Wednesday, March 9, 2011

And the rain fell

Wednesday, Noonish

The rain fell today, finally, after several days without and lifted with it the stifling heat of the city. The sun is out, and with it, I try to lift my moods too from their dark dwelling places.

I don't know how free I feel in this, my public blog, but I've been waylaid by delays and the accompanying frustration, no matter how expected the delay, is hard to process into something productive.

Rumblings are underfoot again that more insurrection is coming, but here in the compound, I don't fear it. Perhaps foolish, I know, but it has become ever more clear to me the disparity between the experience here for Americans in Kinshasa versus out in the field.

Everything in Aketi was uncertain. I had absolutely no guarantees of safety, and had events transpired even slightly differently, it may have been a much more gruesome tale. I don't know if that sort of uncertainty ever enters the picture here in Kinshasa for most of the people who live and work here under US protection.

Certainly I know my friend here has had her fair share of scares, but she seems unique amongst the groups I've encountered here, who live here as just another isolated post in their duties. I have met people who live here who do not speak French, and could not fathom even learning to speak Lingala. They focus on Western activities that they can partake in here -- going to the gym, visiting the newest, most expensive restaurants, salsa dancing and horseback riding.

I was told a tale over dinner the other night of two such people who had been at the Grand Hotel, next door to the president's compound, on the day of the last insurrection attempt. They spoke of gunfire by the poolside like it was a funny anecdote. Beret-clad military special forces scaling the wall and running past the pool as though it was laughable, and all the while, gravity felt as though we were on the moon.

While it wastes time to be overly grave about dangers here, one still needs to be aware of them as legitimate threats, if only to prepare oneself for any impediments.

Yesterday was Women's Day, and my friend and I attended a small gathering of foreign service people in their fancy attire, but it didn't seem as though anyone had interrupted their days to really celebrate the meaning of the day.

It was such a juxtaposition for me from my last experience with Women's Day here in Congo, where the day's activities were halted entirely while women banded together, dressed in their speciality-made outfits to parade through the town, celebrated, as the men cheered them on.

It was particularly special for me to be a part of that day, assimilated with my female staff in my matching outfit as I walked proudly with the parade of ladies down the main street of Aketi Town.

Assimilation seems discouraged within this community... a necessary separation between countrypeople... and that makes me sort of sad. One of my greatest joys in the field is experiencing fully a different way of life, free from cultural norms and trappings.

Yet at the same time, is there a compromise between this safe, isolated and separated life versus subjecting oneself to danger and uncertainty as a result of immersion in another area's culture and subsequent "laws"? Is the liberty to enjoy the natural life amongst another group worth the necessary reliance on yourself and no other?

I don't even refer to protecting myself, but moreso those I love. When I think of the dangers I subjected Adam to on our last trip here, it upsets me horribly and I cannot imagine any future family I may have being any less important to me than he is now. Despite having colleagues who have brought their children into the bush, I cannot imagine ever being comfortable subjecting my own to the sort of perils of the unknown that end up being so commonplace, the deeper and wilder one's surroundings become.

This entry is cranky, and scattered, and I feel like maybe I should have some tea and write about visiting the bonobos instead. It may stop me from missing Adam so much, and feeling guilty for needing this wild so much, not just for my work but for myself.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Corktree US Embassy Housing Compound, Kinshasa


Robert Fontenot said...

Well put. I like this side of you. Please make sure all your sides stay safe, brave girl.

Jo Thompson said...

Hang in there! I always describe our chosen life as one of being an emotional camel. You are in the depeting phase. Once the blockages are cleared, this emotional weight will be forgotten. You are doing great work. You have a lot of spoken and unspoken support.

DitmasDeb said...

Love and support coming at you, oh darling, wandering child! I have posted a link to this blog on mine - I figure the same people interested in the health of geese, swans, etc., in Prospect Park will LOVE to hear about the chimps.

Laura Darby said...

Thank all of you for your encouraging and thoughtful words! Already the release of these dark thoughts into thr blogosphere has improved their resting place in my brain, and I appreciate SO much your taking the time to comment and show your support!!