July 23, 2008 Goma


I spent an night in Gisenyi on the Congo border and crossed on Sunday AM, meeting Samuel Kamanzi on the Congolese side. Got an eight day visa which is not long enough so I will have to exit back to Rwanda this coming Friday and re enter for another eight days which will get me to the end of my planned visit in the Congo. The alternative is to travel back to Kigali and then down through Burundi and back into the Congo way south of here. However I have ticket to go south on Lake Kivu to Bukavu at the south end of the lake. The boat leaves on Saturday at 7:30am and takes two hours for $50. From there I catch a bus down to Uvira still in the Congo. The course here in Goma is almost over. We had three days of teaching. Tomorrow, I'll supervise a couple of mediations, one at a refugee camp where there are many Quakers who have fled fighting in other parts of the country. Late in the afternoon I will film the church choir where I attended services last Sunday. That was an experience in itself. The service began at 9am and lasted to a little after 1PM. Lots of great singing and some serious bible thumping from a visiting pastor from Kenya who started the sermon with "I won't let you go home early." I'm sure a lot of my friends are calling this payback time for George. Lots of interesting people where I stay. The trip to the Peace Center by moto taxi or mini bus (matatu) are filled with despair seeing how people live and struggle on the recent lava flows that devastated this town in 2004. Everything is covered by ash and soot. With an inversion in the atmosphere compounded by hundreds of thousands of charcoal cooking fires it must be something like Pittsburgh when the steel industry was running uncontrolled. Some of the worst atmosphere I've ever seen. Last night there were big thunder and lightning shots and a little rain on our side of town. Over by the Peace Center, a lot of rain but it really didn't clean things off at all. I had some intestinal illness for a day, but an American nurse/luthern missionary had a bag full of goodies that did me a lot of good. Antibiotics do help in times of need. The pipes are no longer calling, Danny Boy. A little girl was sitting on the floor at the bishop's residence where I'm staying. I couldn't understand her name. But we conversed in Swahili and French. I asked how old she was and I guessed, 4. She said she was 11. I said you are too small to be 11. She said mimi mgonjwa, meaning I'm ill. When she got up and walked, it was the gait of an old woman. She could move but it was an old walk. There was some distention in her abdomen. I don't know what is wrong with her. A number of sick people have been brought here from outlying areas for medical treatment. She is one. Two nights ago there were three adults with bone injuries who had travelled two days in a minibus from somewhere up north. They were in a lot of pain. They also must have come through some bad areas meaning dangerous. My time is up so I must stop for now.



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