December 2005 (created 31-Dec-05 by Ken)
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December got off to a rough start as I fell sick with what the doctors diagnosed as malaria and typhoid. As a result I stayed in Bangui getting medical treatment while Erica and Charlie needed to return home to Bayanga. After a couple days of doing little other than taking tons of medication and laying in bed reading whatever trashy novel might be available I got out to the SofiTel Hotel where there is a pool and view of the river. It was Dec 1 and this is the local equivalent of the 4th of July to Americans although this year the government had decided to take the party to one of the...
Traveling will obviously be a large part of Erica's job as she is always on the move. Generally a couple times a month she has been flying to Bangui to do project stuff, often Charlie and I join her but I would like to spend more time in Bayanga and less traveling. In February Erica might be heading off to Switzerland for a conference, unclear whether this will happen and whether Charlie and/or I will join if it does. The flights to Bangui are generally done in a small 4-seater airplane piloted by Frederick a Belgian volunteer pilot with Aviation Sans Frontier (Aviation Without...
Charlie, at great personal sacrifice, agrees to test and see whether the cake batter is up to her high standards. From the sugar-glazed smile I'm guessing that it passed inspection.
One of the big pleasures of Bayanga has been frequent swims in the Kenya River, a small tributary that drains into the much larger Sango River. Thomas and his family have their house just near the Kenya River so we often head down to his place so that Charlie can play with his kids while Erica and I chat with the Baptist missionaries that live there including Thomas and his wife Lena (Swedish) and Paul and his wife Diane (American). This photo shows Charlie, Gabriella and Kato cooling off in the Kenya.
During December the park had a visit from the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Forestry, Water and more that I can't recall but he also oversees the parks. In celebration the park destroyed all of the confiscated home-made weapons and cables that people use to illegally hunt animals in the park. I was pretty amazed at the quantity of confiscated materials over a one year time period. It is a big event for the Ministers to make the trip out to visit so it was quite a celebration. The photo shows the park guards and one of their representatives giving a description of ...
Also in December Bayanga hosted a tri-national park conference. The Dzanga-Sanga National Park borders both Republic of the Congo and Cameroon and there are adjoining national parks in each of those countries so the managers and advisors for the three parks get together roughly every six months to discuss ongoing activities and strategies for improving management on more of a regional level. This picture shows nearly all of the conference participants. I was invited to attend parts of the conference as well regarding GIS capacity and mapping for the tri-national park ...
The Sango River is home to many species of fish, most of which are favored food items for the local villagers. I'm told there may be over 100 species of fish in the river that are eaten, not sure how accurate that number is but I have certainly seen more than 10 different species just in a short time here. This fish is called Mototo and was just absolutely huge. We bought this one, gave parts away to some of the people who work with us, and ate the rest. It was delicious.
What could be more fun than an evening pillow fight with friends? Charlie, Gabriella and Benjamin were nearly hysterical with laughter as they pummelled each other with pillows. Their fun was cut short so that Thomas's kids could prepare for the candle presentation in the next picture.
Dec 13 is Saint Lucia Day in Sweden and celebrated here in Bayanga by Thomas's family. Saint Lucia is recognized for her religious faith despite persecution and is symbolized by candles that she wore on her head to carry food to prisoners in the night. Sarah, Thomas's daughter who is wearing candles on her head, represents the Saint. They sang some wonderful songs and we enjoyed a good meal together.
This beetle is just one of the insects we have visiting us regularly as a result of living within a lush tropical forest, and is roughly the size of Charlie's palm. Charlie often goes out at night and looks at all the different insects that surround the house attracted by the light including giant moths, preying mantises, and lots of different things including bats that swoop in to feed on the feast of insects.
Bertin, who is teaching me Sango, was born here in Bayanga and has organized a number of fun things to do locally. Among these things includes a day seeing how the Raffia tree is harvested to make raffia wine, a day out fishing, and a visit with two of the local dance groups. This particular group was by far the most organized and interesting. Erica and I took a heap of photos and movies of the dancing until Charlie got kind of overwhelmed by the number of people around and asked momma to take her away to Thomas's house for a swim. I stayed for another hour or so ...
This is just one of the absolutely beautiful elephants that often frequent the Dzanga Bai where Andrea conducts her studies. Generally there are anywhere between 5 and 100 elephants at the bai at any particular moment. This bai is about a 45 minute drive from Bayanga, then a one hour walk through swamps and elephant trails to reach the observation platform.. and well worth every minute. Seeing the bai is an amazing experience.
Speaking of the bai, here is Charlie enjoying a moment at the Dzanga Bai with elephants in the background. Her smile alone was worth throwing into our monthly newsletter.
A Christmas self-photo where my face is scruffy and distorted but Erica and Charlie look wonderful. We had Charlie locked in her blue box but somehow she managed to escape in time to open presents and see what Santa had left behind.. mostly crumbs from what used to be pumpkin bread and an empty glass of milk.. along with some fun toys etc.