LOUIS ABELMAN

Archive for October, 2005

Nyiragongo on PBS

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For U.S. readers (all 3 of you), a doc about the Goma volcano:

Airing on NOVA: “Volcano Under the City”
Tuesday, November 1st at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings)

Filmed by the creators of “March of the Penguins”
Produced for NOVA by Providence Pictures

A team of scientists trek deep inside a volcano, amid rockslides, seething sulfur dioxide gas, and red hot lava. Their mission: to retrieve a lava sample to help forecast the volcano’s next eruption. The fate of nearly half a million people in a nearby city could be at stake. The volcano erupted in January 2002, surprising the city 11 miles away. Enormous cracks opened in the ground nearby and spewed fountains of lava, killing 100 people and leaving 120,000 homeless. The scientists’ biggest fear is that next time a fracture could open under the city itself and hundreds of thousands of people could perish.

http://www.providencepictures.com/
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/volcanocity/
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/schedule-local.html (for local
listings)

Written by louis

October 29th, 2005 at 10:25 am

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First week is a wrap

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It’s Saturday afternoon and we are resting from a great first week. For the first time since we arrived, the sky is cloudless and a fine breeze is blowing. The lake looks very enticing so maybe it’s time to go out on the boat.

Goma was built as a resort town by the Belgians, twin lakefront city to Bukavu in the south. Though it lies almost exactly on the equator, the climate is temperate all year because of the altitude. The sun rises and sets at exactly the same time every day of the year, too– up at six, down at six. The equatorial sun also seems to snap on and off like a bulb at twilight. Night brings the thrilling sight of Mt. Nyiragongo’s glowing caldera in the distance and wisps of floral scents enticing the nose through the open car windows. Volcanic ruination in 2002 hasn’t taken the resort feel away entirely.

That’s to say it’s hard to avoid the fact that this is an incredibly pleasant place to be considering the poverty, war, and disease that afflicts the region. I’m only troubled by the creeping feeling of being posessed by colonial ghosts– as people jockey for my patronage– as I get used to being catered to constantly– as I grow callous to constant pleas for money, goods, and aid from all sides. Luckily there are pints of Primus to help it all go down after dark.

This week we have made many new friends among the patients at DOCS and watched them go through their literacy and sewing courses, their meals, and their prayer services. The women range in age from preadolescent to indistinctly old, but the most friendly are of course teenagers. Speaking much better Swahili than last trip, it’s actually possible to have long and hilarious conversations with people, and this is changing the way we work entirely for the better. Nelson has been taking meals in the wards while Bige has been seen doing the roger rabbit before a teary-eyed laughing audience.

If this sounds a lot like what we were doing last year, that’s because it is– but better, more thoroughly, more nimbly.

Halloween party tonight at Coco Jambos– $100 prize for best costume– should I just pretend I’m wearing the best Mzungu (white person) costume ever devised? Or dress as deposed kleptocrat Mobutu Sese Seko?

Written by louis

October 29th, 2005 at 8:54 am

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Itebero the Gorilla: Cuteness or Menace-ness?

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A guest at Maji Matulivu, Lyn and Jo’s house by the lake, works at the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund in Goma. He gets to spend his days with Itebero, an infant gorilla that was recovered from the black market. This little lady has become world famous for her unprecedented (in a gorilla) use of tools: she likes to sit and crack palm nuts with rocks using a hammer and anvil method. Read more at this awesome baby animal blog or here. I have some pictures of Itebero sifting gravel for favorite rocks but can’t upload them from here, consarn it.

In other news, “Prejudice,” the soap opera short we shot last year with local impressario Horeb Bulambo Shindano was featured in an east Congo film festival here last Friday night at the hotel Ihusi. Some of the other movies were impressive; in particular, one about the rotting colonial film archives in Kinshasa, and “Stokyo,” about kids hanging out, smoking, riffing, rapping, in Goma (unprecedented in world cinema I think). It was the most exciting experience I’ve had socially in Goma so far, as I was brought up on stage to discuss our film after the screening in front of a couple hundred people. The spotlight is bright in Goma for Mzungu film actors… I saw my costar Tantine again, beautiful as ever, and we capped the night with drinks and dancing at Coco Jambos, where we met the owner Nono and made friends with the cook Maestro, a real rastaman.

And yes, I’m actually doing work, too: we are meeting and getting to know a new class of fistula patients at the hospital, and they are as lovely and lively and welcoming to annoying Mzungus as ever. The hardest part is figuring out how to convey all they’ve been through when all they do is laugh and make fun of us all the time. Me and Nelson have been collecting marriage proposals, though we’ve carefully described our imaginary fiancees back home. Imaginary fiancees… is this what I’ve come to?

Written by louis

October 24th, 2005 at 4:07 pm

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Reading…

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Written by louis

October 21st, 2005 at 10:57 am

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The Goma Bureau of the Goma Film Project is OPEN

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Habari gani vijama!

The Goma Film Project is once again open for business, working out of a lovely office in the Vodacom building, downtown Goma. I fear no one will read this as I stopped writing in the blog a while ago. There was a busy late summer, in which we sent the film (a work-in-progress) to the IFP market in New York, met with the documentary distributors we needed to, and prepared for round 2 of filming in Goma. And here we are. It’s all still here– the mototaxi congestion, the greedy officials, the serenity of the lake, the imposing shadow of the volcano, the beauty of Maji Matulivu, Jo and Lyn’s house.

Enter the previous tripod (me, BJ, Nelson), followed by our new editor, Lynn, and a credit-card destroying mound of hard drives, wireless shotgun mikes, batteries, imacs, and baby clothes for the orphans. We all trickled in to Kigali separately– I was surcharged and searched in several cities on the way (no love for KLM or Nairobi airport)– and took the magnificent Okapi minibuses to Goma. BJ got here first and really softened the landing by finding an office and arranging a million things. Lynn is a trooper, on her first trip to Africa, unflinching at the sight of soldiers and their careless swinging of Kalashnikovs…

Goma seems a little less tense than last year. All is well so far… more updates soon I hope (writing is a slog for me these days for some reason).

And sorry no video updates. I’m an internet novice, and I’m working on it. Uploading is much harder with this glacially-paced connection.

Kwaheri…

Written by louis

October 21st, 2005 at 10:56 am

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