I almost made my first field trip to Masisi, one of our project areas, aka Switzerland of Congo. However, on Sun the office there was looted and it seemed to dangerous for an expat to go there. We’ll see if towards the end of the week we can go and whether Ill be able to join.
There’s so much socialising going on in Goma! There’re 3 bars – Doga, Cocojambo, and Dallas (which I don’t know yet). On Thursday we went out because staff were coming from the field – we stayed out till 3.30. On Friday we celebrated Brid’s (my boss) birthday with a nice bbq, where I got to know a lot of ppl from other organisations. Later we went dancing again – till 4.30. On Sunday I had no voice!! I guess I’ve just been socialising too much :).Goal (the enemy organisation ;)) have organised Salsa lessons for Sun and Wed, so we went there today, which was loads of fun. And while we were out and about, we started planning for next weekend already :).
I really have to admit: I am living in luxury!!! I don’t have to do a thing – I come home and food’s already on the table. I don’t have to cook, I don’t have to go shopping, I don’t have to clean. Fantastic, isn’t it!???!!! Also, I almost don’t have to walk any more :). Well, we’re not allowed to walk on the streets here. So, wherever we go, and if it’s just around the corner, you have to take the car. Therefore, there’re drivers on duty 24/7. It’s really strange then, when you go out to a restaurant or clubbing and your driver is waiting outside – all night if necessary.
Well, how’s Goma?!?! Kinda difficult to explain… shame I can’t take any pictures!Goma has 500,000 inhabitants (I’m still wondering were they all are but then I guess it’s very spread out). On the one side there’s the lake – huge and beautiful – and on the other there’s the volcano – directly at the end of the city. It erupted in 2002 and is still smoking. The lava stones are still in the city, there’s a car/lorry graveyard, i.e. they have been buried by the lava (as lots of houses) and they’re still there looking half out of the soil.The roads are a nightmare, it’s like going over a mountain, like those off-road ralleys… let’s see how fast we can go, 20 kph or even 25??? They’re using the lava to build walls and even houses – one way to get them out of the way. Speaking of walls: every house (proper house, that is) is surrounded by a 2 meter wall and wire with a guard; and there’s a security company taking care of us too (we even have panic buttons at home).There’s a lot of Congolese military in the area but hardly any UN soldiers, they are in the field. It’s really green here and everything’s blossoming, very beautiful environment and the fruit is yummie!!! The temperature is really moderate, sometimes we even need a jacket :). And at the moment it’s pouring down every afternoon. There’s not much here but you can get everything. There’s even an Indian restaurant to which I’ve already been with my boss Brid.
On Tuesday I could finally get started, I got all the necessary introduction and even went to my first meeting (with UNICEF) in the afternoon to discuss potential nutrition projects (which I would be fully involved in!!!!!!) This is gonna be a very interesting job and I already know that I definitely won’t be bored here!! On the contrary, at the moment I’m having a hard time getting my head around the constantly changing situation. The security situation changes a lot, and there’re a lot of displaced people in the area but no one really knows exact numbers as access is difficult. I’ll hopefully make my first field trips soon – first to Kasongo, west of Goma, and as soon as security permits to Masisi, the Switzerland of Congo.
In Goma, I was picked up by my boss, met other Concern staff and went for lunch for which we waited 2 hours!!!! Anyway, that didn’t matter so much, the day was nice anyway. Only in the evening then, I started having slight belly ache… which got worse and worse over night and in the morning I went to the office just to go back home 30 minutes later… stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea… absolutely fantastic, I was in such pain. I haven’t felt so bad in a long time. Maria, I can imagine now how you must have felt, when you were ill! I’ve gotten better over they and I hope Ill be able to start work tomorrow. Unfortunately, I missed a first trip today to an IDP (internally displaced people) camp where we might start a project.
On Sunday morning the driver took me to the airport. As he wasn’t allowed to go inside with me to help me with check-in and stuff, I was pretty lost. I got someone taking my luggage, who, I was told, would help me inside. Well, nothing, someone else took over and from then the trouble started. The thing is, Kinshasa airport is not like a normal airport, it’s more like a stock exchange, where people push, shout, holding up the tickets to be the next one to check in. So no way I could have done this myself. Then this guy took my luggage, brought it to the scale and came back telling me I had excess weight (which I didnt). I didn’t know how much I was allowed, and my boss telling me before that she had had excess weight, and me being really tired and confused, I didn’t think much about it. The guy explained to me that I had soandso much excess and that a kg was soandso much and that I had to pay 45USD. Big shock, but well, Concern would reimburse me for it. So I gave him the money… big mistake!! He never paid anything. When I asked about it, the police came making a big show about how I could give him money. They searched the guy, found the money but I never got it back! They put me into an absolutely ridiculous VIP room to wait for the flight and I guess the just shared it. Fucking bastards.Lesson learnt: never ever give money to anyone!!! Don’t trust anyone, they’re all trying to cheat you!
On Saturday, one of the drivers took me around Kinshasa, which was quite interesting. Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures in the city because of the military but he took me to river Congo where I could take some. Right opposite of Kinshasa, on the other side of the river, there’s Brazaville, the capital of the other Congo. The second evening their was a bigger party at the OCHA compound, which ended up being a pool party (they have their own swimming pool!!!)… my jeans are still wet! Alice and me stayed up the night cos our flight to Goma was at 8 in the morning. Quite a good start, isn’t it???