Peanuts, Figs & Mayhem- Saying Goodbye to my Furry Friends in the Congo

We’ve arrived- the end of one crazy adventure and on to the next.

I had intended to write more about my experience living in the Congo, but the whole process became next to impossible. On the rare occasion that we had internet, it was usually only for a few hours, and it was excruciatingly slow.

Even if I wrote ahead of time and waited for the internet, I was constantly in a mild state of panic, knowing the electricity would shut off any second. Outlets were also in short supply. It was truly an adrenaline rush when the electricity came back on- all of us scrambling to find at least one outlet to recharge our only means of connecting to rest of the world.

All to say, writing and posting a blog was sometimes a weeks-long endeavor.

When I finally got back to the states, I had no desire to revisit the Congo. Yes, the experience as a whole was life-changing, but so many aspects of my day-to-day were beyond challenging…emotionally more than anything.

But those chimps- those crazy, extraordinary, and sometimes terrifying chimps- forever touched my soul. I fell in love with all 54 of them, each with his or her distinct, funny personality and sometimes annoying quirks.

Goma, for example, an ornery, cantankerous guy who loved to mess with anyone who dared enter the sanctuary. No matter how deep into the forest he was, the minute you walked through the gate, he would suddenly be sitting in the same spot, perfectly positioned to dowse you with spit.

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Goma and his cheeky smirk

It didn’t matter if I sprinted by him, he would always hit his target, meeting my gaze with a look of triumph, then disappearing back into the trees.

But even Goma nestled his way into my heart, gripping it tightly with those long, dexterous fingers and filling it up with awe and reverence.

They were ornery, intelligent, loving beings who taught me the extent to which animals feel emotions, both good and bad…exactly like we do. I saw this firsthand with our newest addition, Manoya, who was rescued the day before I got there.

She arrived emaciated, dehydrated and completely traumatized, then immediately had to be quarantined for 30 days. This meant she had to spend 24 hours a day with a caretaker in a large enclosure that was isolated from all the other animals.

The only details we know about her rescue is that the authorities found her going through customs, stuffed in a tiny crate. She was then handed over to the military who brought her to us by helicopter.

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Namoya right after she arrived

Every time I would check on her from a distance, the look on her face was beyond traumatized…it was sheer heartbreak.

Each of our chimps had a similar story (see Casualties of the Trade), all tortured in some way or another, stuffed in some inhumane contraption, most likely after seeing their entire families murdered.

But despite all of this, or probably because of it, they welcome each new orphan into their chaotic, not-so-functional family…just as they had me. Although be clear, this integration process isn’t without its challenges: clashing personalities, jealousy, power struggles…like any family, I suppose.

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Namoya’s new family

 

I had survived. Six very long months later, I was walking up to the sanctuary for the last time…to say goodbye to my furry favorite.

I’ve already shared the chimp crush I had on Kongo (here), so I tried to go see him as much as I could (when I wasn’t working or hiding out trying to avoid running into ‘C’).

Kongo and I quickly established our routine, accompanying each other around the perimeter of the forest enclosure, getting to know each others’ expressions and body language. I learned what his favorite foods were, what type of leaves he preferred and where his favorite tree was. I gradually discovered who his favorite chimp buddies were and the ones who avoided him at all costs (Goma being one of them). I got to know his different moods- when he was grumpy, playful, ornery, or bored.

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I shared my snacks with him, vented about my challenges with ‘C’ (SOS from the Jungles of Congo explains a bit), counted down the months, weeks, and days until Eric came to visit, and then the months, weeks, days until I got to go home.

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That day finally arrived, and I knew it would be the last time I’d see him.

That day was bizarre…as if Kongo knew I was leaving. Every day before, he would greet me at the gate and escort me down our usual path.  I waited a few minutes, looking for him up in the trees. I did my best version of a chimp call (which is pathetic, I might add). But nothing.

I started back toward the entrance, and there he was, peering out from behind the trees. I sat down and waited for him to come out. He just sat there, staring at me and then disappeared back into the forest.

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Now I was pissed. This was seriously how he was going to end it? I waited a few more minutes, then stormed out, slamming the gate behind me.

Realizing I had just thrown a temper tantrum because a chimp wouldn’t come ‘say goodbye’ to me, I pulled myself together and went back in.

