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

6.21.2007

the furniture store


Just like in Austin, there's a neighborhood in Goma where you go to buy furniture. The difference between Goma and Burnet Road, however, is that when you buy furniture in Goma, you don't go to a big showroom where a salesperson follows you around like a puppy dog. Instead, the furniture stores are outdoors. This one has the advantage of being under a roof, kindof like a picnic shelter. (I think I'd rather buy there than from the place right by the dusty main road.) They can construct just about anything you can think of for a reasonable price. Kitchen tables, chairs, coffee tables, whatever. E is having a massage table built.

The furniture artisans also make coffins, which are stacked up in one corner of the "showroom." I wonder if Goma is the only place in the world where you can get a red velvet-covered casket?




You can also see the stack of children's coffins at the back of this shot (the plain coffin and the yellow/green one). It's a sad reminder that 1 of every 5 children here dies before reaching age 5. One in five. Given that the birth rate here is around 6 children per woman, that means that many, many mothers know the tragedy of losing a child. Most of those children die of preventable and treatable diseases, things like diarrhea and malaria, which could be prevented with access to a $5 mosquito net to cover the baby's cradle. One in five.


We are basically free to ignore that fact back home. But what would we do if one of every five babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers died in the United States? Would we sit by while the furniture makers displayed coffins for children as though the need for such were a regular occurance? I doubt it. So why does it make a difference that these are not our children?

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