May 2010

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We went to the gynaecologist's yesterday for the four-weekly check-up. The baby is fine and growing fast - which came as no surprise because Mrs.B just received a honorary membership card from the international ballooning society.

But the doctor's verdict on the mother's health was less positive. My sweet bouncing ball has had too much on the agenda recently. Our weekends are packed with birthday parties, spring celebrations, open school days (our first one!) and various social occasions. And her work has been driving her mad lately. She was supposed to have another colleague to assist her by now, but given that this person has yet to be hired, she's doing a double job while being five months into her pregnancy.

So the doctor was adamant: if she continues to work and live like this with stress levels going through the roof, the baby may come too soon. Much too soon. So Mrs.B has to calm down now or face lying down for weeks in the near future. Amongst other things, that would mean cancelling our vacation in France.

Now calming down Mrs.B is not as easy as it may seem. In fact it's easier to tranquillize a charging rhinoceros with a syringe and a catapult, with a dose that's just enough for a small dog so you would shoot him about fifty times and retrieve the syringe before he gets to you. Trust me on this, I've tried.

So the gynaecologist looked very stern every time my wife uttered 'But I have to do this and that' and gave her the rest of the week off. And the coming weeks she can only work four days out of five. And she has to take medication. And if that doesn't work more rest will be described. And it's strictly forbidden to use that time to clean up the house or anything like that.

That baby needs to stay inside for another six weeks, at the very least. Another eight weeks and we'll be on a much safer side. But twelve weeks is definitely better.

We really hope the baby will hang in there until the end of August.

Going Back To My Mother's

Mrs. B and I had a fight the other night. One of those typical 'you're throwing our money out of the doors and windows' fights every couple will eventually have when they're transforming the house. I want things to move on  - especially with a new baby coming soon - so I'll pop out to buy 'a couple of things' in the DIY shop. And then Mrs.B will go ballistic when she goes over the accounts and sees that I surpassed my 'monthly budget' (her idea).

So we had a lovely scene in the garden right in front of the neighbours and then some more - calm - discussions in the middle of the night. But still she feels I buy too much on credit and still I feel she treats me like a little baby with no sense of responsibility.


This morning Mrs.B took Wolf with her to buy some bread. Ten minutes later, I heard to doorbell. It was a taxi driver who'd lost his way and asked me if I knew a certain street. The streets behind our house are a typical 1980's maze of dead ends connected with footpaths and bicycle roads. I'd never heard of that particular road, so the chap asked me to come see on his GPS. 'Sure', I said.

So Mrs.B turns around the corner and sees me climb into a waiting taxi.

An icy feeling of panic grips her.

Meanwhile, I notice her and Wolf calling my name, as I apologize to the taxi man because I still don't know where that street is. So I get out of the taxi again and not realising at first what this must have looked like I say: 'you're back already? Did you find any bread?'


Storm Over Congo

Storm clouds brewing over a village in IturiStorm clouds brewing over a village in Ituri

Formation Flying

Last Wednesday, after a gruelling night-time flight and a couple of hours of sleep at home, I went to Wolf's child minder to pick him up. He was bouncing around like a rubber ball when he saw me, and flooded me with stories about what he'd done the last couple of days.

When we returned home in the car, I proudly told him that daddy had flown in an aeroplane. 'Me too!', he yelled.

You see, the funfair is in town and his teacher took the whole class there for a couple of rides on the merry-go-round. And so Wolf had flown in a real plane that goes up and down when you pull/push the stick.

I guess his flight was more comfortable. At least he didn't have to put up with a snoring, farting, armrest-hogging fat arse next to him for the entire duration of the flight.


First I take my underwear, generally for one week but I won't have time to do the laundry and I'll only be gone for nine days, so I take a bit more. Summer PJs, because it'll be warm, but also a sweater because at night it cools down quickly outside in eastern Congo. Then a couple of T-shirts and two polo shirts with the logo of my organisation. Three trousers with legs that I can zip off to turn them into shorts. I really should be some new ones, they're beginning to show their age.

Sandals, mustn't forget those! And a cap, to protect my head from the scorching sun; very important when one's hair is in retreat. Then it's time for the bathroom items. My toilet bag, a small towel and two washing cloths - mustn't forget to take a big towel from the closet in Wolf's room when he's sound asleep. I always forget that big towel - have to stuff it into my suitcase at the last moment.

Then it's time to fetch the medicine bag and check its contents. Sun tan lotion - although I never use it. Something against the runnings, something against headaches and fever, an antibiotic for when all else fails and doctors are far out of reach, something against terrorists and plane crashes and most importantly: a spray against mosquitoes.

Goes into the same bag: the electronics department: charger for my cell phone, charger for my iPod, webcam, headphones.

Down to the basement to delve into the camping box. Water flask, torch, compass, alarm whistle, sleeping bag, inflatable pillow and - again most importantly - mosquito net. Oh, that reminds me: mustn't forget the ball of string. You wouldn't believe the nets I weaved to hang that mosquito net from a mirror in one corner to the door and then a cross-wire to the nail in the wall and then trough the bathroom door to...

Did I pack some hankies? Oooh, this reminds me: the roll of toilet paper! Don't go to Africa without one. It's your one vital link to civilisation.

Finally something to read: three sturdy novels. Two in the big suitcase and one in the small backpack, to read on the plane. I'll stuff my photobag in my backpack too, together with my iPod. I bought new headphones today to replace the very basic fumbling things that are standard isue.

Batteries! I must recharge the batteries! Batteries for my camera! Batteries for my external flash! Batteries for my torch!


Tomorrow my plane takes off around 11:40 to Uganda, with a stop at Kigali, Rwanda's capital. The day after I'll fly to the border town of Arua with a local carrier, and then my colleagues will pick me up and drive me to Mahagi, where I'll stay for three days. At the end of the week, I'll fly to Kinshasa for two days of meetings. And next Tuesday I'll fly back to Europe, via Paris.

Good thing my suitcase has wheels.