My Brain is Melting

Main thoroughfare in my new work location - Paoua
Main thoroughfare in my new work location - Paoua
Main thoroughfare in my new work location – Paoua

This distance learning lark really can be quite hard in the hottest two months of the year in Central African Republic. I’m not the typical white Brit with a luminous forehead and scarlet shins, but I am starting to feel like a cheese fondue.

I recently had two weeks of leave back in the UK. Imagine the contrast of departing Africa and arriving back in the north of England on a damp, misty night – and then walking into a wall of heat when doing the journey in reverse. I came back to a heartwarming piece of news: CAR had held the second round of its presidential elections amid total peace and even a sense of excitement that the years of political uncertainty may be drawing to a close. I don’t think anyone here is naïve enough to believe that the seas ahead are totally calm, but there is a palpable sense of hope. The National Election Commission even overturned their decision to postpone the legislative elections so the first round of those went ahead also.

Mural on the wall
They love a good mural in Paoua

I’ve taken over a new project and am now located in the town of Paoua in the far north of CAR just south of the border with Chad. I’ll be here for a year running a health-related project and we’re also branching out into education on gender-based violence. Again it’s very remote and the tribal dynamics here are volatile, fast-moving and very destabilising. Quite frankly, here we are not facing questions of national politics, rather we have to deal with straight out tribal hatred. My first weekend back was spent in meetings with two leaders of separate armed groups currently roaming my area of operations and generally making life difficult. In the evenings I tried to concentrate on Farnham’s, “Impact of the Political Context on Foreign Policy Decision-Making” and Fettweis’s “Threat and Anxiety in US Foreign Policy”. It can be hard to focus at times. Very hard. Still, I bought some decent Bordeaux in Bangui just before the UN flew me up north so life can’t be that bad.

Animals on the road
Things can get messy on the roads if you’re not careful

Amidst this madness I’m having to look a little ahead to essay submission dates. To help out my slowly melting brain, I have these posted on the wall of  my little hut so that I am permanently haunted (and hunted) by these dates. I’m quite an organized chap though so I’ve got a couple of essays on the go, and I like to spend a few hours on Saturdays and Sundays adding to these as the semester progresses. I’m currently reading ‘Mein Kampf’ in my downtime and finding incredible theoretical insights which apply today, just as they foretold of disaster then. Now I’m caught trying to decide if quoting Hitler in my essays is acceptable – of course, the answer is yes though I have little internal ethical quarrels with myself: to what extent are the opinions of this lunatic acceptable when aired in the forum of a Master’s degree?

I’m afraid though that it’s Friday night and so I’m putting aside Hitler, cheese fondue brains, tribal hatred, Farnham and Fattweis, elections, and focusing on Bordeaux.

About Richard Bretherick 13 Articles
Final year MA International Policy and Diplomacy student. After twenty years in the military I eventually landed a job in the humanitarian industry, and I'm currently in the far north of Central African Republic managing a program in the fight against malaria. I love my job and I'm very lucky that I can say that.