Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday

Thursday morning, and it’s back up the hill to MONUC. They determined that we could make it to Nyanzale, it was secure; and so we headed out.

Flitting little yellow birds raced us up the road.


Thursday night, we slept in a DDR center for former children associated with fighting forces and armed groups (CAFFAG).

By Friday my French had all but abandoned me. I could understand words separately, but phrases and the thread of the conversation had become more and more elusive. It was as if I were behind a veil that I couldn’t shove aside to get at the meaning of the conversations surrounding me.

Luckily, I didn’t have to speak orally to communicate with the former child soldiers at the center. Children are so much easier to talk to, so much more aware of intentions, so that words are less important. While N was making phone calls with her office in Bukavu, the two-dozen-or-so boys and I communicated with hand gestures, high fives, and my camera. (I took pictures of them to show them – they took pictures of each other to show me.)

They showed me the rabbits they take care of – someone later told me that when the boys leave the center, they each get two to take with them, as hopeful income generating activities.

We had fun.


Friday afternoon we drove back down to Kitchanga and entered an IDP camp. It was awful. There’s no other word. People were trying to make it livable. But the tiny hovels, jammed together, coupled with the mud and rain, made it a mess. M and I stopped to interview a group of parents and children about education.

One woman carried over a stool for me to sit on and a plastic tarp for her neighbors. Several of the women saw my flip flops and shook their heads and worried that my feet were getting muddy.

The children snuck up behind me to touch my hair and snicker and giggle high-octave child giggles.

There is nothing romantic about poverty. There is nothing glorious about filth. There is nothing enlivening about living with nothing. It is only horrific what some people on this earth endure.

There is no great wisdom to be found in lava rock and mud. But the resilience of the human spirit –

The women tied up their hair with head wraps with different knots, at different angles. Some were hospitable. Some showed kindness and charity to me as a guest. Some were angry. Many of them spoke and spoke with expertise about their children, their awful frustrations and their hopes.

M translated the Swahili for me.


Eastern Congo has been referred to as the Switzerland of Africa. Obviously, this is not to do with politics, but with scenery. It is so unbelievably beautiful. Drive through the hills and you begin to see why people will fight to hard for this rich, lush land. It looks like the illustrations of Eden in illuminated Bibles.

Saturday morning, on the way to the last village before heading home to Goma, the road was unbelievably bad. Very bad roads are awful to travel on, but unbelievably bad roads are like roller coasters. At multiple points, one of our cars had to attach to the other to toe it out of various mud holes. You laugh hysterically whilst being jerked up and down, even as you realize how crippling the road is to the market economies of the villages that lie along it, and how terrible that is.

It’s like the volcano. Like the lake. So unbelievably beautiful, and so horrible.