I’ve officially done it. A year and one day ago, I landed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the first time, and not only satisfied an inner desire for adventure, but I faced my fears of being alone, head on. I knew no one in this part of the world, much less this country, and yet I have been welcomed with open arms. There were many times when I didn’t think I could make it for an entire year, where I wanted to come home (or stay home, if I was on leave), but because of so many people supporting me, I was able to stick it out, and I am very grateful for that.
In the past year, people have put me in a position to accomplish more than I ever thought possible. A dear friend and his family gave me the opportunity to come out here in the first place, the company I work for gave my untested idea a chance and all the resources necessary to try it, and my friends and family have made every effort to see me when I am home, and talk to me when I am not. I’ve visited every person in the Humanities class I graduated with, surprised my Dad and step mom with an unexpected visit home, and developed a micro-financing project that could (if it works) open up doors for many of the world’s poorest people.
A list of some of my favorite things from this year:
- I’ve been to 13 countries, 9 of which were new
- Went to the Middle East, Asia (technically), Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Indian Ocean for the first time
- I now have over 4,800 pictures from this year
- My project has helped approximately 150 borrowers, and nearly 1,000 of their dependents
- I have completed my first year at a full-time job (sounds insignificant, but it is important to me)
- I still made it to the TX/OU game
- Got to speak to the Archer Program as an alumni
To add to it, I now have 6 American volunteers on site, who either already were, or have now become, very good friends of mine. It has been an incredible experience being out here with other Americans, familiar faces, and people my age. What’s really ironic though is that their being here has actually shown me not how alone I was without them, but how I was already a big part of the community on site. Since their arrival, many of my co-workers have told me how they will look out for the volunteers with me, because we’re a family here. Therefore, by extension, if I am to look after these volunteers, they will too.
We had an incredible 4th of July celebration on site, people are still talking about it, and this weekend we will be going to see some local pygmies. We were going to Garamba National Park, but our security suggested that right now would not be a good idea because of recent LRA activity. So, we’re playing it safe and going to see some pygmies down the road.
The governor of Oriental was in town for a meeting with the Social Department, and so I grabbed Caroline for a picture with Congo’s finest.
My co-workers: From right to left, Eric, Cyrille, Steve, and Tam. Cyrille is my supervisor, Eric and Steve are co-workers, and Tam is one of our head mining engineers.
Making burgers for the fourth of July.
My auction project in action, this was a new location, and could have gone better, but it still went okay. It was nice to show the volunteers what I do.
This is my assistant, and friend, Viktor. I stole him from another department because I liked his work so much, and he has become an essential part of my doing work here. He’s essentially the coordinator for my development project, and I am lucky to be his supervisor.
My volunteers and I at the auction.
Last night we had a big party to celebrate my one year on site, and it was very humbling to see so many people from all over site coming out to see me (well, and the girls I’m sure had something to do with it). The Aussies were there, the South Africans, my co-workers, and then of course my Americans. They even wrote a card for me thanking me, and got my co-workers to write one where they congratulated me on my one year in Africa, both in French and English.
So much has happened this year, and yet it seems like I just flew in. I’m excited to see where I end up a year from now, and I appreciate so many of you following me along the way. It’s nice to know that even in the middle of Africa, I have people to rely, and now I have two places to call home.