guard who collects ID inside, and another guard who frisks the men and looks in their bags. Women are not checked. NGO and missionary staff with IDs can come in, as well as their guests, so I have been able to go with Jon and Cher.
If you’re wondering why such detail, it is because on World Cup night in Kampala, Uganda, two restaurants where locals and expats gathered to watch the World Cup were bombed, leaving 74 dead (and counting) and many more injured. Several young Americans from a church in Pennsylvania were at the Ethiopian restaurant and received injuries. One will likely lose her legs. Two more bombs were found before detonation, one at a restaurant in Makindye, the neighborhood where all the MAF pilots live, and where Jon and Cher used to live. These events are too close to home, and caused us to speculate that in Bunia a likely place for a terrorist attack would be the MONUSCO House. Will that stop us from going? No.
When we choose to live overseas, we don’t necessarily throw all caution to the wind. There are risks depending on where you live. Congo is a risk in itself, and going to the club might be considered one as well. But I can’t live my life running from all potential danger. I wouldn’t be able to live at all if I did that. So we look at the risks, figure out how to minimize what we can, and then…go for it.
There isn’t much to say except that there are butterflies in the house. How cool is that! They aren’t pretty. In fact, they look more like small moths, but I think there’s something kind of magical about having butterflies all over the house: sitting on my computer, in the kitchen, on the dining table. This never happens to me in America.
Beef and Pork
Bunia is not a shopping haven. There are no supermarkets, grocery stores, malls, or anything resembling these. We buy our food at the market and the tiny shops that carry a few packaged products imported from elsewhere. (For those of you from the Philippines, these are like Sari Sari stores.) The market is not pretty by any stretch of the imagination. It’s large and run-down with several long rows of shabby stalls where people set up their meager vegetables or other products. Many displays look like someone picked ripe vegetables from their little corner veggie garden in the back of their house – tiny piles of tomatoes or potatoes, possibly a handful of cucumbers or lemons. No one bargains. The price is the price. In some ways this is refreshing, and certainly faster when you don’t have to bargain.
Electricity is unreliable, and refrigeration units are imported and expensive so few shops have anything that need refrigeration. Meat is one of those things…that doesn’t need it. Now, you might be thinking, “But…wait a minute…” Yes, I know. We think it needs to be chopped into small amounts on a sterile surface in a clean environment, covered in plastic wrap, and placed in a refrigerator or freezer. Here we find our pork or beef in the market, in small wooden shacks, the body of the animal hanging from a hook in the back, a small wooden table in the front with large pieces of the chopped animal sitting in the sun or shade with flies crawling all over it.
This is when I usually become a vegetarian, but Jon and Cher buy some of their meat here when they can’t get it from Kampala, and the theory is that if you cook it well done, you kill off anything that might have killed you. We had pork and beans last night and it tasted good, as long as I kept the image of the meat shack out of my mind.
This really isn’t about beer. I just liked the alliteration in the title. It’s about shopping in Bunia.
I’m not getting any exercise here and I’m getting fat, so I decided that I would try to find an excuse to walk somewhere in town everyday. Yesterday I thought I would make beer bread for dinner, so I needed a beer, and we need an extra set of single sheets for some guests coming in a week. It’s about a 15-minute walk to the main street and a small secondary outdoor market that sells veggies, meat, and used clothes.
I went to one shop and asked for beer. They directed me to another shop that had beer. I decided to get two bottles to make two loaves. 1200 francs each, so I handed over the money and started to take the bottles. “No, no!” they shouted. (This was all done in charades, mind you, as I don’t speak French or Swahili.) They said I had to drink the beer right there, and give them back the bottles. I tried to explain what I needed it for, and offered to bring the bottle back after I used it. “No.” I offered to pay the deposit price. They looked at me sternly, then indifferently, and said, “No.” I walked out of the tiny shop, thinking they might change their minds and call me back. It was a sale, after all! But they didn’t. I finally found a shop on another street that was willing to sell me an extra large bottle of local beer, for 1600 francs, and take the bottle with me. (I’ll copy the beer bread recipe below. It’s quick and easy.)
I then moved on to the market to look for spinach and sheets. For the last four months, spinach has been plentiful in the markets, but last week, it completely disappeared. I managed to find one woman selling 4 bundles. I snagged them quickly.
I found one stall selling used sheets. It’s hard to find anything matching (as in, made for each other), and fitted sheets are extremely rare, but he had one checkered single fitted sheet in good condition, and I rummaged around until I found a solid color flat double sheet that matched. It had a huge tear on one side, but I can cut that part off and hem it. The two sheets cost $10, more than what I would probably pay in a thrift store in the US, or new at Walmart.
I managed to do all of this by greeting in Swahili, asking how much in Swahili, and then getting them to write down the price on paper for me. It worked OK, but I do wish I spoke the language. Everywhere I go I’m talked about openly and loudly, but the only word I understand is Muzungu, the word used for whites. I imagine what it would be like to turn and say something in fluent Swahili so they know I understand what they said about me. I feel a bit vulnerable not knowing the language. No one speaks English.
BEER BREAD (courtesy of Audra Cadd)
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each of dried thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary and basil
Dash of dried dill
1 can of beer at room temperature
1 teaspoon butter, melted
Place the dry ingredients in a large bowl. With a wooden spoon, stir in beer just until incorporated. Scrape into greased 8″x4″ (1.5L) loaf pan.
Bake at 375ºF (or 190 C) for 45 to 50 minutes or until crusty and golden brown. Let stand in the pan for 5 minutes then remove to rack and brush with melted butter. Makes 1 loaf.
(This isn’t very good the next day so finish it off immediately.)