un autre monde
If there's one thing I've learned about life in Goma, it's that you just never know what to expect. Today I did five interviews (five!), including two at at certain international Christian NGO with which I'm sure you're familiar. (For those of you who weren't following this journey last year, that particular charity has just about driven me crazy. The people I need to talk to are NEVER THERE. But finally, on what was at least my 10th visit (not to mention the 5th this week), I got to talk to a couple of people. Plus a doctor, and a civil society leader, and a medical coordinator for some of the churches here. Congolese churches run much of the country's medical infrastructure.
While waiting for the medical coordinator to receive me, I got to chat with two of the most interesting individuals: the military and police chaplains for the protestant churches' coalition in North Kivu. The Protestants here joined forces long ago to be able to compete with the Catholics. We could learn something from their spirit of cooperation under the umbrella of l'Eglise du Christ au Congo ("the Church of Christ in Congo"). They sponsor two chaplains, who run nondenominational Protestant churches specifically for the police and military forces.
The chaplains were really nice guys, and once I told them where my daddy works, they were all about hearing about life in America, the weather in Texas, and whether I teach Sunday School. (Of course, one of them wasted no time in asking me to find funding for musical equipment for his church. If anyone out there wants to fund this, shoot me an email.) You just never know.
Yesterday, I stopped by to see Mama Helene (above). Mama Helene claims me as her own here, and the feeling is mutual. She's invited me over for dinner before I leave Goma, because I have to meet her four sons. We had a wonderful time catching up, and were only interrupted when my friend Kat walked in! Things here just keep getting less and less believable. Kat is a Kenyan friend who was posted here for a few months last year. She just returned last week. The last time we'd seen each other was last spring in Nairobi. Hopefully we'll have time to catch up soon.
Mama Helene's younger brother walked by while we were talking and determined that if I am Mama Helene's child, then he is my uncle. "I'll get a goat when you get married," he said. I had to explain to Mama Helene that there's no dowry system for getting married in America. Her disbelief was palpable. "What do you give instead?" she asked, and when I told her it was only a matter of love, and of choice, she just couldn't comprehend it.
As I sat in the internet room at Heal Africa this morning, a young doctor sitting next to me said, "It's a different world from your country, n'est pas?" It is, in so, so many ways.