Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Ready for some initials? Here we go: My friends C and H and I went to dinner last night at IndBatt1 (a large MONUC compound) where my friend S lives and works with his friends R and P.

I met S here – I mean, here on the internet – before I met him here in Goma. He’s been a wonderful supportive friend, leaving me nice blog comments all the time, and then inviting me to dinner. It was a lovely dinner. The six of us sat in a circle on a wooden dock on the lake. A gentleman served us white wine (any drink we wanted, actually, and we chose white wine) and delicious cheesy hors d’oeurves. Kivu was flat as glass, black like ink, and the moon was bright. S and R and P told us about their homes in India, about their travels through North Kivu, about their jobs, about their daily routines.

They told us how they used to swim in the lake until they saw a lake cobra slithering along the surface one afternoon. Sceptical? So was I. Then they showed us a picture of the lake cobra. Yes. That’s a cobra all right. C screamed at the photograph.

S showed us pictures of the north of India, where the land is elevated and dry as the desert and gray as the moon. He showed us photos of his adorable dark-eyed son back home.

We talked about security. Nobody at all thinks that any proverbial shit will hit spinning fans on the 30th, which is a relief to hear over and over, again and again. We compared curfews and talked about hippopotamuses and lions and communal living and life far from home.

There are so many of us living in Goma. There are the Congolese who come to Goma from other areas of the country because it is a city of opportunities. There are the Lebanese and other businessmen who move to Goma because you can make money here. There are the wealthy from other provinces who travel to Goma to vacation on the lake. There are the MONUC soldiers who are sent to Goma for their careers. There are the aid workers who sign up for Goma because they want to put EASTERN CONGO on their resumes. And last and sometimes viewed as least, but not least, God, never least, there are the men, women, youth, boys, girls, and babies who were born to inherit this city because their ancestors settled it and built and rebuilt it, defiantly, in the face of earthquakes and wars and volcanoes. Who will still be here when the rest of us ridiculous transients leave.

All of us live in our defined groups beneath our little labels. We live in funny non-concentric circles, our lives overlapping in weird and wonderful places like Venn diagrams but rarely blending, only touching.

But the luckiest of us are invited to partake in the experiences of the others.

Thanks to S for the wonderful dinner and insight into how he lives here. Thanks to A for letting me meet and befriend his family. Thanks for JB and J for the hospitality and opening the doors of their homes. Thanks to C for letting me volunteer at his school. Thanks to N for opening his office. Thanks to etc etc etc. I’ve been lucky.


s said...

trying to send the pics by mail.still trying but net is wonky today.

Rachel said...

I got the pics!!! :) thanks, they're great. Great way to remember a great evening.