Thursday, September 18, 2008

Welcome to Eastern Congo

This is Eastern Congo.
Where the sunsets over the lake can break your heart. Where the land is incredibly fertile and the temperature close to perfect. And this is Eastern Congo, where lava covers the ground and everything seems ruined.

I love contrasts. But Congo has a few too many, even for my taste. My husband and I have been living here in Goma (Eastern Congo) for the past two years. And what can I say? Congo is impossible to summarize.

We live in a small apartment near the airport. Let me be a little more specific. We have a plane super-highway that runs directly outside our home. We stop conversations atleast 5 times daily because you cannot hear yourself think over the roar of the planes. Yet we live in a town where the vast majority of people have no running water or electricity. Truly. People walk by our house with water containers on their heads as the planes fly by. But wait, if you are lucky, you might even see that person who is carrying water reach in their pocket and pull out a cell phone. It is the strangest combination of the 19th century and the 21st century.

We have a plane super highway outside our house because the roads in Congo don't work. Literally, you can't get anywhere in Congo by road, you simply have to take a plane. The roads that do exist in Eastern Congo are in terrible shape and are cut by rebel soldiers so they are unsafe to travel. So if you can't seem to have functioning roads in a country, why not move on? Go straight to planes.

Likewise, there is a lack or running water, because there are virtually no public services in Goma. So who can fix the government? The water supply system? Skip it...and buy a cell phone. Goma is a regional hub for fancy cell phones. You go to Goma and buy a cell phone because they are cheaper. We may have no water but we also have cell phones without a state imposed tax. There is always an upside in Goma.

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