Saturday, February 20, 2010

The dark of night...

I don't think I knew what darkness truly looked like, until last night.

We had spent the night at a colleague's house having dinner and drinks. Then we were supposed to take a taxi home, but a thunderstorm, with torrential rains, had begun outside. Taxis don't have 4 wheel drive in Kasulu. Also, the phone network often goes down in the middle of a sunny day - and always in the middle of a stormy night. Even if the taxi could have made it up the hill to us, we couldn't call one to try anyway. So, we decided to walk back to the compound - normally a 5 minute walk - and we thought we were prepared? Armed with headlamps, rain jackets and extra ponchos - we were looking fabulous, I am sure.

Around midnight in Kasulu, during a thunderstorm, the muddy streets were even more desolate than usual - and the cloud cover left no room for any moonlight. The rainjackets and ponchos made our field of vision even more narrow.

Every minute or so, there was a bolt of lightning that lit up the sky. Though it wasn't much help, as it never seemed to last long enough for our eyes to adjust to see what was in front of us. Even with the headlamps and lightning, it still felt like we were walking aimlessly around in a big and rainy black box.

We finally arrived at our gate and found that the guards at our compound had apparently locked it and left for the night. We don't have a key - and the phone network was down. I would like to thank the IRC guard in the adjoining compound for making this posting possible.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Congo and the status quo

I will not be able to understand what has gone on, what is going on, or what may happen in Congo by the time I leave Tanzania - possibly ever. Right now, the majority of refugees we work with here are Congolese, having fled generalized violence in southeastern Congo. Trying to understand the situation seems almost impossible, as the various group perpetrating the rampant violence change their group names, alliances, tactics, and locations seemingly daily.

Across Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, the people are trying desperately to avoid the fate of all of its neighbors, including Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, even Mozambique - and most recently Kenya - each having experienced political and/or ethnic violence to some degree or another over the last 20 years. Preserving the status quo seems to be a fact of life here, something that Tanzanians are desperately trying to maintain for fear that change would only bring horrible consequences. 

When I was in Dar es Salaam, a young Tanzanian seminarian told me that if the ruling party has to go into some people's houses at night and kill some people, in order to sustain its grip on power here, that is better than many people being killed in many houses throughout Tanzania. 

At least the country is at peace?

One recent article on Congo, FYI, it is quite graphic, like every article related to Congo it seems...