There he was, sitting in the same spot where we always met. He didn’t even look at me before he started down the path, finally stopping to make sure I was following, but never letting me catch up.

When we turned the corner of our last stretch, he finally sat down but kept his back to me. I couldn’t help but laugh. He was clearly not going to make this easy. 

I rummaged through my bag and pulled out a handful of groundnuts, sliding them under the fence. He pretended not to see and waited until I sat back down to casually reach over and grab them. Next was sliced mango, his second favorite treat. He ate them but still acted like he wasn’t interested. I waited a few minutes before I pulled out his favorite, knowing that would do the trick.

He finally turned around to face me, looking at me intensely, then down at my bag, then turned sideways to avoid eye contact.

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I launched into my goodbye speech, lying, saying I would be back, and reminding him there would be another ‘save the world’ type who would take my place.

I slid a larger than normal portion of figs under the fence. He launched forward, grabbed as many as he could, and disappeared into the trees.

And that was it.

I made my back down the path home, stopping one last time to see if I could spot him in the trees. And there was Goma, staring down with his head cocked back, that same cheeky look on his face.

Just behind him and further up, I saw the leaves start to rustle. A flash of black plunged down, caught a limb and then soared across to catch another and then another. Within a matter of seconds, the forest turned into complete chaos- chimps flying tree to tree, leaves shaking violently as the limbs tried to rebound from the weight of one chimp after the other slamming down on them.

Goma finally plunged in, instigating more deafening screams that made even the staff members stop and look up.

I watched until the madness died down and the leaves became still. Several climbed to the top and perched on the branches, some grouped together, some alone, most of them looking down.

I’d seen these crazy displays before, but this one was sheer mayhem. I, of course, convinced myself that this one was for me…a dramatic farewell…

And I have a good idea who was behind it.

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*The number of chimps has grown from 54 to 72 since I was there in 2013.

* Between 5-10 chimpanzees are slaughtered in the process of trying to capture one baby chimp.

*Goma and I eventually made a truce, and I was allowed safe passage, if and only if he was presented with a handful of peanuts upon my entry.

 

 

 

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Below is the link to the documentary that inspired me to go to the Congo:

‘Project Nim’: A Chimp’s Very Human, Very Sad Life

Please help support the efforts of the sanctuary to protect these guys by donating here.

Four Chimps, Four Gorillas & One Girl Chained to a Fence.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi

I was two months into my 6-month stint in the Congo when we were told 4 of our chimps were being shipped off to a zoo in the capital of DRC.

‘C’, my supervisor, did everything she could to stop it from happening. It was maddening to witness, knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do to help and, ultimately, some greedy government officials were the ones to decide their fate…

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Originally posted on 

There is a zoo in Kinshasa, the capital of DRC, that is privately-funded by a wealthy Chinese man who has decided he wants 4 endangered chimps and 4 critically endangered Grauer’s Gorillas displayed in his zoo.

It seems the Congolese government wildlife authorities- our “partner” in rescuing and protecting endangered primates- is now backing the transfer of these gorillas (from the GRACE Gorilla Sanctuary) and chimpanzees (from our sanctuary, CRPL).

Note: Grauer’s gorillas, which are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are considered one of the 25 most-endangered primates in the world.

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Ironically, CRPL’s reputation as an established refuge for orphaned chimpanzees now makes it an easy target. There is a substantial financial incentive for anyone who has access to these endangered animals to align with criminals or corrupt officials to capture the very ones they are entrusted to protect.

Most of these chimps and gorillas were abducted as infants. They have already seen their entire families murdered and then been stuffed into bags or tiny crates, chained to poles, starved, and abused- all for the economic benefit of their worst enemy…us.

Animals, especially chimpanzees- who share 99.9 percent of our genetic makeup- experience trauma the same way we do. Even if we can’t see their scars, they too, carry around the pain of past abuse, both physical and emotional.

In some cases, the trauma is visible. One of our girls, Maiko, arrived with a bullet fragment lodged in her head-most likely the remnants of what killed her mother.

Kathe found in a village, 2009

Even after being rescued, these traumatized souls still have to be kept in cages if the sanctuary doesn’t have the resources to build bigger enclosures. It was only last year that our sanctuary finally completed 4 large, natural enclosures to house most of our resident chimpanzees and monkeys.

