Monday, October 25, 2004

Mzuuunguuuu!!!

We are settling into a nice lifestyle here.

This morning, for example, we jogged from Maji Matulivu (still waters, Jo and Lyn's house) with our tennis rackets at 6:30 am to the Hotel Karibu, about a mile and a half. The jog is along a nice little lane with flowering trees and views of the lake on one side and the volcano on the other. Each way we pass an old property of Mobutu's, including the lion trailer where he kept his pet lion, and the compounds of other grandees including the area's governor, UNHCR, and the heads of the RDC, the political party in control of North Kivu. If we go early enough the air is clear, but later diesel SUVs from various NGO's make breathing a little difficult. Everyone we pass looks at us like we're insane, but the soldiers guarding various entrances seem particulary bemused. My favorite part is running by a house where a starled four-year old always shouts MZUUUNGU! (white man in Swahili) and starts running after us. Today we had a whole pack of barefoot boys running after us asking for biscuits (the NGO's often give out high calorie snacks to kids). When you're running along with a tennis racket the whole scene makes you feel like a preppy psychopath.

I suck at tennis, but Teo, a pro at the Hotel (clay courts!) is giving me lessons.

We have a jeep here, a blue Pajero with "orthopedic and tramautological surgery" painted on the side. Driving around Goma is crazy. Most of Goma was destroyed by the volcano two years ago, and most of the roads excepting the main drag are actually just raw lava floes. Tough on the suspension. Lava rocks cover everything and they are black and jagged. Watching the little kids run around barefoot makes you wince. But Goma is still pretty big, with about 600,000 people, and it is absolutley hectic with traffic, hawkers, barber shops, cell phone shops and shoe markets. The buildings are low, made of concrete or planks of wood, and all the shop signs are hand painted. BJ wants to have a coffee table book of just the signage-- hulk hogan, rambo, 50 cent, Craig David (??), hulk hogan fighting Craig David. Everyone stares, waves, laughs... if there's one Swahili word I'll never forget, it's "Mzungu."

The dutchmen have left. All brothers, they were inspirational... they've been running a small foundation in Congo for twenty years and go everywhere, to the smalllest villages, just fixing things, buying property for people, importing equipment. They were a bit paternalistic but seem to have adjusted to Congolese rythyms over the years.

We've visited Mama Jeanne's orphanage (600 kids) and Devon's school. Every day going back to Maji Matulivu is like hopping worlds, economies. Poverty is awe-inspiring, finally, when its scope is so extensive, and people's resilience in the face of horrible suffering is admirable, yes, but also terrifying. It is totally alien. I can only watch, listen, but I can't feel it.

The volcano, which looms over the plain where Goma sits beside the lake, glows a molten red at night.

2 purrs/hisses:

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Jacques said...

Luwungu : I am enjoying your tales. It sounds like a parallel universe of sorts... Hard to get the head around it. Strange juxtapositions. What is the connection between tennis, volcanoes, the Dutch, and surgery? Why are they making you jog? Do you have tennis socks with pom poms? What are you eating? Do you feel lke you are really there? What does it smell like? Can you send any pictures yet?
In other news, I miss you. It is raining in Paris and the winter edges closer every day.
xj

 
At 5:01 AM, Blogger la mannanista said...

funny we should be in the same timezone and our worlds be so different. i can feel the excitement from here. miss you!

 

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