Wednesday I went to the market for the first time. I rode a borrowed bike there...it’s fine once I’m up on it, but it takes a nice high round-kick to get my leg over the bar (it’s a men’s bike.) It’s been years since I’ve ridden a bike for any significant amount of time and I found it was, well, like riding a bike. =) The market was not unlike other African markets I’ve been to in the past. One stall after another with people selling a variety of things, but often you can buy the same thing from many different vendors. There’s the stalls with onions, tomatoes, and garlic (which you can buy by the clove); the stalls with beans, peanuts, and sometimes green coffee beans (there is a missionary here who roasts his own); then the stalls with plastic shoes, flip-flops, fake designer bags, and other odds and ends; the stalls with plastic buckets, basins, baby bathing tubs, and sometimes other household goods. It’s very crowded, but I found I didn’t have as many people coming up to me to try to get me to buy from them as I have had in East Africa. It was rather refreshing. However, I think it was a rare occurrence. I took a trip down the meat section...it was enough to make me want to become vegetarian. It really wasn’t that gross, it’s just that most of the meat was fish and crocodile, and I don’t care for those. Since it’s part of the staple diet here, I think I’m going to have to get used to it. You could buy fresh fish, smoked fish, fresh crocodile, smoked crocodile, big fish, small fish, catfish and other fish. You can also buy monkey (I hear it tastes great with peanut sauce). I don’t remember seeing chicken, and certainly not beef. There aren’t many cows here, and those that do are brought down from Chad, and are very expensive. If you want beef to put in recipes, you buy canned corned beef. You can also buy “jambon”, which is french for ham, but I’m told it’s really more like Spam.
I bought several things while there, from food stuffs to fabric to household items. I found my french very useful for negotiations and even just small talk with the vendors. Yea me! It was nice to use my french and be understood. =) It was very hot, so I was dripping sweat. I had brought a handkerchief with me, but didn’t have it out. One of the vendors took pity on me and gave me a packed of tissues! That was a little embarrassing, but I thought it very kind of him. Perhaps one day I won’t drip sweat so much, and this heat rash on the inside of my elbows and around my neck will go away. I'm told it gets better...
Another physician is here, a 3rd year med/peds resident, for two months. It will be nice to have someone to “learn the ropes” with.
She brought many needed items with her in her luggage, including a new modem for the satellite internet at the hospital. It is now fully functional, which means internet fast enough for skype and posting a few pictures!
She also brought a new oxygen concentrator, but we can’t seem to get it to work. Pray that we can figure out what is wrong and fix it.
The container with much needed items for the hospital is still in Pointe Noire. They are charging $100/day to store it. There are 37 stamps and signatures (in total) that have to be obtained in order to release the container. We have about 12 so far. Pray that the rest of the paperwork will go through quickly, and they will reduce or eliminate the charges for storage at the time of payment.