First week is a wrap
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?