13/10/2012 by etiennefish
I hear that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and this is clearly the reason that I haven’t written in awhile, and has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I was working a million hours a day, every day of the week, and then got the break I so desperately needed, effectively disappearing from the Congo for 3 weeks (3 fabulous weeks of work meetings and holiday time with friends). Nope.
And I really must say, without question, that this recent little foray to the other side of the world has comprised one of the best work holidays ever. Like really. I should also note, however, that after about 4 months of living mostly in The Bush, the wondrous world of North America becomes intensely bizarre (you know, more so than usual) and ridiculous in a very weird way. I will try and illustrate with a couple of photos.
Before I get to that, though, I really want to thank all the wonderful and fabulous people that put up with me (and put me up) on my travels, especially the Canadian (from Haiti fame) and his family. I had a great time, and really appreciated the visit, delicious food, and great conversations. Thank you!
Also on my top appreciations list? Real (as in, from the faucet .. I have some high standards people), hot showers like every day/whenever I liked (seriously the best thing ever. Which, I may have mentioned at least once/ten times a day while I was travelling. Sorry friends), Bagels, lots of bagels, and food in general that was not in some way fried or soaked in palm oil (not that I don’t have it good in terms of the cook who works on the little compound where I live, but still, one can only eat the same 5 dishes so many times before the cravings set in…) (Also, I may have binged on sushi with pretty much every single friend I met up with…).
Okay, on to photos. First, as a quick recap, I want to remind everyone that I normally live around here:
And sometimes here:
From the muddy town of Masisi, I plane-hopped time zones until finally arriving at JFK some indeterminate amount of time later. I was then whisked off to a particularly posh area of Connecticut (like some place where I was told Martha Stewert apparently lives. I did not research this, but looking around, it was a VERY believable statement, let me tell you. So, yeah, basically saying that it was a slightly different way of life from what I have recently become used to would probably be considered the understatement of the year), of all places, for some work-related meetings. This in and of itself involved some fairly intense bouts of culture shock that I’m fairly sure I would have equally felt were I have to come directly from any more ‘normal’ section of the US.
Also, I was picked up from the airport in an Escalade. That was only for me, and me alone. Despite the fact that I knew others who were on flights which arrived within like an hour of me. I was very confused. Also, one does not sit next to the driver in the passenger’s seat when in New York. It makes drivers uncomfortable and they will ask you to move. Sigh. Five minutes in North America and I was already making obvious mistakes. But to be fair, its not as if I’m exactly well-versed in driver/passenger arrangements in non–developing parts of the world…
Anyway, after completing the work portion of the journey, in what I assume (hopefully correctly) was a somewhat successful manner, it was time for leg 2 in which my real holiday began: The Weekend in New York City.
Leg 2 really started off with class, let me tell you. The same service that brought me from the airport brought us back to the City; this time in a group that grew from 2, to 6, to 9 people.
The semi-hilarious, totally bizarro world, insane-ish part?
This is the car we were provided with:
So maybe most people reading this have been in a limo before. But I don’t think any of us involved in the hour and a half long voyage really had. And let me just say, fill a stretch limo with aid workers coming from various developing countries around the world, where road conditions alone probably wouldn’t allow a vehicle like this to function for more than 5.6 seconds, and you get a bunch of adult(ish) people turning into squealing 13 year-olds (after, of course, acting quite indignant/sheepish about the whole thing- i.e. the waste of resources, the general ridiculousness and excess of such a vehicle, etc.). But then again, I sometimes get the impression we might be an easily impressed bunch…
But anyway, I think we all felt a bit like rock stars arriving at the hotel entrance via limo, somewhere near Times Square (okay, so in my head I decided we looked like rock stars, with our ‘intentionally careless’ approach to fashion despite the fancy set up (i.e. all a lot of us had to wear were field clothes)), climbing out of our enormous tinted-window limo.
Well, at least I think we might have been able to pull off rock stars when the first couple people climbed out. But, by the time the 7th, 8th, and 9th person piled onto the street looking fairly lost in the midst of a million tall buildings and flashing lights, I’m pretty sure the ‘illusion’ was fairly thoroughly shattered. Oh well.
Suffice it to say, however, I think the limo started off the whole Fabulous Holiday Adventure in just the right fashion, as I had nothing but great times as I hopped from New York, to Toronto, to Montreal, back to Toronto, and then finally back to New York. I managed to see at least 6 friends from Haiti, 4 from New Orleans, 1 from Portland, 2 from Switzerland, and 3 from Congo, as well as meet a whole load of new ones.
As this post is already bordering on long-ish, though, and I’m assuming that most people have attention spans only moderately longer than my own, I will leave the other photo highlights and stories for post number 2.
Well, after one little preview (because it is amazing):