January 2008

Monthly Archive

Sarah in Kinsasha with an Congolese Police dude

I have avoided writing about my trip because I don’t really understand it. I experienced my first real culture shock when I landed, maybe not because Congo is so different than I expected, rather because it’s just as it promised it would be. It met me with green haunty hills and gashes of jungle and the twisting spine of the Congo River, and then we landed and it was havoc.

Kinshasa has a post apocalyptic quality that I have now gotten used to, but at first, after flying for days I was out of my body out of my mind.

Congo is, well I’m having a hard night so I hesitate, but I mostly want to say, terrifying and fucked, but I will re-frame by saying that it is blood stained for generations, and the whole country suffers from post traumatic stress– they are survivors. Everything seems corrupt and in perpetual quagmire. A kingdom of ghost and guns. Everyone is stunning.

For now I will just give you some disconnected highlights that make even less sense to me than they will to you:

I learned that my travel companion was hit by lightning when he was a child and smoke came out of his mouth.

I watched TV with Kabila’s (the assassinated president) vice-president. Er . . . The former president had four vice presidents, and I hung out with one of them. His slipper fell off at one point and I put it back on his foot. In his office I saw a photograph of him with Che and another with Mao, and then we ate some chicken.

We were in Goma during the big Congo Peace Conference, and when our plane landed one of our interpreters turned to me and said, “You know, there are rebel groups no less than 40 kilometers from here”. The conference was deadlocked for a few days and in the end I fear that paper signing is the last thing that will do this country any good.

I crossed Lake Kivu, which rests upon a layer of natural gas, one crack in the basin and the whole lake would explode and the surrounding region would be suffocated by the gas. Seriously, they have exploding lakes here.

Laurent Nkunda Tutsi General from Rwanda

Eastern Congo, really. We had a police man from the presidential guard when we went outside of the city into the villages in the Walungu region. I just found out today that there had been another rebel raid on a village in Walungu while we were there. We don’t know where exactly, they could have been on the other side or it could have been a few miles away. Yes, pretty much scary, but I knew this going in.

I was able to interview a few women, rape victims, in Walugu, and interestingly I actually met and interviewed the same woman that was in that Anderson Cooper thing I sent you. I don’t really know what to tell you about this. It was disturbing, of course, but really my brain is only allowing a little of this information to register at a time.

The next day we were invited to a gun exchange in which a local organization was trying to get villagers to trade in their weapons for useful items like tin roofing or bicycles. It failed; no one would show because this would be a public admittance of being a thief and rapist. I didn’t think it was a realistic plan, but I was there to bear witness anyway. The army was there and then the UN showed up. In this region the UN is made up of a bunch of terrifying Pakistani men that ride around in jeeps. They were like, what are you

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white people doing here in this village in Eastern Congo?

A fine question.

And then I left the jungle and now find myself back in sweltering Kinshasa. I am trying to follow what is and has been going on in this country since the war. I now understand that Rwanda is trying to carve out a piece of Congo, and that the Interhamwe were once found eating UN food. I don’t know!

shitfuckmutherfuckingjesuschristbaby

ok.

Anyway, I’m safe still but pretty well frustrated and misanthropic. Well, no, not completely, but if you want more details I’ll try my best to pull together the fragmented mess that i know and have gathered from my time so far. I will be here for two more weeks, more interviews and filming and then I will pull myself from the motherlands dark loins and return to our white bitch of a country.

I am missing everyone something awful and I feel so so far away. But, all this said, I wouldn’t trade a moment in Africa for anything.

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Janus Roman King

With less than twenty minutes to go Amanda asked me what my New Year’s resolution might be and I of course had none slated for delivery. Dismissive as I was a debate began throwing words like change around and yes, I know, change is inevitable and possibly even good but that doesn’t mean I have to declare anything. If it’s gonna happen it will and that’s fine and dandy unless it sucks.

It did get me thinking, tho, about where these things come from. When did people decide that the end of a calendar year was the best time to make some statement of intent– I will be a better person in this way for the next year because it’s midnight and I’m drunk. A quick little google run decided that both the Romans and the Babylonians invented the concept of New Year’s Resolutions which just goes to show you that the internet doesn’t know shit. It does, however, know how to sell you shit.

A week or so later I was carrying some heavy equipment up some janky stairs and there was a drunk guy who, it turns out, wasn’t the booker or the bartender. He was very friendly, however misplaced, and asked our sad little parade of amps and drums what our New Year’s Resolutions were. Everyone ignored him except me: “I’m running a little behind– I haven’t made mine yet.” This elicited a couple chuckles from the band and a roaring belly-laugh from the random drunk who seemed to accept this automatic response as an answer worth-while.

It did get me thinking, tho, about what kind of resolutions are being made these days. I tried a technorati search but there were thousands of postings made involving them and no one seemed to actually talk about what they were, only about how they’d given

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up. Everyone except for people with Christian Mission blogs, that is, who are more than happy to tell you all about how they worked on maintaining their New Year’s Resolution. This was a sadness I could not investigate further. Perhaps bloglines, with their advanced search parameters, would have allowed for better searching but attempting to access any data in between the end of December and the beginning of January resulted in severe server failure. Basically I learned that the internet is a temporal flux where ideas, information and opinion are created, shared and destroyed within the span of a day and the nutritional yield is approximately zero and the waste-product immeasurable.

It’s a Wonderful Life

I’m not opposed to tradition all the time. I enjoy “It’s a Wonderful Life” and think it’s a shame that the

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effective fit of nostalgia directed by a true believer in American idealism and potential. Unfortunately you can’t watch it without Macy’s parades and the scent of pine in the house or else your sense of time and place would be so distorted your brain would explode like a 4th of July display and melt into a puddle of over-heated Halloween candy. I’m not even opposed to the declaration of New Year’s Resolutions– it’s just that I mostly associate this tradition with Bloom County’s Binkley screaming them on behalf of beleaguered celebrities over the edge of a dark crevice.

However, if I were in the habit of New Year’s Resolutions it seems popular to promise great productivity in the blogosphere, or rather lament the lack of said productivity. No better example of failed hopes, dreams or idealism than where you’re sitting, I suppose, tho we didn’t really need the make a resolution in order to fail. If I believed in them maybe I would have resolved to push the boundaries of my interest/abilities/desire and propel my web presence into deeper depths but I don’t believe and so there you go. I’d attempt to inspire a response from the passing crowd, something of a trick I picked up from a Guatemalan photoblog I frequent, but somehow I can’t bring myself to pander to anyone. What works and makes sense for some just doesn’t for others. Just have a Happy New Year, you, and I apologize for being late. The drunk guy at the gay bar understood and I hope you can too.

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Anderson Cooper in Congo

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