Sunday, June 19, 2005

Thoughts from Kinshasa

One thing that I noticed right away about Kinshasa is that there is a middle class. Granted, if you had just come from the states, you would probably judge this statement to be inaccurate or mis-repretentative at best. However, good ol' Niger instilled on me a different way of looking at a lot of things. So today as I sat at pool, I saw that it wasnt just expats. Same goes for restaurants. This was a very rare sighting in Niger.

I don't feel very guilty from wanting to escape the grit of Kinshasa by the poolside or the daily grind of Kindu in my little apartment, but I wish it was not that way. I remember being in places where a trip to the market was a fun expedition, rather than something I eventually decided to have someone else do for me.

Why do I feel this? I think its that the sense of struggle that is very apparent in this society. People fight to make it, as they've had to under decades of poor leadership. So this means cripples will come barreling towards me when I get out of my car in Kinshasa, and kids will follow me in Kindu, asking for money or food. My neighbors ask me for bread and even from my balcony it's not uncommon for someone to hold there hand out in my direction, as though I would throw something down or jump with money in my pocket. It's hard to maintain the compassion that drives me to do this work because the essence of compassion is understanding the pain of others, and at the extreme, a willingness to take some of that on. Woah. There is so much injustice and struggle around here that to comprehend that just one of the street kids who bugs you for money is as deep a human as yourself, that this child has the same right to happiness, and has been dealt a tough hand of's a lot to take in. Multiplied by thousands it's almost too much. Combined with guns and it's just scary. So I try to balance compassion with the distance that is necessary for me to stay sane.

I guess when I left Niger I knew that I was upping the bar. My trip to Tunda and surrounding small villages cut-off from markets, lacking basic goods from looting during the war, and not receiving assistance...the mission confirmed that while this choice isn't the easiest, it's the right one for now. Just check out the photo of the kids! It says it all.


Blogger Rolski said...

Hey Sahara Sarah!

Wow. Your blog continues to be a tiny window into your incredible adventure. Funny to think, when you eventually go back to the US, how nobody you meet will ever be able to really understand what you've been up to or what you've seen. By writing this blog, you help us understand what you're doing.

And it's incredible. Not for the first time, I'm really proud to have you as a friend. Please keep up with the blog. It's amazing to come into the office every morning, pour myself a cup of coffee and read about your adventures all those hundreds of miles away.

My thoughts are always with you,


10:37 AM  
Blogger sissoula said...

Beautiful post. Sounds like you found exactly what you were looking for.

10:53 AM  

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