Well, this is my first time blogging! A dinosaur, blogging -- this ought to be in Ripley's Believe It or Not.
To be honest, this whole blog thing is not exactly my speed -- I think it's quite narcissistic, actually. Are my thoughts so important that people should take time out of their lives to read them? Not really -- and, frankly, I'm not that interested in reading the droning and whining of others. But, I do care about the Congo, and I think it is important that people know about what is going on there, and how Congo's suffering is connected to our lives -- whether they really care to or not.
There. That's off my chest ... I think I like this blog thing! ;-) Now let's see if my mini diatribe/blogga-hater speech gets past the Soviet Sensors.
I'm writing this from our Likasi provincial office, which is about the 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Lubumbashi, the regional capital of Katanga province, the southernmost province -- and one of the most mineral rich areas -- of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). I'm typing this and the lights just went out. We lost power, and I'm leaning the laptop screen over so that I can see the keys!
It's the rainy season, and the generator probably flooded. C'est la vie dans le RDC. "It's life in the Congo ..." I'll just pretend like nothing happened, as that is what everyone else in the office is doing ... just go with the flow, Rory, roll with it.
Today was our first field visit. I arrived in the DRC two days ago, sans luggage. I've learned the lesson of living simply and traveling light; I've washed my underwear for the past three days and have worn the same outfit since I left the States, four days ago.
I hadn't lost any luggage in my travels to Africa during the past 10 years, so I guess I had it coming. They often say, L'Afrique ne marche pas ("things don't work in Africa"), but things worked fine here in Africa, though not in Europe (to my surprise). My bags got lost in Amsterdam, but had no problem getting through South Africa, then flown into the DRC and driven by our staff from Lubumbashi to meet me here in Likasi. And nothing was missing!
We have awesome field staff; I was very sorry to hassle them about schlepping my bag. But I am also glad to have clean underwear and a change of clothes!
I've droned on about myself, which, it seems, this mode of communication somehow encourages. So, let me tell you a bit about today. Our staff have twice attempted to take pictures of this scandal, but today was a good day -- I think. Good in that Horeb (my friend and guide who is one of World Vision's DRC communications managers) and I were able to actually go to a copper mining site, interview children and adult diggers, and take photos.
But, I hesitate to say this was a good day, because in reality this "good story" is a sad, scandalous story that is their lives. Seeing children -- ages 6, 7, 8, 9, teens, even infants -- in deplorable mining situations, is actually a recipe for a very bad day. Their parents are poor, so they are poor. Their parents are uneducated, so they are uneducated. Their parents dig, and, so do the children.
The nearest schools and hospitals are about a two-hour walk away from the mining settlement where these children are condemned to grueling work and toxic waste poison from handling the copper and the waste from the ore. I picked up some of the blue-green copper ore as a group of adults and children were sorting the ore -- and I could feel a slight burning-tingling in my hands.
These children crawl into dangerous holes to gather the copper ore. They wash it in a murky, stinking river filled with toxic run-off. Then they break and sort the ore, pack it, and many of the children also walk or bike w/these heavy loads or rock to sell the copper to middleman-sellers who work for big international companies in town.
It seemed like there were as many children as there were adults, working in the mines. What kind of a future will Congo have if her children are condemned to mine the copper used for my telephone wires?
No, it was not really a good day.
Posted by Larry Short on behalf of Rory Anderson in the DRC.