"A Day in Eastern Congo" Goma by JohnniOmani
Goma Travel Guide: 21 reviews and 21 photos
My guide told me that about 25% of the population walking around me were infected with HIV due to the mass rapes that had taken place during the Congolese wars and Genocide. Walking down the dirty, dusty road I couldn’t help but notice a young 5 year old girl wearing a dirty charity given summer dress with broken zippers. She wore two pink slippers that were broken and her belly was bloated from malnutrition. The young girl played with a broken fork as another corner saw a group of men arguing over a food stall. Joseph advised me that these men were selling basic food staples for an inflated fixed price and said “here John, food is power. Food is life”. In all my years of travelling, I have never felt so isolated. My heart felt as though it had been ripped out of my chest as another old women laid next to an old broken shop braiding a young girl’s hair. Another street corner was filled with young men with no shirts removing lava from a street. It was unclear to whether or not they were being paid any sort of money for their backbreaking service or if they were doing it out of necessity. Corner after corner was filled with incredible images and the Congo was closing in on me. My money in my pocket felt as obvious as a brick in my pocket while people scanned me with their eyes. Just as a group of young girls were looking in my direction, a light rain started to fall as we glanced towards the stunning green mountains off in the distance. As we were standing on a corner looking off to the mountains, an NGO luxury SUV cruised by us leaving us choking on dust. Joseph smiled after coughing and said “John, these Western AID agencies will never understand how to help us Congolese. How can people drive luxury SUVs here and go back to their villas on the edge of the town and drink their imported wine and Heineken for dinner”. No response. How could I?
While standing there in disbelief that life could exist like this anywhere in the world, small kindergarten children in immaculately dressed uniforms danced by me while holding hands as they splashed in puddles. I couldn’t believe how children could find their way to school in all this madness but their innocence was striking in the harsh landscape of Goma. I imagined their parents at home camp suffering from Cholera or HIV and telling their children that Education was to be the key to their future and not to waste it. Another corner saw young teenage girls singing and clapping to the most beautiful African song I have ever heard. I stood on the corner memorized by their voices and the sound of hope in their song. We pushed forward through the town while Joseph told me stories about the Congo and how little the outside world knew. We discussed the secret Genocide the Pygmies in the nearby Jungles perpetrated by the militia groups who have been hunting the pygmies for sport. We also discussed how the Congo had been incredibly blessed with resources such as Gold and Cobalt yet his country suffered on an incredible scale. After discussing the politics and history, Joseph signalled that we had to cross the border back to Rwanda as the sun was about to set. My mind and words felt completely incoherent. We walked through the light rain to the check point of Rwanda and walked across with muddy and dirty shoes while thunder crackled off in the distance. The Congo had confused me. It challenged me. I would never be the same.
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