Friday, February 26, 2010

Some more Reflections from my trip to Bunia

Bunia Market Day

The smell of charcoal burning in the street. White faces and hands from cassava flour. Babies sleeping, crawling and sitting beneath the market stalls. Flies dancing over slabs of meat in the little meat shacks. sewing machines from the old-in-days whirring with colourful fabrics and designs. Gaping mouths of Mammas puffing on tobacco leaves. Tiny one roomed restaurants caught between the chaos of charcoal burning, cassava flour grinding, shoe making and of course Congolese music floating through the air from a near-by shack. Mayonnaise jars sit empty on the wooden table and the classic tin bowls hang unevenly on the poorly arranged plank walls. No one seems to own the restaurant as it is empty with no one in sight. There is the banana alley with the “plump” small bananas, long and thick plantane and men pushing wooden carts piled high with bushels of bananas. The meat alley is very potent. The flies dance with the flying rag that swats at them. “Dieu Merci,” “Notre Dieu,” “Dieu Donne,” mark the entrances to the Boucharies along with oil paintings of cows and steaks on the stained walls. In the back of each shack hang the legs of cows almost the same height as the vendors. The charcoal alley is full of strongmen, big trucks, black earth, and smoky air. Bags of charcoal are thrown into the air to be piled precariously on dirty Chinese camions. Sweat drips down the faces of the bandana wearing men and it doesn’t seem like a place for a woman. 

Our exciting and yet sad outing to the MONUC House Restaurant

Here we are walking through the muddy streets of Bunia with our thoughts resting on one thing: ice cream. So Karen, Tomas and I arrived at the MONUC House (for UN workers, and for anyone really who is not Congolese and has a passport) restaurant/bar and found ourselves speechless looking at all the options of food to choose from that did not include eggplants, rice, sweet potato, beans or fou fou. I am now entirely certain that when I arrive back in Canada I am going to need assistance in choosing what to eat a restaurant. If it took me 20 minutes or more to decide what to eat at a restaurant in a town in the Congo I am pretty sure I am going to take at least an hour at home. So I ended up ordering what I had first decided, haha, that always seems the case, which was a ham and pineapple pizza. I also ordered a Heineken beer which was superb compared to the terrible Nile beer or Eagle beer in Congo, although their famous Primus beer isn’t all that bad, just tastes like a cheap beer whereas the other two taste like water. Tomas ordered a steak and Karen and hamburger and for appetizers we ordered spring rolls. My pizza was amazing! I enjoyed every bite of its cheesy goodness although I surprised myself in that it was a big struggle to finish it. I usually have no trouble finishing a pizza, and this pizza wasn’t even that big. Tomas’ steak looked decent and Karen’s burger was a little weak with not much to it. Since I didn’t know if I would have another chance to go to a restaurant I ordered a desert even though I probably didn’t need one. The thing is we were told they had ice cream here and of course when we are there they don’t have it. I was quite disappointed. Instead I ordered a pineapple crumble and Karen ordered chocolate mousse. The chocolate mousse was terrible. It had the texture of gelatine and just a hint of chocolate taste. My pineapple crumble was more crumble than pineapple and wasn’t anything special but I enjoyed it all the same. The restaurant had cable t.v. playing, and seeing this I automatically thought that I might be able to catch some of the Olympics. I went to one of the bar staff, which by the way speak only English which I found rather amusing, and asked him if the Olympics were on. There weren’t unfortunately but when we were paying our bill I asked one more time and sure enough in 15minutes it said that the Olympics would come on. Unfortunately it was already getting late and we didn’t have a key to get back into the convent so I had to slowly walk away from MONUC House knowing that this was my only chance to see any Olympic action on t.v. which was a really hard thing for me. I really love watching the Olympics and I knew that my year here in Africa was going to mean that I would miss the Olympics and that it would be a great sacrifice for me. 

Meeting Safi

We stayed with the Sisters in Bunia during our stay and I was fortunate enough to meet a little 12 year old girl named Safi there. She had lost her sister in the Market in Bunia 5 days ago and her family as I understood were in a different village somewhere but it was not sure where exactly. One of the Sisters knew her so had taken her into the convent to stay until they knew what to do next. When I first met her she was sitting outside looking completely desolate and I could see so much sadness in her eyes. Some of the Sisters tried talking with her but she barely said a word and if she did it was in very quiet Lingala. I thought to myself that this little girl needs something to take her mind of what she’s going through. I couldn’t imagine losing my sister and family at the age of 12! So I automatically thought to play some soccer with her. I found a soccer ball and then gently asked if she’d like to play with me. She was timid at first and didn’t respond but slowly she got to her feet and followed me. We kicked the ball back and forth and she slowly began to open up. By the end of our time playing together she was smiling, laughing, giving me high fives, and hugs and speaking French with me. This is an experience that will stay with me forever. She was pretty good at soccer too. When we took turns in goal she was nailing some hard shots at me and scored twice on me. When she scored she raised her hands in the air and jumped up and down and we exchanged high fives. She really touched my heart and I think I also helped her take her mind away from all her sufferings. It was sad saying goodbye because I wanted to know that she would be safe with her family. The childcare services here will take her to the village where they think her family is, so I pray to God that she is welcomed and that her sister is found as well. The Sisters here were sharing about children on the street and they said in Kinshasa the capital, it is common to open one’s door and find 2 or 3 abandoned newborn babies. 

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