Goma is one of the biggest cities in Congo, over a million people. But when I'm there, unless there's a good reason (like illness), I only see it on my way in and out. There is a lot of crime in the city, and the team don't want people knowing that a foreigner is staying at the translation office compound. It could attract thieves or worse. So, during the visit, I generally don't leave the compound. There is a large, brick building for the office and a small, wooden house for the caretaker and his family (wife and 6 children).
So, the translation office has become a kind of home away from home. I have my routines and habits there, like I do at home. During week days, I'm with the translation team all day, for work, meals and discussion. After work, I might play with the kids a little, then go in my room and "exercise" for about half an hour (mostly jumping around or jogging in place in the space next to the bed, below). Then my bath water is ready around 6 and dinner is around 7. Then I lock myself in for the night.
|Pounding greens for dinner|
On the evenings and weekends, the translators are at their homes, and I'm with the caretaker and his family. I've watched his 6 children grow. The oldest, a young man finishing high school, lives with extended family now.
Aimée, who was a baby when I first started coming, is 5. (A fun conversation with her from last year.)
|Saturday night entertainment: listening to the radio and playing cards|
|Showing off their homemade cards, made from bits of cardbox box.|
|Serious family pose after Sunday night movie. (The youngest picked up Tembo books, to show they love to read.)|
On my last night, I take a photo of the whole family, and then individual photos of each child and of the parents. Actually, any time is a good time for a photo... they are real hams.
|Manu and Safi... with a photo bomb in the background.|
|Close-up of the photo bomb. This child is the family entertainer.|
|Safi showing her playful side, with serious Manu on her hip.|
Honestly, even though traveling is a big part of my job, I'm not crazy about it. I like being at home, with Douglas, with my own stuff and routine. But the translation team, and especially the caretaker and his family, have made Goma a home away from home for me. It will be good to see them all.
|View from the front porch of the translation office, towards Lake Kivu, at sunset|