Friday, May 21, 2010

“Border Crossing”, or “Thanks, David Smith, for all the CONTINUING fun. Heart!”

It’s time to once again reference* our favorite recent satirical** writing about Goma!

Those familiar with the piece (found in full here) will recognize quickly the harrowing journey described below that our intrepid author Mr. Smith made through the no-man’s-land of the Gisenyi-Goma border.

In order to make new the old, please find a juxtaposition of his story with the plan for the journey my own friends and I will be undertaking tomorrow evening, as we follow just four months behind in the footsteps of Mr. Smith.

While our tales are sure to be very similar, for your ease in telling them apart, please find my writing in PINK. (This symbolizes the fact that I really like the color PINK).

Are you sitting down?  Are you ready for a crazed tale of adventure and triumph?  Ready or not... here we go!

At the Hotel Before the Crossing is Attempted

Mr. Smith: A jug of hot milk was the only drink proffered. I asked whether there was any chance of a coffee. After another wait, the coffee appeared. I took a gulp. It was, without a shadow of doubt, the most unutterably dreadful cup of coffee ever made. I quickly reached for the water.

Me: I really know how he feels with this. My friends & I are planning to spend Friday night all crowded into a room at this hotel in Gisenyi, and sometimes when you call room service and ask for an iced coffee, sometimes when it arrives the ice is a little melty. Which is totally off-putting and really destroys your adventurous mood. As we’re pulling on our prom dresses and adjusting our blue eye shadow, I’m going to have to keep telling myself that bad coffee does not a bad day make and that these are simply the little tragedies that come with living day-to-day in war-torn Africa.

Arriving at the Border

Mr. Smith: I stood on a dark patch of land, not entirely sure where to go next. A few curious locals turned to look, apparently unaccustomed to seeing someone so obviously not from around their area.

Me: Again, this sentence really hits home for me. It helps me to envision what I may be experiencing tomorrow. Despite the fact that hundreds of non-Africans do cross the border every day, I need to recognize and prepare for the fact that I may, indeed, be stared at. Me. Stared at. Anyone who knows me will grimace reading this, understanding how much I dislike being the center of attention, especially while clad in a pink satin ‘80s prom dress. Especially then.

Mr. Smith: Adjacent to this rough, unromantic clearing, I could see Lake Kivu glinting in the sunshine.

Me: Unromantic? Hmm. Here we part ways, Mr. Smith. That’s not really what we’re going for. The theme of the prom party is “Love by the Lake” and I hope that our dresses reflect that, even while we are standing amidst the barren volcanic rocks of the border crossing. My friend C’s dress probably will be "glinting in the sunshine", though. It’s, like, sewn together from gold sparkles. The fake pearls on the lace sleeves of my dress may glitter a bit, too.

Mr. Smith: I found a shabby brick office and got my passport stamped. "So," I asked, "Is Congo that way?" I pointed at an inviting piece of coastline on my right. The woman laughed and shook her head. "No, it's over there," she said. I looked to my left at the rather less appealing face of Goma – but I was grateful that she had saved me from a week of wandering around the wrong country.

Me: H’s dress is silver and HM’s dress spins out with black tulle. K’s is the hottest of all the hot pinks. KD’s dress sparkles blue with little bowties at the shoulders. J hasn’t chosen her dress yet, but she is planning a side ponytail in her hair, and JH wants to get a vest made out of Primus fabric. (Side note: Why do all my friends have the same goddam initials?) Blinded by the brilliance of our outfits, and with the bright blues and luminous yellows of our eyeshadows in our eyes, we, too, like Mr. Smith before us, may stumble a bit. We, too, may believe that the way to the border is not the area with all the guards and the gates, but instead, perhaps, straight out to sea. I can only hope that there is a woman so kind to direct us, as the lovely lady who guided our Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith: And so, as with many border posts around the world, the moment of crossing the line was rather anticlimactic. Unsteady under the weight of heavy bags, and watched by a small audience, I penetrated (really? penetrated? is that really the verb choice you want to make here?) Congo in the old-fashioned way – on foot.

Me: Oh God, yes – on foot. But here I’m afraid my friends and I must claim a bit of one-up-man-ship on the honorable Mr. Smith. Unless he took the journey through no-man’s-land (that “rutted, pot-holed, jolting terrain”) while wearing stiletto heels bought at the outdoor shoe market… then, ultimately - we win. 

Who knows? Perhaps Mr. Smith will read this. And perhaps he will return to Goma. And perhaps next time he will try the trek in five-inch spiked heels.

That’s what us real adventurers do.

(...when we get ready for '80s prom parties in Gisenyi and then have to cross in full regalia to the dance floor in Goma.)

*I know. We’ve all had our fun at the expensive of this article already. It’s a bit dull of me to refer to it again. Rather old news now. But! Ha ha! I can’t help it/I don’t apologize! One last spin around the merry-go-round for me.

**I mean, yeah, it is satirical, right? Because, if it’s not, that would mean that he really thinks… and that the Guardian hires… and that no editors caught… and that… oh, god, no. The horror! The horror!

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