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"Seven weeks to look, see, learn, and share some skills in Conflict Resolution…
For over a year this journey has gradually been coming together. But the seeds were sown over 40 years ago when serving in Tanzania with the Peace Corps."  

July 13, 2007 (Thursday) Congo


Sitting is a cafe internet in the Congo. I thought Rwanda was a mind blower. Only 24 hours here and my senses have been tested almost to their limits. You can sit in the most modest of places , I chose the Palais de l'eveque, the Bishop's Palace, and see in ten minutes the efforts to survive on an unfriendly terrain. People are joyful to be here and not 50 miles away where life is very uncertain at best. My host Samuel, a quaker, community organizer taught an Alternatives to Violence Project workshop such as I helped with two days ago in Gisenyi. He did it last week in his homeof Masisi, but it necessitated several exits from the trucks he was on to avoid, militias on the rampage and various rebel factions who make their own rules. "To him it was the way of life, the way of getting around. He had to pull up stakes many times to survive with his family of five children and eventually the stress was too much for his wife who died in 2000 of a heart condition. He is fifty-three and getting the children through school. He has been in several of the neighboring countries and speaks , french, english swahili, kinyarwanda, and a number of other african tongues. With his help I taught my first mediation training in Goma today. We will do one more day. Some of the time was by request a review of the work that Judy Friesem taught last november. This was the first gathering of the group since then. I asked them to give me a list of mediations they have done since that time and we will review the successes and failures and see what else might be done. I've suggested the formation of an association of mediators so that they may have more frequent meetings to discuss problems and demonstrate to the judiciary what they have been able to accomplish. then they can promote themselves and mediation in their community. I told them that it took years for mediation to gain acceptance in the US and still many people do not know it and many still resist it. Patience is important in the early days. We reviewed the process and I let them know that mediators all have their particular styles and ways of doing things. There's also nothing like trying to follow a class act such as Judy.

But back to the town of Goma, just a stone throw from Gisenyi. Booming colorful, noisy, poverty beyond imagination, and fruitfullness as well. If I took out my camera I might start a riot.

Staying at the bishop's palace, a misnomer, maybe like a bishopry in Pittsburgh at the height of the steel mills' pollution. Everything covered in volcanic dust. The lava passed a few yards from here going through the center of town at sixty miles an hour. It didn't come down the mountain so much as just opening up in the earth at random and shooting down toward lake Kivu. Loss of life was low, but builiding destruction high about 40% of the town. What do you do with cooled lava? Make bricks and blocks and build over it. Some buildings on the main street had lower sections destroyed but upper sections preserved. Bottom sections were dug out but not repaired , and squatters moved in under it and street children too. there are several outside waiting for the mzungu to come out and give them something. It's hard to refuse.

My quarters have lights when the generator is turned on for a few hours at night and a bucket of water to wash, and maybe some running too when the generator is on. It's the way of life of the rich. I don't know what the poor do.

I finish tomorrow afternoon. Only a two day course by request. Judy was here for five days. I feel that they will learn from each other once they get meetings scheduled and underway. It will be difficult to get "experts" over here on a regular basis, and I'm not sure how much can be taught that will be applicable to the local culture and tradition. They have the base, thanks to Judy, and need to be reaffirmed that the future of mediation is in their hands. We learn be doing in this profession and get somethings from books and the occasional contact with others who are doing the sa

 

 

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