If you have been checking international news, or Congo news specifically… You’ve seen the warnings from the state department for all ex-pats living in the country. I am safe and well, the situation here is calm and under control. There has been an increase in rebel activity in the North Kivu province (my province) in the village, not here in Goma. I have not left Goma since I came back for this reason. Further, Camille and Esther regard me as their own and they certainly protect me as if we are their daughter. There have been continuous massacres in North Kivu for quite some time now. Rebels (sneaking over the borders or living remotely in the Congo bush) have been literally slaughtering innocent people with machetes. The body count is unknown at this point. Please pray not just for peace here, but pray for a change of mentality. This is exactly what we are working towards at Un Jour Nouveau. And despite the ongoing violence, change is coming on a large scale. I believe it. I’ve seen it.
smiles after church
However dangerous and heinous the events that take place in my very own province, I find that I still live in a state of perpetual surprise. Good surprise. Sometimes the smallest occurrence sends my mind into awe of where I live and what I get to do with my life. Really. I know I say this a lot but it’s true.
Some of the students graduating from the Leadership Academy
Every night, I wash my feet when I get home. They are covered in the remnants of my day. Mostly volcanic rock that has been shredded to dust and floats in the air. It clings to everything (especially in dry season) and gets into places that seemed airtight. I watch the water turn brownish and I find my mind replays scenes from the day as my tub turns from white to murk. I remember the hugs of that day, the smiles, the frustrations, the laughter, the faces of shock when I hear people talking about me and I reply in Swahili. It’s there in these moments of washing my own feet in the evening that it all replays and reminds me… “you live and work in Goma” and it’s such a great feeling.
mama kumeza waiting for lunch to be ready
This life that has become my new “normal “every day life, includes some seriously fascinating people. Sometimes the things that I see blow my mind. I used to scramble for my phone to take a picture, but now I try to simply enjoy the moment. On occasions I try to figure out how to describe the moment or the scene… and usually it just won’t translate, so I keep those moments for myself. But I don’t want to. I want everyone to know the beauty of this place and these friends. I’m working on this.
Since I’ve been back a few discouraging situations have come my way. One such situation…baby Sifa is nowhere to be found. I can’t get a straightforward answer about where she is or what happened. The most recent update is her grandfather found her and took her back to her village where her extended family will raise her. If this is the case, I am extremely happy. Once I am able to investigate further I will update again.
Baby Sifa taking a nap in my arms shortly before I left in May
So, I continue to look for joy in my everyday life and I am finding so much of it. The amount of work here has picked up considerably; the need has picked up, the rebel attacks in the countryside have picked up. Everything about life here in Goma has accelerated. So despite the increased caution, there is also increased joy and we continue to work hard teaching English, leadership, FUN, and authenticity.
Mama Vic and her 2 youngest who will attend the UJN Academy this year
Other exciting news…I am no longer the only Muzungu here! There is a girl visiting from California. She and I will be able to collaborate on a lot. Particularly video projects; each mini documentary she works on will highlight one of our staff/beneficiaries overcoming crazy circumstances to live a full life.
Teaser: the first video is about Blackman Bausi… our resident celebrity; a rap star from Goma, but also from our very own UJN. His music promotes women’s rights, peace and education… only clean and positive messages. I’m also in his next music video, so I’ll post that as well. (yes, I am in a rap video in Congo). I wrote about him in February… you can refresh your memory here. He’s working to change the mentality and cultural response to the violence here through music and the arts.
Blackman poses with his security team after his most recent concert in Rutchuru, a small city plagued with rebel activity.