YumYum.

It’s strange the things you miss after awhile—particularly foods—and how this effects your olfactory sense. I could have sworn I caught a whiff of waffle cones while walking through the forest which naturally made me think of peppermint ice cream…leading to the thought of ice cubes and so on. Other times I’ll imagine smelling apples or pears. Food in particular has begun to permeate my dreams and don’t even get me started on how angry I get whenever reading a book that describes food (how many times can you mention donuts in a paragraph? I mean really…).

For my twenty-third birthday, I had saved a jar of YumYum Crunchy Peanut Butter—the best peanut better in the world as far as I’m currently concerned. After heating some old cookies on a pan over the fire, I made little peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches with coffee and shot straight into heaven.

YumYum indeed.

A very low key and lazy birthday with lots of reading and spiking coffee with whisky in the evening. The PhD had bought a duck to celebrate but he had escaped the night before during an incident with the bafumba (Soldier Ants) invading the chicken coup. Rescuing some chicks from the ants, we scooped and cleaned them off, placing them in the solarium for the night. One poor little chick was crushed in the mayhem and quickly swarmed and consumed. We were able to find the duck a few days later, and yes, he tasted delicious (sorry to any vegetarians out there!).

A week after my birthday and on the 1st of May, I found myself with an awful head crushing, eye popping headache that left me nauseous, slightly feverish and in bed for practically two days unable to eat or drink. Ibuprofen, aspirin, Tylenol and even valium had little effect on numbing the pain that woke me every couple hours. On the second evening, after attempting to eat some papaya that decided not to stay, I joked to the PhD (kindly holding back my hair) that I regretted making all the jokes about how getting sick wouldn’t be so bad if you lost weight. On the second morning, we decided it was probably malaria with the fever and chills muted by the Doxycycline I was taking to prevent such ailments. She described malaria headaches as something akin to a crocodile biting down on your head. Thank God for modern medicine. Within a few hours after taking Coartem, I was sitting up again and by night, eating.

Despite missing certain foods, I really enjoy the fresh fruit and vegetables we get from the forest or garden. Being able to go out and pick some mushrooms or pluck a papaya and eat it right away. I also love being able to eat with my hands, pinching the smoked fish, beya, or pondu, between some fufu and scooping it into my mouth—who needs silverware? At the end of the day, dinner is usually very satisfying and the both cooks (Pauline and Rojer) are both excellent and aware of our individual tastes. Congolese hospitality is definitely something to be prized.

Living at Iyema is amazing with bathing in the streams, dinner by lamplight and watching flying squirrels, bushbabies and civets in the evening. And now that bee season has died down, the insects are less of a pest as my body grows used to the no see-ems. My biggest regret is how terrible my French is, preventing me from having any in-depth discussions with the Congolese guides who are all extremely helpful and friendly. With only three weeks left in the rainforest, time will go by so quick! But I am definitely excited to get back to South Africa, then Germany and finally home end of June!

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