I felt the end of the mission when we passed the gates of camp M’Poko in Bangui. Lot of things have changed since we left in May. Most of the units got new tents with climatization inside since the fire and a new canteen has been built allowing everyone to have three normal meals per day.
Our team was the last one to arrive back to the main FOB in Central Africa from the company. It meant that we had a week less than the others to finish the same job. We had to maintain and wash the vehicles, count all the ammos we received for the mission, prepare the bulletproof vests for the reintegration etc… The platoon didn’t have time to loose.
Some free time
The good part was that we were free after dinner and could chill or drink a beer in the FOB. Some African merchants could enter the base twice a week and I bought some interesting souvenirs I couldn’t find in the countryside during the mission. As I was passing next to the stands, I saw a woman selling fried chicken with some exotic spices and cooked banana. I didn’t hesitate for a second to buy some, because I absolutely wanted to eat something local before leaving Africa.
The next day, for a reason I didn’t know, we had to go out for a last patrol in Bangui. Personally, I didn’t mind, but the team leaders considered as a pain in the ass since we were the only ones who didn’t finish to prepare the materials for the next mandate. The morning of the patrol I felt bad. I had a little nausea and headache but didn’t say anything. We went out, I followed the VAB on the itinerary the platoon chief showed us quickly before leaving.
But things went wrong…
An hour later it became extremely hard to keep the jeep on the road, because I was ceaslessly trying to hold my vomit back. I told the sergeant next to me that something is going wrong with me. A second later I stopped the car and threw out on the street. I didn’t have anything left in my stomach, felt cold and weak. I don’t remember what happened after this scene because I lost my consciousness a few minutes later.
Next time when I woke up I was at the infirmary of the FOB. The platoon chief and the platoon sergeant came over to see what happened to me. I told them and the doctors that I ate at the market last night and probably this is how food selling ended in camp M’Poko because I wasn’t the only one who got some disease from the African meal. I didn’t get much better during the next two days and at some point the head doctor in CAR wanted to evacuate me to a bigger hospital in N’Djamena, in Tchad.
Fortunately, I got better and was able to leave the infirmary three days before my company went to Paphos, in Cyprus. I was thinking a lot about the days I was suffering and my conclusion was that I’m the biggest asshole in the world. During the first patrol I saw with my own eyes how local people were handling meat on the market and I probably ate a slice like that one I mentioned in a previous chapter.
When I came out, we spent the three last days before leaving easy in the tents. The company commander stopped me for a moment an afternoon when I was just walking around our place and asked me how I found the mission. I told him that it was useful for me because I progressed in many domains, not only as a signaler. Working with other units also allowed me to have a better global view of the French Army and later it became extremely important in my career. The only thing I regretted that my team didn’t participate in any direct firefight.