Friday, February 26, 2010

Reflections on my trip to Bunia the capital of Ituri District and Butembo in North Kivu District

Journey to Bunia
The African sun is sinking lower in the expansive sky and the night noises are becoming louder; the crickets chirp, the frogs croak and the bugs whiz by often making their appearance in an unpleasant way on the front window. Although the darkness hits and the bush that we blaze through on the washboard roads is as thick as the backside of a buffalo there is motion, movement and light within. Families sit outside their hardly habitable huts by the light of tiny fires or if they’re lucky a Kerosene lamp. Most of the time the lights of passing jeeps and camions are the only light most families will get. The high beams illuminate men with muscles straining and eyes bulging pushing their bicycles up steep hills laden with kilos and kilos of bananas or charcoal. Other times the lights catch an arm or a leg of a wandering child running into the tall enveloping grass or a man or woman walking in the dark to who knows where. These people have nothing else to do in the evenings except sit around with each other and talk under the bright canopy of stars. Faint music can be heard form the occasional tiny radio and the rustling children and goats in the brush. We are stopped occasionally by night herds of cows and bulls blazing through the African jungle brush colliding with the dirt road (well it shouldn’t even be called a road). The jungle stretches outwards in all directions in complete darkness. If one strains their eyes into the darkness smoke can be seen spiraling above the darkness of the jungle into the starry sky from families cooking their dinner on their charcoal fires. These families are nestled deep in the forest with nothing but a roof of palm leaves over their head and four mud walls. They will go to bed thinking that when they wake up they will go through the same strenuous day as before which could be pushing bananas on their bicycles up hills in the hot sun, carrying wood on their backs to help arrange their houses, and of course children are not excluded from intensive labour such as carrying wood, water etc. on their heads. They will come home to possibly their only meal of the day which could be either be fou fou, rice, beans or sweet potatoes then go to sleep and start again at the crack of dawn. This makes my life in Canada seem extremely easy and full of time for “myself” such as entertainment. 

North Kivu District
The bumpy road slithers and crawls through the thick encroaching jungle. One would only know this is a road by the passing motos and camions but other than that the red earth that stretches onwards looks like a path for the company of feet only. The trees spring upwards outstretching their greedy branches into the sun’s mighty dominion. They cast a dramatic effect on the jungle with twisting branches, long and delicate leaves, vibrant colours of purple and red, and a blend of white and brown bark spiraling up the tall strong trunks. Then out of nowhere the Switzerland of Africa emerges with hillsides and mountains full of grazing cows. A startling green meets the eyes and transfixes them. Although all my life I have been surrounded by green forests of the Pacific Northwest this green is indescribable. The colour is magnifying, rich and fluorescent. The hills almost reach out and embrace you with their soft curvatures. The land rolls and dances and plays with the sky. Rocks like out of the Lion King find their way into the landscape enriching the already breathtaking scenery. The climax of this landscape is when the road reaches a peak and to the west all one can see for miles and miles is dense jungle. I feel as though I am in an entire new world and removed from the world I once knew. There is nothing, absolutely nothing but forest for miles. This landscape truly reveals how immense this country is. The only thing that can be seen other than green forest is the spiraling smoke from fires within the canopy floating up into the expansive blue sky. This country has blown me away by its vastness, diversity, colours, geographical landforms, natural resources and its untouched beauty. I wish more people could experience this beauty found in the centre of the African continent hugging the equator.

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