Saturday, January 10, 2009

On the ground

Back on the ground, here in Goma, it seems as though I never left. Goma looks the same. The UN tanks are still on the traffic circle near our house, the streets are still crowded with people, and my husband, friends and co-workers are all safe and well. But a month has passed and it seems that everyone I talk to has a story to tell.

One friend became sick while I was gone and her mother and grandmother traveled from their rural village deep in rebel territory, to visit her in Goma. They arrived safely, despite the fact that they were traveling between rebel-held and government-held territory. But on the way home their bus was attacked by gun-weilding men and shots were fired. As the passangers fled, her grandmother, an elderly woman unable to keep up with the crowd, was crushed in the chaos and has been hospitalized.

Another friend's uncle was on the road from Goma to Rutshuru, when his vehicle was attacked. He was killed and the driver was injured. He worked for an international NGO and as the story got reported over the news, that seemed to be the key feature of the report. Yet when his family told me of the death, no one even mentioned that. They have lost their father, that is all they have to say.

In another province, fighting has escalated with a Ugandan rebel group. As though Congo needs a few more crises. Yesterday I was visited by a friend who had just returned from a trip to that province. She had gone for the funeral of a relative who was caught in that recent fighting and killed.

Then she returned to her home in Goma to discover that her neighbor's house had been attacked by bandits while she was gone. Her children, who had remained in Goma while she traveled to the funeral, heard shooting during the night. In the morning they woke to discover that their neighbor's house had been attacked. Armed bandits had attacked the compound, killed the guard and attempted to enter the house. She arrived home just in time to see the guard's body being taken away.

So time passes, for those of us who are lucky. And we tell the stories.

Yet good things happen too.
For those of you following this blog, you will recall the story of the young woman who did not know what had happened to her family in Kiwanja. Over the past month, they have all been located, safe and well.

In the spirit of a new year, full of hope, we must remind ourselves of these stories too.

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