Well, after two weeks in Goma this time around, it's probably time for a report on the actual reason I'm here. My research is going really well. Ridiculously well, actually. I've been getting great access this time around and am getting enough information that I can actually see where this dissertation is going. In 2 weeks, I've interviewed 24 subjects, and I have 8 more lined up for next week, in addition to the 15 or so others I still need to track down.
What amazes me about the Congo, and about Goma in particular, is how incredibly welcoming and helpful people are. Yesterday, I needed to visit two church associational offices. No one seemed to know where they were. I stuck my head in at the gate of a place that I knew was the wrong office (but that I'd been told to go to nonetheless). The guard sent me to an office, and there I met Pascale, who said, "I'll take you." And for the rest of his morning, Pascale drove me on a motorbike to two church offices I never would have found on my own. He dropped everything just to help, and didn't expect anything in return.
How many of us treat strangers that way? How many of us would leave our jobs for the morning to drive down unbelievably bad roads (that weren't under the direct flow of the lava), then sit through what I'm sure are very boring interviews to an outsider, then ask where else this stranger needed to go? The amazing thing is that Pascale isn't the only person who's done this for me. The Congolese have so many troubles to deal with, yet they go out of their way to serve others who are in need, even of something as simple as directions.
What I've experienced the last two weeks is a spirit of hospitality, service, and community that is rare in the West. We could learn a lot from the Congolese.