So now, after years of confinement, these four chimps- finally free to roam, climb trees, swim and play with their new family- will be anesthetized, stuffed in a crate and forced to live in yet another cage.

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I will go ahead and step up on my soapbox now and ask you to think about this the next time you go to a zoo or circus. Most of those animals staring back at you have experienced similar fates. Although the founders will deny it, and maybe they truly don’t know (or choose not to ask), animals rarely arrive at a zoo without experiencing extreme levels of abuse and trauma.

And do you really think a wild elephant would learn to balance some performer on its trunk or spin around on its hind legs without being beaten…without being broken?

Are they really better off, confined to cages or chained to a pole in an unnatural climate or environment and reduced to utter complacency? For what reason, for our entertainment? Or perhaps the more altruistic justification is that these animals are on the verge of extinction and can breed in captivity…so they can survive and flourish?

In my opinion, the concept of breeding animals so they can survive in cages is an oxymoron- akin to believing a dying man is better off living on a life-support machine.

Both scenarios require a decision to be made, one which usually benefits the one deciding. Even if it is well-intentioned- we don’t want to give up on a loved one who we think is still clinging to life. But do we really understand the quality of life we are imposing on the one without a voice?

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Of course, this issue is not black and white. As a sanctuary, we provide what we hope to be temporary protection from the threats these chimpanzees face- the insidious pet trade, illegal bushmeat market, increased forest degradation, and high levels of infectious disease transmission from humans- all of which are fueled by the ongoing political and civil unrest.

But if we release them back into the wild right now, they would most likely be recaptured. It is not ideal, and yes, they are still confined, but in the closest thing possible to their natural environment. And they are at least surrounded by their own kind.

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The reality is, if the Congolese officials allow these animals to be transferred to a zoo, they are undermining the credibility of our efforts to protect them. Qualifying for funding is already a constant battle. But if this happens, it could be a disaster. Will our present and potential funders really want to support a sanctuary that is subject to trafficking by its own founders?

There are too many political layers and players involved to get my head around at the moment, and I don’t know what the longterm solution is. But in the meantime, I have 4 chimps I have to help save.

Don’t worry, I will keep my wits about me. Just don’t be alarmed if you see a picture of me floating around the internet chained to a fence…with 54 chimps roaming about on the other side.

In the end, our chimps and the gorillas were not taken to the zoo. ‘C’ and a handful of leaders from neighboring sanctuaries banded together and fought for their freedom.

And I suspect, our leading lady, Jane Goodall, might have had something to do with the final decision. 😉

You can donate directly to the sanctuary here to support all the work that goes into protecting the chimps and other wildlife in danger of extinction. 

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SOS from the Jungles of Congo

For those of you who have been following my adventures in Congo (first one starts here), we are approaching the end. After reading the excerpt below, you might understand why, at that point, I was counting the days until my escape…literally.

For the last 2 months, the calendar on my wall served as an anchor to my sanity. I became obsessed with finding new ways to break down the months into weeks, the weeks into days, and the days into hours.

For example, every Wednesday for lunch, beans were served with cabbage instead of the usual plantains.

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Every day BUT Wednesdays…

Only 8 more servings of cabbage before I get to go home.

Besides my 24-hour excursion to Bukavu (read more about that epic reprieve here) and when Eric swept me off to Uganda for 2 weeks (which literally saved my soul), I was pretty much confined to my house and the sanctuary.

I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere by myself due to safety restrictions, especially after dark. I also wasn’t supposed to wear skirts; women’s legs have to remain covered…although no one seems to know why.

So, as my tiny act of rebellion, every Saturday night after the sun went down, I would put on my only skirt and sneak over to the hotel next door and have a beer…exposed legs and all.

Only 7 more scandalous outings before I get to go home. 

Another survival tactic was keeping a regimented workout schedule. Thankfully, my room was spacious enough that I could work out on the days I didn’t run with the boys (more about dodging goats and small children here)- So, running on Monday/Wednesday/Fridays, Bar Method video on Tuesday/Thursdays, circuit training every Saturday, Yoga on Sundays…

Only 6 more yoga sessions before I get to go home.

Yes, there were pockets of fun throughout the day. I loved the staff and, of course, the chimps. But the circumstances and treatment I had to endure had worn me down. And I missed my boys terribly (Eric and Biscuit)…and my freedom.

I was ready to go home.

