SOS

I never expected that my biggest challenge in the Congo would be a white woman from Spain.

Although I have tried to spare you all the endless rants about the reality of trying to navigate one of the most tumultuous relationships that I have ever encountered (which happens to involve the same person with whom I spend every waking hour- who dictates what and how much I eat, when and if I can leave the extremely restricted area where I live and work, how much second-hand smoke I will be inhaling in the span of a day, if I will be granted access to the internet or electricity, and whether or not I will be the lucky recipient to serve as an outlet for her anger originating from any number of sources on a given day). Below offers a glimpse into my experience at a weak moment of a particularly trying day after an exceptionally grueling week that makes up a seemingly endless string of months enduring an impossible situation.

Rocket Flare

I often envision myself setting one off, seen from a birds-eye view, catapulting out of the green blanket of trees like a frantic, directionally-challenged shooting star, alerting some sympathetic flyers-by that there is an overzealous crusader trapped in the forgotten trenches of Congo, held prisoner by a manic, abusive, parasitic white woman who exists solely on cigarettes and the souls of those around her, exhaling an endless stream of smoke that masks the toxic force that slowly, methodically extinguishes the essence of the unfortunate victims who have unknowingly landed in her inescapable web, kept alive enough to quell her appetite while they and their fellow crusaders are whittled down to an empty shell of their former selves, resigned to their inevitable fate, forgetting the passion they once had to fight for their cause…or even what that cause was.

A side note:
This woman does in fact have some redeeming, even admirable qualities. Perhaps- on a different day, on a different continent, far removed from the day of my departure, when I can bask in my strength of character and proven resilience- I will remember what they are.

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A storm’s a-brewin’ (and we’re all in the same ‘boue’)

Warning: this one gets a little messy.

The Congo adventure continues…

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A storm’s a-brewin’

When I first arrived, DRC was in the thick of its dry season. Just looking over the fields would elicit thirst-  a dull brown backdrop of cultivated plots with little to offer but dried out crops scorched by the relentless sun.

Tragically, deforestation has rendered the ‘forest’ a sparse collection of trees, most of which have acquiesced to the parched color du jour, extinguishing any thought of moisture.

And then the rains came.

Almost daily, around three in the afternoon, dark, ominous clouds start to roll in, a deceptive calm awaiting their arrival. Everything is still, just a light breeze dancing in the trees, slowly gaining momentum that elicits long, languid backbends from the palm branches towering above.

Soon, an eerie darkness settles in. In a matter of seconds, the clouds unleash with a ferocity I’ve never experienced. A barrage of raindrops pummels the roof, drowning out all other sounds…until the lightning joins in. The entire sky lights up while I hold my breath, waiting for the thunder to come crashing down. It’s as exhilarating as it is terrifying. But the reward is worth the terror.

The parched landscape has transformed into a decadent patchwork of emerald, lime, and avocado greens. There is still brown, however. Only now, it’s a rich chocolate brown that covers everything.

And there is no escaping it.

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La Boue (mud)

The dust that used to make its way into every possible crack and crevice has been replaced with a pasty, relentless, dark clay that consumes most of my day. I am either trying to maneuver my way through it without slipping or searching for any available surface to scrape it off my shoes, only to step right back in it. When I finally reach safe grounds, I have to deal with the dried up remnants trailing behind me- in my office, my house, my sheets. Chunks of mud are forever finding their way into my socks, shoes, drawers, books…a bit more intrusive than its dusty counterpart.

This seasonal intruder doesn’t appear to relent to experience or adaptation: local farmers on their way to the fields, women on their way to church, children on their way to school. Even the goats roaming about tread lightly.

We are all its victims, taking every opportunity to scrape it off the souls of our shoes. Some continue on, letting the layers build up. Others give up and carry on barefoot. But no one escapes its unmerciful grasp…and it seems we are all in the same ‘boue’.

You can support all the work the sanctuary does to protect these amazing souls by donating here.

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