A Year in Congo


It has been a year. In the same time, a year ago, I was sitting at one restaurant in Plaza Semanggi, accompanied with my two best friends, the members of Ant Soldiers. I won’t write more why I called them Ant Soldiers. I already wrote it before. It was the last night that we spent together before I was leaving to Africa. Together with them, I retold many funny things that we did together. The time when we met for the first time. The time when we insulted each other. The time when we loved each other. The time when we supported each other (I could say that they have an important role when I moved to Jakarta). The time when we laughed together. It was too sweet to be left. But we knew. It will happen soon or later. One of us will leave one by one. And I’m the one who left first. Flew away to Africa.

Yes. Africa. I was going to fly to a place that I never imagined before. Actually, I imagined it before. But this is not the country that I was imagining. I dreamt about South Africa and its Table Mountain. I dreamt Egypt and its pyramids. I dreamt Morocco and the romantic of Casablanca. I dreamt Zimbabwe for its Victoria Falls and my best friend who is living there. But I never dreamt Congo. I never dreamt it doesn’t mean I don’t know anything about it. I know a little bit about Congo. From the history lesson that I learnt when I was in Elementary School where our government sent the peacekeeping soldiers called as ‘Pasukan Garuda’. I know Congo from one of comic of Tin Tin (Tin Tin in Congo.. Honestly, I don’t really remember how the story goes.. It was along long time ago when I read it). I know that country also from the book written by Michael Crichton, one of my favorite authors, titled CONGO. And from his books I know that there are two Congos, which are Congo Brazaville and Congo Kinshasa. The other thing that I remember from this book is Gorilla.

So here I am now. Kinshasa. I was arrived at 10 o’clock in the morning. And the first thing I did when I saw the airport, I just took a deep breath. The airport was so messy. I don’t mean to under estimate since some airports in my country also are not in good condition. But situation there really amazed me. People kept screaming each other tried to capture one suitcase which belongs to anyone. One old man took my hand and kept saying which sounds like ‘larjang’ and I had no idea what he was talking about. One immigration staff kept questioning the authenticity of my Yellow Fever Vaccine. I was so tired. I wanted to eat. I wanted to sleep after 16 hours long flight (not included the transit time. Seven hours in Bangkok plus three hours in Nairobi). But I couldn’t sleep. I had to find the person who picked me up. Where is she? She should be here to pick me up. It took almost half an hour when I found her which was the best thing happened on that day. She took me to the car and brought me to the office. I could breath slowly now. My phone kept ringing. There was short message from my best friend Sari arrived before me. She had been waiting for me and asked where my position is. Took a deep breath, I started to type on my mobile, “I’m OK. I’m in Kinshasa, finally”.

Living in this country is not easy. There are lot different things that I never found before. The people, the environment, the food (thanks to God. I still can deal with that) and even the job. The job that I got here is not the same with that was offered before. I felt a little bit disappointed, but it was OK. It can be another experience. For the food, I don’t know what to say about it. It’s so different with Asian food. Especially with my favorite foods, noodles and nasi padang. But the good thing is I learnt to cook here. There were only two options. Learn to cook or starving. I chose the first one. And now, I can cook the simple food. Yihaaaaa…

I wrote this sentence already in my previous writing. ‘If Medan has Sambu, I can say that most of areas in Kinshasa are Sambu’. The street boys are standing everywhere. Everywhere I go, I have to be aware with their existence. They could come suddenly, got closer to you, begged for money and at the end tried to rub everything they could. These street boys (called Seghei) are so aggressive. And they are so young. Probably between seven to fourteen. But they lost their childhood time due to situation, condition and cruelty of Kinshasa. Instead of stealing, they should go to the school, read a book, sing a song with their friends and teachers, play in the playground and to be loved by their parents. But it’s not happened. Even a baby that just started to walk could raise his hand to beg for some money and food. In this place, for the first time, I found babies without smile and funniness on their face. I don’t know who could be blamed for this condition.

House is the other problem in Kinshasa. No electricity, no water, no elevator are common things. Yeah, you still can find a good house with good facility. But, with this volunteer allowance, I have to find the other solution, especially if I want to stay in Gombe, the down town area where most of expatriates live in. No need to complain. I should prepare myself for the worst condition. I’m still lucky to live in apartment instead of clay shack. Honestly, I never saw the clay shack here since I’m living in the downtown. Just read it from a novel. I hope I can see it someday with my own eyes.

Photography is forbidden in most of area in Congo. That’s why, you won’t find many pictures of Congo in my photo album, flickr and my photo webs. If you’re photography lover, this country is not the best place to visit. It’s not a friend for photographer. The other sacrifice, I must stop to play with Canoy, my beloved DSLR camera. But the sacrifice is not ended yet. Three months after my arrival, somebody broke our apartment and stole my Canoy. I could not sleep well for three days. Thanks God. The other Canoy has replaced it.

But it’s not always about the bad things. The nice things also come along with me. I saw new places, I got new experiences and new good friends that give another colors for my life journeys. Different thing is not always bad. It can wide my horizon, open my mind and make me more tolerate for diversity. Whole I can say is I’m grateful for everything I got. Coming here was my dream. I still remember, when I was in university, I had the fool conversations with some good friends, talking about life happened after graduation. On that time being, l always said to them, “You know what, guys. One day, when I leave this place, I would like to work in one of  African countries” that continued by laughing from all of us. At that time, this conversation sounded excessive. Even in my head, what I was saying sounds silly. But if I’m seeing myself now, I can smile and realize that what I was saying was not hyperbole. It’s a dream which is coming true. Thanks God for incredible year.

9 thoughts on “A Year in Congo

  1. Man Bahadur Bhujel

    Nururl, your essay is a liveky picture of CONGO which each of us has experinced. Keep it up ! You will become a good writer one day .

  2. Dina Octivina

    first time read, and i like it kak.. hehe. btw, kk ada kgiatan apa dsana? volunteer bid apa kak? salut deh..🙂

  3. Sari Tambun

    wow….Congo !! pastinya experience n adventure yg sangat berharga banget, juga pekerjaan yang luar biasa dedikasinya…. saluuuuuuuutt bangeeeeetttt …..!!!

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