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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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Anderson Cooper in Congo

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guatemala_mexicoborder.jpg

One of these again. So, I´m in Guatemala, just arrived today. These last two weeks have been a lot about not knowing what I´m doing. I

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They also taught me how to swear, the truth about Mexican men, and got me drunk. I got the flu after that and then drank half a bottle of cough syrup and took a 13 hour bus ride to San Cristobal de las Casas to meet up with Amber. It was terribly cold there and it spit rain all day. However, we visited a Mayan village just outside of the city that was preparing for Day of the Dead. The village is extremely traditional and although they allow outsiders they are fairly hostile towards tourist snap-shots. I saw a Mayan girl spit at a woman taking a picture of the cemetery. Their traditional dress includes this fabric that cannot be described other than looking like a gorilla costume. The women wear skirts made of this material and the men wear giant sweaters made of it. It looks incredible. The church was amazing. The floors were covered in pine needles and rows of candles, the church walls were lined with glass cases containing porcelain-faced saints; totally spooky, they were draped in fabric and had multiple mirrors hanging around their necks. There was a ceremony taking place in which the individual cases where being opened and then flooded with incense smoke. There was also an awful lot of ceremonial folding of cloths. My descriptions here are truly unacceptable, even to me. I´m sorry, it was amazing. At the cemetery all of the graves, which by appearances where very shallow, were covered in marigolds.

diadelosmuertos.jpg

This, however, was the extent of our Day of the Dead festivities. As it turns out San Cristobal is not so much into the pomp and ceremony. Amber and I found this out a little too late as we emerged in skull-face to find that we were the only, I do mean this, the only people in the city to have painted

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monterrico.jpg

Okay, this is a P.S, the elections went off without a hitch. Although I guess Colom, the new president, promises to plunge the country into further disarray. I hear he owes too many favors. I am writing you from a beach in the far south of Guatemala, so far south that if I spat I´d hit a Salvadorian. The sands are black, it is true, and the surf is terrifying. At night it’s pitch black and the sand and waves are full of phosphorescent magik. If you kick the sand a spray of glowing blue dust comes out. There is also a folk band from Antigua here that serenades us while we swing in hammocks. We also met a bad bad father and son duo that never wear shirts or shoes, claimed to have moved here so they could drink and drive, run a hotel with a pool full of fiber optics, and tried to get us to do some special k with them. This place is slow and hot and no one does anything. I don´t know when I´m coming home.

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I sincerely

apologize… It’s been a hell of a month and it seems knowing me was a sure fire way to have some trauma in your life: Three people I know lost loved ones this month, one losing two friends in seperate overdoses. A friend’s grandfather also was admitted to the ICU with a highly elevated white blood cell count but no tests have proven conclusive last I’d heard… My parents’ both lost their cars in one fell swoop. A high speed chase ended in my dad’s van which ended in my mom’s car. Both rear axles were snapped and the insurance company towed the derelict husks away in exchange for a total of five grand which, as you probably know, doesn’t buy a new car let alone two. This instigated a week-long mess for the folks which involved trains to Sacramento, cell phones landing in Salt Lake City needing to be returned, locking keys in cars (on loan) and a faulty oil change dumping everything on the street and leaving the car empty and needing to be towed to a diagnostic by Honda. When I last saw them they were just finishing the paperwork for the accident a week prior and looked pretty worn out. My roommate had a late night collision leaving his bike a little fucked, the car unfucked and some staples in his head. Black eye, swollen face, light concussion ambulance ride and a night in the hospital. After a couple days being cared for by his mom he returned home wearing huge and ugly sunglasses but in a chipper mood. Two friends spent time in psych wards, one brought by the cops and one on their own terms. The spiral of impact these events had on others was enough to wipe me out for a month on their own so luckily they happened within a week of each other smack dab in the middle. One friend decided to check into rehab which I guess is good but also carries a lot of bad into the conversation. The same head-trip as the last paragraph,

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I suppose: where were you before all this happened and why do you think trying to deal with if after makes up for the neglect and carelessness you showed not being there for people… Ah… Hell, I was declined for the first credit card I ever applied for because I don’t have any references. How do you get references? You have previous credit cards. They offered me a lower limit pre-paid card but frankly I just wanted free airline miles so fuck you and the pigs… Feel like I’m forgetting things and to be honest I probably am since I lost my ability to think about two weeks ago and have only slowly begun to sleep more than six hours at a time and complete sentences again. It wasn’t all bad: a friend of mine found out she was pregnant (which was good news) and two friends just announced today they had birthed a baby girl. Two friends got married (to each other, which is easier to deal with) and I was allowed to watch. A lot of people were in town who I don’t get to see very often and it was great to be able to spend a little bit of time catching up. Then again my friend in from Minneapolis was hung over when we met (we only had an hour due to my dealing with some shit and his previous engagements) and tho he was doing well it did come out that someone we had both worked with and been friends with years back had been killed a couple years ago in an accident. Tho by a bow or a boat I’m still not certain. Anyways, it brought the already quiet and still morning to an even slower speed. Anyways, a pretty polarized month. More eventful then most, to be sure, but I’m not really made for constant activity of the best sort let alone the worst. Again, I’m sure I’ve neglected to write something down so if I’ve missed your personal trauma and you would like an apology just get in touch. If I neglected your happiness remind me of that too unless I just pissed you off… Sorry for another indulgent, off the wrist posting. No pics, no links, no regard for the world outside my head… Shame, for shame! I promise to get the pony started in July with actual research and thinking and cross-references and babies flying out of carriages and shit… Seems like I’m dripping topics from my pants right now. Let’s be safe out there.

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The tactile, aural and sensual pleasures of an imagined Europe–the “old” Europe,

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the “quaint” Europe–hearken back to a simpler time when a tennis match followed by a few cigarettes and some chocolate did not strike anybody as incongruous. Nor did the French-Algerian fiasco strike terribly many among France’s leadership as a bad idea.

I heard about Michael Moore’s Sicko and it made me think about the avarice and heartlessness of the pharmaceutical industry. But medicine’s ideals and its practitioners’ egos and financial interests historically run into conflict. Among the unseemly scientists the US welcomed in the aftermath of World War II is a large number of medical scientists (somehow “doctor” seems like the wrong term for someone who has performed vivisections on healthy humans) handpicked from the Enemy’s unprotected stock.

The data gleaned from Japanese and German biology enthusiasts, gleaned from the suffering of Chinese people and Jewish people has found applications and formed background information for our military institutions. Perhaps at some later date our rummaging around in this particularly filthy cookie jar will pay off in a way that gives us the moral high ground.

In the meantime, keep thinking about the crisp slacks, crystalline haircuts and non-ironic donning of large sunglasses that visually defines America, circa-first half of the cold war, for many people. Imagine the Pacific Northwest decades ago, already tampered with but pristine in comparison with today.

Washington–which shares a name and little else with that back-east cellar of serpents where money and death are allotted in accordance with popular will and influence–represents a convergence of natural beauty and people in big sunglasses. It was also the site of government sponsored radiation experiments carried out on an unwitting populace.

Don’t worry, I’m not in a militia. Here’s a link to a government Web site. Basically the government was dumping radiation out of planes onto populated areas, you know, to see what would happen. When Clinton took office, he didn’t have all that goddamn Reagan, Nixon, Bush, intelligence agency baggage and did a lot for improving the transparency of government, hence the existence of the site.

It would be nice to say, “Well, lesson learned, I’m glad this is all behind us.” Go ahead and click on the Search HREX Archives link found on the page noted above.

Proceed to have the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

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