So. Bangui and I finally parted company four months ago. It was hard in a good way, because it felt like the right move, which counts as a good ending. I spent my last night in ‘La coquette’ sitting on my balcony eating pizza with friends and laughing about the experiences we’ve shared over the last two and a half years. I miss the intensity of working in the Central African Republic. Now I understand war and conflict junkies. Conflicts are, to be crude, a cocktail of adrenalin, boredom and analysing what’s going to happen next – sometimes in the next half an hour. And they take many forms (I’ll get to that later).
In Bangui, meanwhile, there were widespread predictions that the crazy, blood-thirsty Central Africans would start attacking each other before and during the recent Presidential and parliamentary elections. They didn’t. The new President of CAR, Faustin Archange Toudéra, won 63% of the vote in imperfect elections not marred by violence nor outrageous rigging. He was inaugurated two weeks ago: the new PM is Simplice Sarandji and the parliament has just been voted in. If the French allow this new Government to begin working without interference, this could be a fresh political start for CAR. Though French Ambassador in residence Charles Malinas was reported to be incandescent at not being consulted over Toudéra’s choice of PM. So – who exactly is running the country? watch this space for more updates and unreported CAR stories.
After leaving Bangui, I decided to take some time off work and enjoy being gainfully unemployed. Which, thanks to the money I managed to save living under curfew in Bangui, has been one of my best decisions best decisions for years. Swanking around Italy and Spain for a few weeks, followed by a month’s trekking in glorious technicolor Nepal has already made my year. As many of you know, Nepal was battered by a horrific ‘Gorkha’ earthquake on 25 April 2015. In addition an infamous blockade by India crippled the Nepali economy, and has only just been lifted. Tourist numbers have been way down.
I can only urge you to visit Nepal this year, as it’s a gem of a country (and rhododendron season now) and contributing to the local Nepali economy is the best thing many of us can do. There are serious ongoing problems with electricity and Internet (my Kathmandu hotel had 10 hours electricity on a good day). But shopping at local markets and eating at local restaurants, especially outside Kathmandu, can make a difference. Louisa’s Nepal Tip: the village of Kagbeni is one of the loveliest on the planet, and I drank my best cup of tea in neighbouring Ekelbatti village!
If anyone reading this post is looking for a trekking guide in Nepal, please do email me (see contact Louisa) as my guide, Chamar, who I spent three weeks with, was outstanding. I trekked alone with him, stayed in his village and in his sister’s village, and would absolutely recommend him. There is a also a great women’s trekking company – Three Sisters – based in Pokhara.
In conclusion, I offer you the poetic polemics and radical philosophy of this fine man – psychologist John F Schumaker who writes in an essay titled ‘the age of demoralization’ about our obsession with happiness. He offers a lyrical quote from Nietzche about the route to happiness being fed by an appreciation of, ‘the least, the softest, lightest, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a moment…..’