Saturday, August 8, 2009

I quite enjoyed writing and uploading posts these last two months. Therefore, I'll continue in upcoming years while writing my dissertation at Columbia University:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

HELP ASKED! My dissertation topic.

This is my final post (at least for now), and it is directly addressed to all of you.

Over the last weeks I noticed that this blog is read also by people that I do not already have contact with. Knowing this, and knowing that we live in the digital age where sharing information is both crucial and possible, I would like to ask the following:

Do any of you have a good idea or any suggestions for a dissertation topic?

At the moment I am doing my Ph.D. at the Department of Political Sciences at Columbia University. Being since a few days in my third year I have to start thinking about a dissertation topic.

It is not that I do not have any ideas of my own (on the strong contrary), but knowing that people read this blog with whom I normally do not have contact with and because I am very open for other new ideas, I hereby bluntly pose the above question.

For the people that followed the blog, I am interested in Africa, in poverty, in violence, in natural resources, in economics, etc. Please reply by either leaving a comment below, or by sending me an email at

Whether you reply something or not; this being the last blog post, I would to thank you for reading the blog. I have to say that I enjoyed posting the blogs a lot. It was also a good excuse to keep me away from studying comps; the latter I have to focus on now this month. Oh joy!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Penultimate post.

[This post was written yesterday while on the plane from Amsterdam to NYC].

Ok, and I know, it is quite an abrupt end to two months of blogging on the DRC. But, I don't think it will be the end of me and the DRC (and certainly not me working on Africa).

Going back to the Congo.
Why? Well, I think the country, its people and its problems are fascinating. I am sure that there is much to write about for a great dissertation (see my next and final post). Simon and I are not even close to finished with our work; it is likely that one or two more visits are necessary (also for La Voix des Kivus). Also, Macartan 'bought me out' as his RA; I therefore do not have to teach upcoming semester, giving me some freedom to travel. In other words, I'll be heading back to the Congo and its continent; and I am already looking forward.

What a f*cked up world.
Over the last two months I was in the east of the Congo; a region plagued by poverty and violence. Let's put it like this: I have seen my fair amount of shit during that period. Several hours ago I boarded the KLM plane from Amsterdam to NYC, and I was told that my seat was upgraded. At the moment I have a seat in the World Business Class; that is, the second floor in those Boeing 747s. I am sitting next to people that probably paid thousands and thousands of dollars for their seat. My leg space is that of the economy class, but then times 8. I can choose from a collection of champagnes and wines specially selected for us by KLM's experts. There are 12 buttons I can push to electronically change the position of my chair. We are only airbore since 1 hour, but the lady already asked me 9 times whether I want something. The chair is also a massage chair. And I can keep on going like this. F*ck! The day before yesterday, I was in a country where by far the largest majority of its people live below the povertyline, where women are afraid to go to their fields to works because they will get raped, etc. The day before yesterday I visited Jean Pierre; a guy that has worked 6 years straight (no holiday because you get fired) and received no raise in those six years (if you ask for it you get fired) and he gets $150 a month. He has to support his family of 4 children. Let me not start how expensive Bukavu is, the schooling fees he has to pay to get his children to school, etc. It's a f*cked up world!!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

From Nairobi Airport, Kenya.

I wrote this post while sitting on a plane from Kigali (Rwanda) to Nairobi (Kenya). At the moment I am in Nairobi; there is WIFI here. :). Yes, Simon and I are on our way back home. Yesterday morning, at 8am, we were picked up by an IRC car, passed the DRC-Rwandan border, got our usual amount of stamps and signatures, and arrived at Kamembe airport.

Breaking rules.
The flight from Kamembe (Rwanda) to Kigali (ibid) was arranged by IRC’s logistics department. At arrival at Kamembe airport, unfortunately, we noticed that my ticket was missing. Of course, my booking should be in a computer somewhere. The question was: Where? The computer at the airport was (of course) old and the network was (of course) down. After a lot of calling around they verified that I had booked a ticket, but they couldn’t find my ticketnumber. The latter was crucial (at least for them), and without it I was not allowed to board. After waiting for a while, the plane standing ready to take off, having slept little, and myself having a tendency not to like waiting, I weighted my bag myself, and told them that I was getting on the plane, and that they can fill out the ticketnumber later on. Also my bags were untagged; following the rules, the security officer couldn’t let me through. I gave her a stern look and I told her that there are only 11 people on the plane and that I would be able to find my bag back. I then walked to the plane and boarded. What is the moral of this story? Westerners constantly complain (me including) that there are no rules in Africa, and if there are rules nobody follows them. Well, in contrast to the DRC there are rules in Rwanda. Of course, who is the first person to break the rules after just entering Rwanda… me, the white guy. :)

After a short flight, and a stopover in Giseny (a big Rwandan city next to Goma), we arrived in Kigali; the capital of Rwanda. There are four things Simon and I immediately noticed: 1. Most roads are paved; incredible! 2. Security agents have shotguns instead of AK47s. 3. There are buildings that are higher than 1 story and are not about to fall down! 4. There are no soldiers on the road, and the police that is around actually seems to know what it is doing.

After passing by the bank (in contrast to Bukavu, we can get money here), and checking into hotel Okapi, we visited the 1994 Genocide Memorial Museum; this was very impressive. We did some work in the hotel’s restaurant (with some Primus and salty peanuts). We had dinner at an Indian place (great food). We watched an episode of The Wire (Avon Barksdale was being shot at). And after a ‘nap’ of two hours, we were picked up at 1am by a taxi to bring us to Kigali International Airport.

Warm shower.
There is a very important thing that I should not forget to mention. We had a warm shower! After two months, we had a warm shower! With warm water! Absolutely brilliant! Just before 1am the following sounds could be heard from our bathroom:
“f* brilliant!”
“I feel alive!”
“This is f* amazing!”
It is a fantastic experience to take a warm shower after two months of taking cold-water bucket showers.

So, today we will be flying from Kigali to JFK. We left our hotel this morning at 1am and are expected to arrive at our apartments on the island at around 11pm. That is, with stopovers in Nairobi and Amsterdam, this will be a trip of around 28 hours! It is 634am now, so 'only'22.5 hours to go. Oh Joy!