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

9.06.2007

imagine

I am trying to imagine what these plains west of Goma look like right now. I'm trying to envision them when they are not empty and green, but rather occupied by tens of thousands of people just like you and me who have done what any of us would do if war broke out in our town: they've run from their homes carrying everything that is precious to their families. I'm trying to conceive of what the presence of so many people does to a landscape. I'm trying to think what thousands of little grass huts like these must look like.

And I'm wondering what this is doing to my friends, both Congolese and expat. My aid worker friends are no doubt living under a lot of stress. It's hard to be the person in charge of distributing food to 20,000 people who have nothing. I haven't heard from many of my Congolese friends lately. No doubt most people aren't venturing out unless it's necessary. Tasks like visiting the internet cafe tend to be less important than ensuring the security of one's family.

My phone rang at 4:18am today. It was a text message from Mama Rene in Bukavu. She wanted to know why I have been silent. In the eastern Congo, one is expected to keep up with one's friends on a more-or-less weekly basis. You need to inquire about their health, safety, and family. Apparently, I'd been too long in writing.

I could say I can't imagine what things are like in the eastern Congo right now, but that's not true. My friends there have lived these horrors and told me all about their experiences in the war. I've seen drunken soldiers roaming the streets, looking for someone to harass. I've seen weapons in the hands of child soldiers. It's terrifying. And all we can do from here is watch, and hope, and pray that this too shall be made right.

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