Sunday, January 29, 2012

Speak Now

Yes, that is the title of a Taylor Swift song. And yes, I did just wake up from a dream where I sang and danced with her under streetlights. It was one of my happier dreams. But this is not what I wanted to write about today. I want to write about saying things that are inside your head and your heart.

I've had a fairly dramatic week, with health and travel and life-plan issues. But I am here, home with my family, and that's what counts, that's all I wished for all those times I lay alone. And in those times, I realised something.

People don't say their truth. People don't say what they think. People don't trust their instincts. People aren't honest about their feelings. Or about their opinions of each other, good or bad. People don't say kind things when they can. And they don't ask to understand clearer when they aren't certain.

The times people have spoken to me about the things in their hearts, the things that mean most to them, or even just things that feel real, have been the greatest conversations. And the times when people say they see a light in me, or observe something I never knew about myself; those times keep me going. Pity they're so few and far between.

And maybe this sounds very negative. But really what I'm saying is, people should. It makes life a lot more special, a lot more intimate, a lot more real and true and meaningful.

I read once that, "Admitting what scares us or makes us feel alive might be intimidating or embarrassing, but there is power and strength in owning who we are." and the power in sharing it, the power of community, is infinite. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I'm both excited and overwhelmed by my job right now.
Not in the way I have been for a while.

I think I am, in awe of how capable I am.
And newly motivated to make the most of it.
Which is really really good.

And I dont know what I want to be doing a year from now, or where.
But I know what I love doing and feeling.

And I know that there are moments in this job when I cant believe how lucky I am.
Moments when I cant help but smile to myself
bc I feel like there is nowhere else I'd rather be.

Not bc of the country I'm in or the people I'm with
or maybe bc of exactly that.
But mostly, bc I can feel in my heart
it's exactly where and what I'm meant to be,
exactly what I'm meant to do with my life.

Exactly why i am who i am,
for this, right now.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Things that happen in the DRC.

You can never see the sky completely. The sky is always grey. Maybe someone with geography knowledge (Victoria) would tell me it's bc of the tropical climate, I say it's bc of the dangerous amounts of pollution. Either way, it makes me uncomfortable.

There are no bins, anywhere. I walked from one side of downtown to the other (we're estimating about four kilometres, just saying, WHY DID WE NOT TAKE A TAXI) and, no bin. We got to the street cafe, and the waiter took trash off the table and threw in into the street. Where already, years and years of rubbish is piled up, compressed as part of the ground. There is litter, EVERYWHERE.

You cannot take photos. Just, dont. Unless you are willing to dish out hundreds of dollars to get permission every time you want to whip out your camera. If you want to live on the edge, fake use your phone. But really, getting arrested or harrased by groups of men desperate for dollars, is not worth it. It will get unpleasant.

Yeah, you will see soldiers everywhere, they will all have huge guns. They will watch intently, for a way to fine you for something that really isnt illegal, but will still ensure your giving them atleast $5. You will be appalled, and annoyed, but only argue enough to reduce the amount drastically, bc you know they need the money for food. They only get about $35 a month, and a salary increase is not on the horizon. (Considering that was the price of my meal at Nandos the other day, it hurts to wonder how the average person survives. Though, I guess I know the answer is that they dont.)

No one will offer help, whether you dropped a bag of groceries or are changing a tyre. It is just not in the culture. Also, do not ask for directions, they will expect to be paid.

There are beautiful lizards everywhere, with cool fire stripes on their backs. So, there's that. And the other animals you will see, will be frail and in cages. Being sold at markets. Or, an occasional cat at a restaurant there to rid the place of rats.

Nice Cream is the greatest thing that will ever happen to you. Even though the women will be annoyed at how excited you are, it will be worth the $7 and dirty looks. It's on Avenue de Port, people, and it's where the party is AT. Get that icecream, and fall in love forever.

Five dollars.

Today we experienced fully the brutality of this corruption. It started out as a simple "Let's go to this art museum I heard about." and ended with running away from an angry man with an AK47, and a consequential two hour walk across downtown on a windless day in Kinshasa.

Staying on the topic of corruption, we found out why we had so much trouble with our visas. And the real reason why the embassy was burned down in Pretoria. Turns out the Congolese really hate Jacob Zuma, since he sent in troops to fight on Kabila's side during the election saga. (Aside from the unfair 'why are you even getting involved' issue, it must be noted that Conogolese people are not at all violent, and the only acts of violence to cilivians was done by foreign troops on Congolese land.) And then, just after Kabila "won" these elections, it is announced that Zuma's son is starting some oil corporation here. Clearly a result of Zuma's negotions with Kabila during the election period.

In other news of the day, I learnt that this freedom our generation has, having not grown up during Apartheid, isn't always a gift. I always thought it meant we could see further ahead into a brighter future without the bitterness that older generations cant seem to shake. Today I heard that this ignorance and lack of personal experience is affecting the motivation for change in the DRC. That the youth doesn't see, firstly how bad it can get if left unsolved, and secondly, how much of a change they could create if they faught for it. Which kind of breaks my heart.

Lunch at the Congo River.

Lovely afternoon overlooking Brazzaville.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lola Bonobo

We went to a sanctuary for Bonobos. -Which are animals similar to chimpanzees. I really wasn’t keen to go; the concept of animals in captivity makes me uncomfortable, to say the least. But it turned out to be, the most beautiful place. It really felt like paradise, like suddenly the Garden of Eden wasn’t something I just imagined as a child at story time.

The insane humidity (which yes, I continue to complain about) of course is a major contributor towards the lush green expanse. The experience overall, though, was one of admiration for the people who run it. They have become the animals' family. It's a beautiful thing to witness.

The Bonobos are rescued from a life of risk, where the mothers are shot and the babies are captured to be sold to international buyers. They are, something like our closest relatives, and actually so different to chimps that it is surprising that it was only noted mid 1920s. Often the mothers are killed before the four-year nursing period is up, and the babies are left young and weak, taken to markets. The organisation is well-known enough that some children saw a baby for sale at a market recently, and contacted them, and now he is safe in the enclosure, being looked after by these ladies who spend their days with the baby Bonobos, being their moms. It is the most incredible thing to witness how clearly they have accepted these women as their own, holding on tight to their backs as they go about normal chores, playing games and trusting them completely.

The guides know all the Bonobos by name, and speak of each one's personality. They point out which one loves speed, and minutes later, he races down a hill sliding on a tree branch, in typical teenage behaviour. They even call them by name, out of miles of bushes and wilderness, and the Bonobos respond loudly and come. They do seem very organised, and it truly feels like the guides and everyone at the sanctuary cares for each individual Bonobo and their wellbeing. It really is, a symbol of hope for us all. 

Seriously, I took like four photos of Bonobos, and 156 of trees.
#TrueLove #BorderlineObsession #SoooGreen

DRC Realisations.

Hi :)

SO, I'm pretty bleak that I didn’t have energy or time to write after every day, bc I have had the most fascinating conversations here. I've learnt so much about cultural differences, especially. And just, am constantly realising how privileged I am, not just in a monetary sense, but circumstantially. The considerations students here have to make when thinking of their future, are beyond what I think even parents in our society must consider. For us, a future can be anything we want, within reason of course. But we are free from the heavy weight of government control. We are free from being victims of inexplicable acts to prove power. And free from having to admit to ourselves that we may not be able to have even one child, bc we will probably not afford it. All this aside from the regular power cuts, internet restrictions, violent policemen willing to do anything to get a beer or $100 out of you, and exorbitant food prices. Too many reminders of how corruption can break everything, how one man's selfishness can change an entire nation's outlook on life.