Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Few Final Pictures from Congo

While there are 54 countries in Africa, a lot of those nations may look very similar to the outside observer.  And for good reason.  Many countries across Africa suffer from some of the same challenges: poverty, food shortages, health problems, etc.  In many ways Congo looked similar to several other areas I’ve been to, but there were a few distinctions, or at least phenomena which were more prevalent here than in other places, that I wanted to share.

Petrol (gas) stations were few and far between.  I think I only counted three the entire time I was in the country.  So aspiring entrepreneurs will travel into town, purchase fuel, and then sell it in plastic water bottles scattered throughout the country.  If you remember during Hurricane Sandy last year New York residents began showing up at gas stations with empty 5-liter water bottles, or plastic gallon milk jugs because all the retail stores ran out of gas cans. But the gas stations refused to sell to anyone without a proper gas can due to safety regulations.  Congo does not appear to have those safety policies in place: (Sorry, you need to turn you head 90 degrees to the right.)
In 1994 after the Rwandan genocide, two million genocidaires crossed the border into Congo in less than a week to avoid being prosecuted for human rights violations.  The UN and international community set up refugee camps to accommodate the massive influx of people.  Those refugee camps still exist!  And they extend for MILES.  The reason those people are still refugees after 20 years is partly due to the fact they don’t want to go to jail for crimes during the genocide, and part of it is because they simply don’t have the money to return to Rwanda or move elsewhere:
During the volcanic eruption in 2002, the water pipes in Goma were destroyed.  They are attempting to lay new pipes, but I’m told digging through hardened lava is quite a chore, so it is slow going.  Similar to the fuel-filled water bottle ventures, here are people filling jerry cans in Lake Kivu and then cycling around town selling them:
As I mentioned, part of the reason for my trip to DRC was to visit the Tourism Program at the University of Goma:
The class I visited:
Do you see the wooden bike on the right hand side?  These things were all over the place in DRC.  It was the main method for transporting goods since no one really owned a vehicle:
And finally, the Nyiragongo Volcano:
Overall, it was an interesting trip to Congo.  I’m glad I went and can’t imagine ever going back.  But if nothing else, it gives me a new appreciation for… EVERYTHING.

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