Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look like that) I would say ‘when I grow up I will go there’. (Joseph Conrad)

My entry into the Congo has been delayed by a Japanese construction company here in Bangui.  They’re helping to build schools – eleven of them I think. One week down with the job and another to go.

I almost quit on day 1, and again on day 2. Well it’s not particularly interesting to hold a metal pole for most of the day whilst a Japanese man signals with his left or right arm for you to move it to the correct position. He is looking through a computerised instrument that gives him numbers, which he then yells out in Japanese as a distance.

To observe this man at work is interesting. How he manages to ignore the children that invade his personal space, the litter, the smell, and scenes of daily life that are a world away from his home surroundings in Japan is quite remarkable. Inscrutable is the word that fits the bill.

To work with this man is both frustrating and hilarious. Communication is not one of his strong points. I’m reminded how it was to live in Japan and work in a Japanese school, which I did for two years. I don’t think I could do it again.

Were it not for the free lodging, food and probability of a bit of cash after two weeks I might have pushed on alone to DRC and left Hiromu to reconnect with his fellow countrymen and culture. But I’ve decided to stick it out. The Congo is one country I really want to do with company.

On the job