Another view of Goma
Why Armin Rosen’s article in The Atlantic tells a story about DRC that we need to hear.May 24th, 2013 | by Andrew Blejwas
On your “live an amazing life” bucket list I highly recommend adding “take the boat taxi across Lake Kivu from Goma to Bukavu.” It’s a high-speed dart across a beautiful and nearly pristine body of water shared with traditional fishing boats and bounded by Rwanda on one side and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on the other. You’ll skim along the water in a boat that rides so low that you’ll actually be partially underwater for the sensational ride.
But before you go you should read this week’s story called “A Day in the DRC” by Armin Rosen at The Atlantic. Full disclosure: Oxfam helped fund his trip to Goma and environs to report on what he saw. Full disclosure: When we asked him to go, I didn’t care at all what he wound up writing. Full disclosure: he’s a damn good writer and you should hear his take on a region that has seen unspeakable crimes, still sees them, and yet still lives.
“I set out with James [a local tour guide] … to see things that had no overt connection to the eastern Congo’s many tragedies; to gather evidence that life here is more than just displacement and conflict, even in a city this battered, ” writes Rosen.
“Even in war, people try to live their ordinary lives,” James tells him at one point. “It’s a reflection of the Congolese people. Even if you go to a death ceremony, people will cry. And then they start to relax – to laugh, to sing.”
The whole piece goes on like that. Really, it’s a great read.
Rosen’s story is the first I have read (and probably you too) that includes mention of a cobbled-together foosball table or teenagers breakdancing on the floor of a former church. These images are, really, the whole point of asking a great writer if he’d be interested in spending some time in an amazing place and telling readers about it.
You see, I’d argue that there’s quite an appetite, especially within the US media, for the stories about a brutal Africa. For the Africa of wars and child soldiers. For poverty and militias. Fascinating, necessary, stories all, and we need them to be told. And goodness knows that had some of these stories been told 10 or 20 years ago in this very place, some of the tragedies that people experienced might have been avoided. But we also need the foosball stories, the breakdancing stories, and the everyday life-in-the-world stories.
This is the Goma that I know. It is a place filled with people dealing with a sometimes brutal history, an too-often brutal present, and figuring out the best place to breakdance or kill a few hours playing foosball. It’s sticking your hand out the window of a boat, dragging your hand across the water, and marveling at one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
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