Only one more month, 7 days and 10 hours sitting across from her, inhaling her smoke…

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

I have tried to spare you the details of trying to navigate one of the most tumultuous relationships I’ve ever experienced (which happens to involve the same person who dictates what and how much I get to eat; if I can leave the area I’m confined to; when I get to use the internet; how much second-hand smoke I will be inhaling a day; and whether or not I will serve as an outlet for her random bouts of anger originating from any number of sources on a given day).

Below is a glimpse of a weak moment, during an exceptionally trying day, at the end of a grueling week…that pretty much sums up six months of enduring an impossible situation.

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I often envision myself setting one off, seen from a birds-eye view, catapulting out of the 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 the Congo, held prisoner by an abusive, parasitic woman who exists solely on souls and cigarettes, exhaling an endless stream of poison that slowly, methodically extinguishes the essence of those who have unknowingly landed in her web, kept alive just enough to quell her appetite as she whittles them down to an empty shell of their former selves, forcing them to resign the passion they once had for the cause they were fighting for…and question whether anything is worth fighting for at all.

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A side note:
This woman does, in fact, have some redeeming, even admirable qualities. Perhaps, on a day far removed from this one, I will remember what they are.

You can donate directly to the sanctuary here to support all the work that goes into protecting the chimps and other wildlife in danger of extinction. 

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What happens when you stay up past your bedtime… and you can’t speak Swahili

Okay friends, I know this is a repeat, but I just got back from vacation and the reality of what I have to pull off in the next 3 days. So I thought I’d recycle a Congo fav for those who missed it the first time or just want to laugh again at the ridiculous shit I get myself into.

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Saving Lwiro

I was only one month into my 6-month stint working at the chimpanzee sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the fact that everything I was seeing and doing on a daily basis was on the verge of surreal, I was confined to a very small area (given the whole ‘conflict/tail end of civil war’ thing) and my daily routine was already getting a bit monotonous.

Although I am an introvert through and through, my only options for companionship were my limited encounters with the chimps, awkward charade-like exchanges with the staff (French/Swahili speakers) and way too much time spent with my cantankerous Spanish-speaking supervisor. I was becoming increasingly desperate for civil, grammatically-correct, ‘I can actually crack a joke’ conversation.

I seriously started considering my exit strategy when I found out two women were coming to volunteer for a month. The thought of late-night talks, belly laughs and an occasional sounding board for said cantankerous boss quickly overrode all introverted tendencies, and I began counting the days. Not surprisingly, we were all close in age and cut from the same cloth (it’s a rare breed that decides up and moving to the Congo to save the chimps seems like a good idea), and it was immediately apparent that getting ourselves into trouble was not going to be a problem.

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Typically, our workday started at 6:30am and ended around 4:30pm. Dinner was served at 5, and we had all usually ‘showered’ (in a tub/bucket kind of way) and eaten by 5:30.

Since we weren’t supposed to leave our house after dinner, this left a good chunk of time to entertain ourselves with very limited options; there was no electricity, we were usually too exhausted to read by candlelight, and going to bed before 8pm was simply torture. So most evenings were spent sitting around a candle on the porch, chatting, sipping beer or tea and periodically challenging each other to guess how much longer we had until our self-imposed bedtime of 8:30…because come on, who goes to bed before 8:30?

It was 8:30 on the dot. We had just blown out the candle and headed inside to get ready for bed. The girls went to their room, then immediately came running back out saying there was a fire outside their window. They jetted outside while I fumbled around in the dark trying to find my lantern, which had conveniently disappeared, yet again.

By the time I emerged, the girls were nowhere to be seen. I proceeded to run up the stairs to the gate and ran into Valentine, one of the night staff. Usually, when I’m in panic mode, the only thing that comes out of my mouth is in English (Spanish on a good day). But this time, the words flew out effortlessly (thanks to the trusty French podcast I listened to each morning while preparing the chimps’ breakfast.)

Tu sens ca? il y a un feu! (Do you smell that? There’s a fire!)

His eyes widened and he threw open the gate, taking off in a sprint. I silently congratulated myself for my mastery of the French language, translating his urgent response and subsequent actions to, Yes, Natalie, I do smell a fire. We should go immediately and put it out!

And with that, I was off to save Lwiro from its fiery fate.

