Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Live from Goma

Rushing home to beat the impending darkness, my Escudo was recently brought to a halt in front of a long line of Pajeros and Land Cruisers, the ubiquitous transport of Goma. My Suzuki emits a pathetic yellow halo of light in front of the car, making it barely adequate for travel after dark. I was in a hurry. The delay was exasperating and confusing, especially because this was not the normal location of a back up. We inched forward, and ten minutes later the source of the delay was found: a large power cable lay prone across the road. Now, in Congo any disruption to the normal flow of life is seen as an opportunity by enterprising individuals. This day that ingenuity was on display as young boys stood to hold the cable up on either side of the road - but only raising it up after the cars had paid a small fee, such as cigarettes. Thus, what elsewhere would be seen as a sign of municipal failure was here seen as a makeshift toll gate.

It's scenes like this that make Goma such a fascinating and exasperating place. One can only admire the ingenuity required to survive while at the same deploring the reasons such ingenuity is needed. But some people here are doing more than just surviving off of opportunity, they are creating hope for others. For example, my friends Pascal and Christine run a center for young people called Camme, which aims to build community and provide useful skills for children who otherwise have no chance to learn. The organization is completely home-grown and locally operated, with growing, enthusiastic support from the United States. Heal Africa, which I've mentioned numerous times before, is another example of a home-grown and operated institution that is working to bring healing and transformation to Goma and North Kivu.

Goma is a place in rapid transition, with a long way to go towards "normality". But it's clear, even over just the one year I've been able to observe, that things are changing for the better. It is a place on the fragile road to recovery, and a lot can still go wrong (and very much is still going wrong in the districts surrounding the city). But with hopeful, passionate people working to make their home a better place, things maybe can get better (as long as governments don't screw it up, but that's a tale for another day).

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