"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


a fate that has ways of providing

1,200 people die every day in the DR Congo. That's like having the World Trade Center collapse three times a week. In an environment where the simple task of survival consumes all of most people's days, it's not surprising that people do whatever they can to earn money and to ensure that their children can eat for another day.

So this means that I have to get used to being noticed and remembered while just going about everyday tasks. Because by virtue of the fact that I am 1) here and 2) not Congolese, I am a potential source of income. Yesterday I walked out of my apartment to go to an interview to be greeted by Fidel. Fidel is someone I met once, a year ago. He was the "fixer" for the American reporters I met last summer. And he had come to see if I could give him a job. And on top of that, wasn't I supposed to be here in June, not February?

Now. This was disconcerting for me on several levels. How did he find me? He just said that the taxi driver who took the reporters and me to the border in August saw me at the internet cafe. But that had to mean that someone else was aware of where I'm living. Creepy. Qnd then, despite the fact that I never said I'd be here in June, he clearly was planning to find me when I arrived.

The other thing is that, unlike reporters from fancy newspapers with expense accounts, I'm not really in the position to be employing anyone. I'd be glad to give Fidel a job, but I don't really need a translator and I'm having no trouble setting up all the interviews I can handle on my own. And I can't really afford to pay him, either. I feel bad. I know people need jobs, but I am not in the same boat as the aid workers who are very well compensated for the hassle of living here. And I had to tell Fidel that I would take his number, but that I didn't know that I would need any help for my project.

This morning somebody else was waiting to ask for a job. He, at least, didn't know me, and didn't walk away looking wounded like Fidel did.

Getting used to the social networks that make a city of 1/2 million seem like a small town is a challenge. But then there are sweet moments, like the other day when I walked into the other internet place where my friend Aime works. I met Aime last summer when she helped me shop for fabric. We saw each other and she just smiled and greeted me before saying, "You were supposed to be back in January." It's good to have friends, and humbling to know that a near stranger would remember such a detail. I am blessed.


Blogger Ray said...

Dear L, thanks for the message on my blog. I am really proud of you and how daring you are to be adjusting to a totally different environment. I just want you to be careful. Stay safe, keep the locks on, look under the beds and be alert. The Congo is not the best place to be in (you bet!!) and I am a bit concerned about you. Don't keep male servants and don't trust anyone. Sorry for sounding like an old hag but you have been in my thoughts. Take care and keep up the good work! E:mail me your telephone number too. Love, A.

Sunday, February 19, 2006 7:43:00 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home