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Everything up to this point seemed completely logical- there was a fire and we were running toward it to put it out. But when we got to the fire, Valentine stopped abruptly, took a sharp turn to the left and lept into the forest. So I did what any insane woman in the heart of Africa would do.

I dove in after him.

This is a good time to point out that I had seen Valentine on a daily basis since my arrival. He was a sweet, soft-spoken older man who always had a smile on his face.  And although our conversation never progressed beyond the usual ‘ca va?, Oui, ca va bien’, he was one of my favorites.

So as ludicrous as it sounds, I never questioned my safety when diving into the depths of the jungle to follow Valentine. I did, however, question my sanity when I realized that I was sprinting through the depths of the jungle with no lantern and no clue as to where we were going or why.  And all I could think about were the millions of hungry, venomous predators I was pissing off as I stomped on top of them trying to get to wherever we were going as quickly as possible.

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Before I knew it, Valentine was long gone, and I could see nothing other than thick, green vegetation closing in around me. The reality of being lost in the jungles of Congo with my extremely challenged sense of direction jolted me into survival mode. I screamed out at the top of my lungs… at the very moment that I ran smack into Valentine.

Completely disoriented and beyond traumatized, it took me a few seconds to gather myself and realize we were both staring straight at Susan… who was standing on my back porch.

She immediately burst out laughing, “Where the hell did you come from? We have been looking for you for the past fifteen minutes!”  

“Wait, what? Fifteen minutes? I don’t know what the hell you two have been doing, but Valentine and I have been chasing someone for hours! Although I’m not sure who…or why.

And did anyone manage to put out the fucking fire?”

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There was no fire. The neighbors were burning trash like they did almost every day. Although in our defence, we had never seen them do it at night, and it in no way resembled a harmless ‘we are just burning trash’ fire.

And as it turns out, my flawless execution of French was all for not. Most of the older workers communicate mainly in Swahili and know very little French if any. Valentine most likely saw the panicked white woman flailing about, pointing toward the forest, and assumed I’d seen some dangerous intruder.

And as for my near brush with death in the bush? I was actually in my own backyard, no further than a quarter of a mile from our back porch.

Lessons learned

Not a terrible idea to learn a few ‘could save your life’ phrases in the local language

Keep flashlight/lantern attached to your person at all times

No going out past bedtime

You can donate directly to the sanctuary here to support all the work that goes into protecting the chimps and other wildlife in danger of extinction. 

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Women and Goats

 

“The Greatest of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
                                                  – Mahatma Gandhi

I saw this quote when I first arrived and have had some time to think about its application. I agree with Gandhi 100%, but I think he missed another important barometer for the moral evolution of a nation; the treatment of women.

In fact, most nations or societies who demoralize and disempower groups of people viewed as “less than” often coincides with their inhumane treatment of animals. I guess this makes sense…as incomprehensible as it is.

As for the treatment of animals in the DRC? Well, I have officially converted to being a vegetarian-watching so many of goats and pigs dragged around by a short rope tied to their necks or one leg; forced to ride on the back of a moto, legs bound; or tied to some random object for endless hours in the raging sun.

All of the chimps seeking refuge at our sanctuary experienced similar treatment, if not worse. Seventy-five percent of elephants have been slaughtered over the past 15 years in what is considered the “best protected park in the DRC,” and white rhinos no longer exist.

Did you catch that? The Northern White rhino has been completely wiped out in the DRC. Of the estimated 2,000 that roamed the areas of Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1960’s, only 3 remain…in a protected conservancy in Kenya.

“We put millions of dollars into protecting the northern white rhino in Garamba national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said Susie Ellis of the International Rhino Foundation. “However, the species was lost there when the park became a conflict zone and we had to pull out to ensure the safety of our staff. If there is no political will, there is only so much that organisations like ours can do.”

Bonobos and Grauer gorillas, endemic to to the DRC, have suffered a similar fate.

But are you married? 

When I pass the women on the way to the fields, hauling 3 times their weight in wood, sugarcane, potatoes or bananas, I can’t help but think of the goats. Not cows, though, because cows (a symbol of wealth here) are never used to transport heavy cargo like the wives of their owners. Although the ‘proverbial rope’ that keeps them bound and subjugated is not motivated by hunger or survival, but by over a century of oppression, fear, stupidity and a distorted interpretation of religion. have more value here than women

Every women here in Lwiro is addressed as “Mama”. Why? Because that is her identity. In fact, after a woman has her first baby, her name forever changes to the name of that baby, such as “Mama Patrick”. (this made me laugh out loud when I realized that my name would forever be “Mama Biscuit”)

The first question I’m asked by men is if I’m married, the second, how many children I have. When I explain I don’t have chidlren and am not sure if I will, I’m simply dismissed.

