Posted: under DR Congo.
I got up at 8am just as everyone was leaving for work. Even though no one knew me here and were just going by Koenraad’s word, they let me stay in their house no problem. There was a security guard, a cleaning woman and the caretaker also there. Marie said I could ask Poppa for breakfast. He made me a delicious cup of brewed Kenyan coffee and a bowl of fruit salad. I hung around the balcony for a while and read. At 10am I decided it was time to go into the city and check out Goma.
I took a motorcycle taxi into town. The traffic and people on the road was a bit crazy. I got dropped off past the city centre but then walked back to it. Everywhere there was signs of the volcanic eruption in 2002. Grey dust, volcanic rocks of all sizes and buildings and walls made out of the stones. Add this to the bewildering array of aid agencies and the bustling local population and it made for a very interesting city. I wanted just to check out Goma but was also looking for a souvenir stand, where I could buy something Congolese. Masks and carvings from the Congo are found all over Africa but I was having trouble finding them here in the Congo. I guess they don’t get many tourists here and their stuff sells better outside the country. I finally found a stall near the huge main purply pink painted roundabout in the centre of town. There were many masks and carvings. I asked the price of one small mask and it was $45US! Woah, that’s a lot. I left the stall to look for others but found nothing and ended up coming back to this place.
Walking around Goma had a wierd feeling, like I wasn’t supposed to be there unless I was trying to help. I only saw one other woman walking around and later saw 3 whites who looked like backpackers and not aid workers. I met them later in Rwanda and they were there just for the day to check the place out. I also got a different feeling when people stared at me. In other African countries I felt like people were staring at me just because there is another white person, let’s stare at him. But here I felt like people looked at me and thought ‘ Holy shit, there IS a white person, let’s watch him’ I was definetely more of a novelty here. Goma pulsed with a raw energy that was untainted by toursim but scarred by decades of war and unstability. As I drank a slightly acoholic passionfruit/ginger bevarage on the patio of a restaurant, I watched the world of Goma pass by. Almost every vehicle was UN, or police, or military or an aid organization. I had never seen anything like it. I enjoyed my drink with Joseph, a local from the town of Bukavu on the other side of lake Kivu. He spoke Kiswahili, English and French and thought he would have a better chance of getting a job here than in Bukavu but had no luck so far. I met Joseph at the souvenir stalll. He helped me a bit with interpretting from buyer to seller.
I eyed a mask I really liked at the stall. It was again $45US like the other smaller mask I looked at earlier. The owners of the stall said that they were antiques. I asked if they had anything that wasn’t an antique…..no , they said. I was only prepared to spend $10US on the mask because I knew I would see more Congolese stuff in Kenya before I left for possibly a better price. The guy asked me my price and I said $10. He lowered his price a little and then asked me my final price. I said I already told him. I wasn’t budging. There was no bargaining on my part, I had my price and that was it. He eventually came down to my price and I got the mask for $10. I had other sellers approach me other things. One had a 3 set carving out of lava rock of the ‘ see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil mantra’ with gorillas in the appropriate gestures. He wanted $50. I said $15 and again, wasn’t budging. He eventually came to my price. This was the easy bargaining I’ve ever done. I met Joseph here and after I was done buying invited him to join me at the restuarant for a soda. We hung out here for a while. After I was happy with my experience of Goma city centre, I took a motorcycle taxi back to the house.
I relaxed here and waited for someone to come home. They worked late and went out for a drink but had no way to contact me to let me know. They came home at 11.30pm and went right to bed and so did I.
I was happy with my 2 days in Goma and my introduction to the DR Congo. It is definetely a country I want to come back to and explore properly in the future but for now I had to get going back to Rwanda. After breakfast I took a moto back to the border. It was again an easy crossing and before I knew it I was back at Auberge de Gisenyi in my old #3 room.
I didn’t tell anyone back home I would be coming to DR Congo because I didn’t want to worry anyone and wasn’t sure if I was going to visit it or not. I did hint at it though when I showed my parents the Bradt guidebook to Congo and DR Congo, which just came out in November and was the first guidebook to the region. Even if I didn’t go, I still enjoy reading about Congo. I urge anyone who is interested in Congo to read the books – Blood River, Facing the Congo and East Along the Equator, all interesting books with lots of recent and historical facts about Congo.
Comments (0) Mar 07 2009