Let Me Take You To The Remote Parts of Kivu

It was in March 2013. I was replying some emails from clients when my supervisor came into my office. He just did regular random inspection to ten camps under his supervision. I handled three of them. After briefing him for some work progress, he left my office immediately, and said, “I’m quite busy nowadays. You know, after Goma’s incident, we need to put more concentration in the eastern part of DRC. I am looking for people who want to relocate there,”

“Could you put my name on the list, please,” I said.

My supervisor could not believe his ears. He asked again, “Do you want to be relocated to the east? You know that some rebellion groups are still there,”

“You told me that you look for people to relocate to the east. You’ve just found one, Chief,” I said.

My supervisor still looked at me astonishingly. He later confessed that he just mentioned about relocation but not expecting me to voluntarily moved to the region that still has low-level of safety. But, short stories, he put my name on the list, purposed it to our big chief, and it was approved. Two months later, I left KINSHASA to BUKAVU, the capital of South Kivu province, in Kivu region.

When I arrived in Bukavu, of course I did not expect that I would see the metropolitan city. Not even comparing to Kinshasa, where I still could find nice restaurants and sport clubs around. Bukavu was different story. There are some few restaurants in town. Sport facilities are not available. I am not a sporty person, but living in difficult environments plus the jobs that kept pressuring me, I required a place to release tensions positively. Well, I finally deal with sport things when I found that  I still could walk around inside the compound where I lived in, since it has a large courtyard. Something that is almost impossible to have when I was in Kinshasa. Moreover, right behind my flat, I was spoiled by the view of Lake Kivu, which later become my sanctuary.

This view from my courtyard.

I arrived in Bukavu in the late afternoon. I did not know many people in Bukavu, except few friends I met in Kinshasa that has been relocated earlier. But none of them were in the city when I arrived. Somebody from office picked me at the airport, Laxmi, my colleague from Bhutan. He actually did not know how I look. He just knew my nationality which I believe my new chief in Bukavu had mentioned. When he saw me among the few passengers of aircraft, he asked me directly, “Hi. Are you Nurul?”

It was not difficult to guess, since I was the only passengers with Asian look flying with that tinny aircraft. Bukavu is more suitable called as a town, instead of city. I was worried whether I would be able to adapt with my new environment. But, once I moved there, I found myself it was not difficult as I thought. Okay, I did not go to the party often, with other people out of colleagues from work where sometimes we made our own party. I just knew some few expats out of my work places. The good things about, I made more friends with the locals.

Back to the stories. Bukavu is not Kinshasa. Fancy restaurants were available, but with limited options. No sport club, for sure. But in the last six months I lived there, new hotel was opened with swimming pool inside. The pool was small, but large enough to do some exercises. But do not expect to stay whole day sitting by the pool. Unlike Kinshasa, Bukavu is much colder and windy. Got changed immediately after swimming or I would be frozen. No big supper market. Instead, I went to traditional market every Saturday with some friends. Saturday market day became one that I waited the most for the whole week. It was just nice to be in the market, met the vendors, made small bargain and had chit chat afterwards. Few times after coming to the market, some vendors already knew what I would like to buy.

“1 kilo tomatoes for Madam. And of course, phili phili,” Pili pili is how they called chili. They amazed how much chili that I used to eat every week.

Posted in Bukavu means that I had to travel to rural areas. It was another advantage that I would not get in Kinshasa. Of course, it has risks, therefore I require to ensure that my travels had been approved by the authority and cleared safe before heading to the villages. My local colleague, Justin, always looked excited anytime we had chance to go to the fields. It was good to have some changes, sometimes.

Lake Kivu was always my favorite one. First year in Bukavu, I was posted at Kavumu airport, situated more less 38 km from the city center, where I lived in. The view was spectacular, particularly in the morning, when I witness the mist covering the lake faded away, minute by minute. Along the way, we would pass the green hills with variety of plants, such as corn, beans, cassava, banana and other tropical fruits you could ever dream. In the morning, we did not see many vehicles around, and often that our car only car passing the road.

Lake Kivu in the morning. On my way to work. It was misty.

A woman carrying stuff

Besides enjoying the beauty of the lake, observing people was my second favorite thing. We met so many people along the way. The fishermen watched the fishes, children went to school, shepherds herded the animals, the girls danced cheerfully, the huts, the river, the sky, trees and many more. Yet, the saddest thing was when I saw the old women carrying heavy stuffs on their heads. I wonder how many miles they walk everyday with those stuffs. Oh, how unfair the life had treated them. It torn me apart.

Somewhere in South Kivu.

The Hut on the Hill. Somewhere in South Kivu.

Lake Kivu, always beautiful, no matter where the photo was taken.

Lake Kivu. Somewhere in South Kivu.

Somewhere in South Kivu.

Somewhere in South Kivu. It was on my way to Walungu village.

The woman with the blue umbrella. Somewhere in South Kivu.

There was no regular public transport to connect from an area to another. When you have a car, you may carry passenger anywhere.

The brick maker. Somewhere in South Kivu.

Private taxi. It passed once in a while.

Somewhere in South Kivu.

Somewhere in South Kivu.

Ough… I was glad that I closed all car’s windows.

On my way to Panzi, Somewhere in South Kivu.

On my way to Panzi. Somewhere in South Kivu.

Somewhere in South Kivu. It was on may way to Panzi.

Before reaching Panzi. Somewhere in South Kivu.

On my way to Kalehe. Somewhere in South Kivu.

The Hut. Somewhere in South Kivu.

The children had just got back from the school. On my way to Kalehe. Somewhere in South Kivu.

Somewhere in South Kivu.

Once a while, the children greeted (sometimes shouted to) us.

“Bonjour, Papa,” that was what they called Justin. Or

“Ni hao, Maman” they always thought that I was Chinese. And I still can’t understand why.

Sometimes, we were stuck for hours because of this. Somewhere in South Kivu.

Sometimes, when we stuck on the road because of muddy road, the kids would come closer towards us. They obviously stared at me, and put their face away, and laughed with their friends when I looked at them back. They asked Justin in Kiswahili about my origin. Sometimes, we had small talks, with my limited French, and they were always excited to talk with me. There are similarities I found from their looks, the look of happiness with their simple life. Having the trips to the field was like enlightenment. It was like feeding my soul to be  more grateful in life.