One of the guys I work was so convinced I needed to remedy my “childless” issue, he offered to give me one of his. When I asked him how his wife might feel about this, he explained, “No problem, we have 5 others.” Yes, he was joking, I hope. But I opted to change the subject, anyway.

But this is the norm here. In fact, of the dozens of men that I have met, each of them proudly declares how many children they have, beaming, “Yes, here in the Congo, we have lots of children.”

“You have lots of children?” I respond, my tone thick with sarcasm. But it inevitably gets lost in translation. I think we can safely say that my limited capacity to speak the language has kept me in good graces here.

Because yes, the norm here more is good, regardless of the financial strain it puts on their families or the physical risks involved for the women.

And who exactly takes care of these children? The same people I see planting, harvesting and preparing the food, washing the clothes, fetching the water, hauling huge loads of produce to sell at the market. And they are not the “man of the house.”

Because most of the men I see are sitting idly with their neighbors, watching the world go by…and the women.

Out of all of the thirty plus guys that I work with (all of whom are married and have 4-6 children), I have never met any of their wives, except for one woman who comes up to the sanctuary to sell her produce. Women are not invited to any gatherings and most likely have no say in whether or not their husbands decide to go hang out with the “muzungo” instead of coming home to help with the chores.

This passage in Facing the Congo captures the prevailing philosophy here concerning women:

Congolese: “Your woman don’t know the meaning of respect…they don’t even want to have babies.”

American visiting Congo: “Not all women want to have babies.”

Congolese: Then why in God’s name are they on this earth? God put them here to multiply. Here we have a lot of children. Some are weak and will die, others are strong and will live. But it’s God’s will that women have a lot of babies, as many babies as possible.”

American: “Why not have one or two children and try to give them everything, instead of having seven or eight and hoping the strong will make it?”

Congolese: “Because we are on this earth to have children, I’m telling you! It’s God command!”

I certainly do not claim to have an in-depth understanding of this country and the origins of male chauvinism that prevails here. I also recognize that mine is a culturally-biased perspective based on a very limited understanding of the inconceivable suffering, oppression, poverty, and cruelty these people have endured.

Such relentless violence, poverty and injustice is bound to manifest itself in a vicious fight for power, exploiting the most vulnerable and stripping life of its value and humanity.

Ben Rawlence spoke to this in his book, Radio Congo:

“The residue of colonialism has engendered cruelty, brutality and a lack of confidence in any African achievement or even any African idea of humanity. What is it to be a man? Only money?” If there is no money, then the next mechanism for control on the food chain is power- dominion over those deemed less powerful- which from what I have seen is women, children and animals.”

Be very clear, I am holding on to my stones very tightly. The glass house that is my birthplace has yet to demonstrate equality on multiple fronts; education, wealth and privilege, even democratic values does not an equal and just society make.

As for our treatment of animals; The U.S. is the last remaining country (besides the African country of Gabon) to use chimpanzees for biomedical research on a large-scale- nearly 1,000 of them are still being imprisoned in biomedical facilities throughout our country (see link below for reference).

The inhumane industrial-style animal raising used by most American farmers completely violates any thought of respect for animal welfare- pumping any animal fit for mass consumption with hormones, steroids and whatever other chemicals necessary to speed up production, add unnatural girth and counter the sickness and disease resulting from horrific living conditions. Slowly, progress is being made, but just like in the Congo, economic gain still reigns king.

Is there hope? I guess I would be here if I believed otherwise. I think it all comes down to cultivating, one by one, our collective humanity and taking action.

So, I will leave you with one last quote from perhaps the best source of inspiration for both women and those advocating for the rights and protection of animals…

“Cruelty is surely the very worst of human sins…if only we could overcome cruelty with compassion we should be well on the way to creating a new and boundless ethic-one that would respect all living beings. We should be at the threshold of a new era in human evolution-the realization, at last, of our most unique quality: humanity.”  ~ Jane Goodall

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130228155438.htm

http://www.releasechimps.org/laws/international-bans

http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1001291