Friday, July 2, 2010

Love love love part #2

Yesterday – Thursday – was my last day in Goma – for the time being. As terrible last days and sad goodbyes go, it was pretty lovely.

Morning – I woke up and packed. That was awful. But then my sweet, darling friend C called and we decided to go get coffee. Waiting for C to pick me up, I climbed up into the guard tower and clutched the non-razor sections of the razor wire, looking out over the dusty street. Our guard P was up in the tower listening to music. She took one of the ear buds out of her ear and stuck it into my ear, so we listened to music together. It had a lovely beat with lyrics in Lingala. I pulled out a cigarette and offered one to P. Turns out, she’d never smoked before. So we shared a cigarette, one puff for me and one for you, and the whole time P giggled like a 13 year old sneaking behind the high school. Which made me giggle too. And we felt like young best friends acting silly.

C came and we drove to get coffee, whirling around the round-about with the golden chukudu statue. The golden man riding the golden chukudu was dressed in a basket ball uniform that must have been sewn on him, the colors of the Congo flag, decorated for Independence Day. We laughed at the wonderful sight and took pictures with everyone else.

We ordered Mochas at Nyira and they came with little cookies, and we sat with another friend, M, who told me how jealous she was of me for my unsurety about where my next job will take me and when the pieces will fall into place. She said that if she were me she would go to DC, sleep on her friends’ couches, and volunteer at the zoo. She said she’d watch my Facebook page for updates about playing with pandas and French classes that I could take at local libraries until the time came for me to leave the States again. She said it sounded unsure and perfect and wonderful.

C and I ate lunch together at my home, overlooking the lake, and A joined us. A was my first friend in Goma. I will always owe him a debt for his initial kindness to me when I was friendless and clueless about where I’d landed myself. My experience here would have been totally different and far less vibrant without either C or A.

After lunch, I went to K’s apartment building. K has been on vacation for the last ten days and I missed her terribly. She is one of the most hysterically funny and also one of the most pure, lovely, good people I know. It was three in the afternoon and we went to a fancy hotel and got glasses of white wine and sat by the lake watching the cranes and talked about every single thing in the whole wide world and my stomach muscles hurt from laughing. I’m so lucky to be her friend.

K’s wonderful wonderful partner J picked us up at the hotel in the evening and we went to the grocery store. They bought cheeses and grapes. A small handful of my dear friends came over to their house and we sat and watched crappy TV and ate cheese and grapes until past midnight.

Today – Friday – I woke up early and finished packing. I sobbed on H’s shoulder – sweet, supportive, darling H who I have lived with for the last 8 months – she and I had been living in our group house the longest of anyone. H gave me cookies and magazines for the airplane ride. My funny, kind housemate B made me a mixed tape. K also made me a mixed tape. I cried when I said goodbye to our chef, JB, and he gave me his phone number and made me promise to call. I hugged P goodbye and she started crying. My Cote d’Ivoirian housemate, J, called me by the Swahili name she had given me, which means “Joyous”. I rode the three hours to the Kigali airport with B and V, and V bought me a croissant and a water.

But then they left. And I was alone.

Sitting all alone in the coffee shop at the Kigali airport, crying quietly to myself, I pulled out my computer and opened up Skype. An old friend’s name popped up, a wonderful woman I haven’t talked to in months. I double-clicked on her name. And I began typing to her. I asked for stories about her life in Spain to take my mind off of my loneliness. And she told me about love, love, love. We talked about friend love, lover love, and family love. We talked about how damn DIFFICULT love is. And how impossible it is. But how difficult and impossible it is for everyone in the world – every single person. And so I stopped crying. Because I wasn’t sitting all alone in a coffee shop anymore. I looked around. I was sitting next to an old man who kept having to get up out of his chair to chase down his little granddaughter, who kept running hither and thither. I was sitting next to the waitresses, one of whom rolled her eyes and whispered something to the other, just at that moment, and laughed. I was sitting next to a young biracial couple, two tables down, and next to another woman jiggling a screaming baby on her knee. I was sitting in Rwanda beside my friend in Spain.

I do not make life easy for myself. My heart gets broken all the time. Sometimes somethings that would not hurt someone else very much will hurt me a great deal. But I think that this is okay. It is okay to be sad sometimes. I get sad because I love, I love, I love.


Melanie said...

I am leaving Goma tomorrow, after three weeks, and I can only imagine how sad you must, after ? Long it seems.
The article I wrote on DRC independence anniversary for the NGO I work for
No pictures yet, put I'll put them up soon. You didn't miss much, I think the party was best enjoy having foufou and sombe with friends, which I did!
I hope you do take up French classes! Take care and bon voyage.

s said...

Time is a healer.But see you have so many close friends who are tried to make you feel better.Not everyone is as lucky as you.Life teaches as new lessons everyday.ANY WAY,BEST OF LUCK FOR COMING TIMES.20 DAYS TO GO BACK AND I AM HAPPY TO GO BACK.

Megan said...

When I read your posts I can feel your heart - the leaps and the breaks.

Strange cause I am not as in touch with my love love love as you.

But I like to read it.

So confused about the mixtapes though. Goma has cassette players? You have a portable cassette player for plane ride?

looking forward to the next time you find love love love.

Emin Pasha said...

Rachel: I've read your columns for months now with admiration and warmth, and not a little nostalgia. Twenty years ago I was in your shoes, having spent a year in Bukavu on a post-undergraduate fellowship. Reading your posts reminded me of all the joys and frustrations of living in that little corner of Africa. I've gone on to live elsewhere and have other adventures, but the year in Bukavu was special--the sheer amount and intensity of what Flaubert called one's sentimental education. Throughout the difficulties you faced, you've responded with grace and charm, and during times when you might easily have responded with anger or bitterness or cynicism, you've never failed to acknowledge the beauty or goodness of those around you. I wish for you the best in every possible respect, especially if you have to make a transition back to this country for a while before getting reassigned. The casual indifference towards your achievements and experiences can be corrode the sense of pride you've rightly developed from mastering such a foreign terrain; it can be hard to realize how little all that matters once you get back. At any rate, I can only offer you the highest compliment I know of: that my (11-yr-old) daughter be able some day to go forth and have her own adventures, and that she does so with the modesty, decency, and keen awareness of beauty that you have exhibited. Thank you--and good luck moving forward.

Rachel said...

Hi, thank you so much for these lovely comments!!!!!!! They are so appreciated. I just landed Stateside & my computer battery is about to die & I am "borrowing" internet so I can't write as much as I want to to say thanks -- but yes, thanks so much. Your comments really help me feel better.