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Oops. I did it again

April 22, 2012
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I’m back in Congo.

After a little leave of absence from the blog, we now officially have something to write about.

It all happened kind of fast over the past month or so…

Jamie and I had been in California for the past few months, spending time with family and friends, assisting with home improvement projects, making a wedding dress, and job hunting.  We had been looking to go abroad again, but it was taking way longer than we thought it would to find something.  And then…

BAM!

I got the job offer.  I accepted.  I just arrived yesterday in Bukavu, capital of the South Kivu province in the east of the country, where Jamie and I will be living for the next 9 months or so (Jamie will be joining me here in a few weeks).

Bukavu (marked in red)

I’m working with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) as their new Impact Evaluation Manager for Gender-Based Violence Programs.

Katie's new job

So far, things have gotten off to a great start.  The IRC guest house where I am staying at the moment is awesome.  It’s basically a lakeside villa, a remnant of Belgian colonists, probably built around the 1940’s.  There’s 3 avocado trees, 3 guava trees, a coffee tree, hibiscus and plumeria and all sorts of other tropical plants in the garden.  Way nicer than our apartment in Kinshasa.  I’m not sure if we’ll end up staying in this place the entire time, but it’s pretty awesome for now.

Lakeside villa

Patio and plants

Kayak on the patio

So, based on discussions with friends and family before I left, I’ve put together a little list of frequently asked questions about this new adventure.

FAQ

———–

When you moved to Kinshasa, didn’t you guys specifically try to appease our fears by telling us that you were far away from the eastern part of DRC where all the conflict is?  And now you’re saying that you’re gonna live in eastern DRC.  Wtf?

Yes.  That’s true.  I did try to appease your fears by telling you that.  Now let me try to appease them again by telling you some more things.

So, I mentioned in a previous post about the different factions that continue to fight in the eastern part of Congo.  One of the things that allows this conflict to continue is the fact that fighters are adept at hiding under the cover of the intense jungle in the remote areas of the eastern provinces.

Since the UN can’t, and are sometimes not allowed to, try and penetrate these thick jungles, the fighters are difficult to capture.  And in order to stay hidden, they stay away from the larger urban areas, such as Bukavu.  So, actually, the urban areas in the eastern part of the country are relatively safe right now.

———–

So, is it safe there?

Well, yes and no.  I mean, there are always risks in traveling to a new place: diseases, health issues, pickpockets, political instability etc.  However, from what I’ve heard, Bukavu is actually supposed to be a bit safer than Kinshasa on the day-to-day.  We may even be able to walk outside during the day!

Plus, this position with IRC comes with some safety and security perks that we didn’t have in Kinshasa.  For example, we don’t have to drive.  If we need to go somewhere, I just call the logistics operator and they send a driver to come take me where I need to go.  It seems luxurious, but after what Jamie and I went through driving in Kinshasa, it actually will make a big difference with day-to-day safety.  Though it does kinda take away our excuse to keep going back to Thailand to restock on Thai baht.

———–

But I thought you didn’t want to go back to Congo again- like, ever.  What’s the deal?

True.  But we’re optimistic that Bukavu is going to be a much more awesome experience than Kinshasa.  Here’s why:

  • It’s safer and less insane, paradoxically (see above)
  • It’s a bit more connected to the rest of the world than Kinshasa.  Bukavu is right next to the border of Rwanda, which has a pretty great paved road network and a nice airport with more flight options than Kinshasa.
  • It’s more friendly (or so we’ve heard).  Being almost 1,000 miles from Kinshasa, it’s not hard to imagine that the culture is not exactly the same.
  • It has really nice weather (not too hot!)
  • It’ll be (hopefully) pretty easy for Jamie to get a job here.  He already has some good leads
  • It’s naturally beautiful here.  Really beautiful.  The city is set on the shores of Lake Kivu, with 5 mini peninsulas reaching out into the water.  It’s lush and green and it seems like everything is in bloom.

Mini peninsula of Bukavu, on Lake Kivu

View of the lake from the guest house

Next to the boat house

———–

But when are you going to come home and have lots of babies???

Omg, we will come back to the US eventually and have lots of babies.  Don’t worry.

———–

What cool and safe tourist activities are there to do around Bukavu?

There actually are some tourist attractions around here!

One option is trekking in the jungle mountains to see gorillas… with armed park rangers, to protect you from the other guerrillas that are hiding out in the jungle.  So, it’s totally safe!

The other is trekking up Mount Nyiragongo, which is an active volcano, and camping next to a lava lake.  But don’t worry, the volcano hasn’t erupted since 2002.  So, it’s totally safe, too!

———–

So, there you have it.  We’ll be back to semi-regular blog posts and updates, so get excited!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Aunt Melodee permalink
    April 23, 2012 12:40 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for the post, Katie! I know you and Jamie will make this a positive experience. And in your list of good things you forgot to mention dairy, so I am expecting a WHOLE POST on the awesome dairy products from the region 🙂
    Love,
    Aunt Melodee

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