And I am back again from two weeks in the field. We worked and slept in the villages Mweha and Kanenge. There is A LOT to tell, but no time. So hereby six random remarks, and in this and the next six posts 35 pictures with brief comments.
1. In Mweha Desire and Eustache slept in the house of a local notable, and Freddy and me in the house of the chief. After a few days the notable asked for our dirty clothes so they could be washed. Awesome. But to the horror of my team (all graduate students and quite world-wise), not his wife or daughter but he himself started cleaning the clothes. The reaction of my team after me asking why it was so bad: "What kind of example will he be setting for other men!?" :)
2. I'm still not used to people throwing their litter on the ground but I now have at least my team so far not to do this. Nice: During our lab-in-the-field we give, in addition to foufou and sambaza (small fish), a package of biscuits to the players. In Mweha, without me mentioning it, the team told all the people when distributing the biscuits: "Please don't throw the plastic on the floor, but place it in this bag." Ha! Now of course there are no litterbins or anybody to empty those litterbins so now probably the bag (with all the plastic in side) will end up on the ground.
3. The belief in witchcraft is very much present in Eastern Congo. Let me give three examples. 1. Many chiefs when asking about the impact of in-migration on their village say: "Increase in witchcraft". Following them, for example, the Butembo ethnic group - one of the major displaced groups here - has a lot of sorcerers. 2. At a certain point there was thunder & lightning. The chief of Mweha turned pale and told me that he was afraid because sorcerers can keep and save the lightning in their hands when it strikes and then use it the next day to kill somebody. 3. In Kanenge there were an unusual large number of widows. So I asked the chief why this could be the case. He told me it was sorcery - most women in the village were dangerous. Now I've always been saying that women are dangerous, but the chief told me it was because most women in the village poison their husbands. FYI: Ted Miquel has a very interesting paper about how the murder of witches increases when economic shocks hit: here.
4. As you probably know this is not my first time in the DRC. However, this is my first time without being with the International Rescue Committee. The latter has been very helpful over the last three years: providing transport, security, etc. However, for a researcher there are also minuses of being with a big NGO: the security rules are constraining, villagers think you have come to distribute, etc. For example, if I would be with the IRC staying over in villages is out of the question. So, this time, I am “on my own”. As a result, over the last two months I have learned as much as the previous three years together. And it’s also a lot of fun staying in villages.
5. This is something I want to write more about one day: I am of the strong opinion that the international community (read: NGOs and MONUSCO) is helping sustain a culture of dependency and maybe even of learned-helplessnes here in the Congo. Let me give an example. If I go anywhere outside of Bukavu all children shoot “biscuit”. Now this looks rather innocent: MONUSCO cars often pass by and they distribute biscuits. However, I think it’s not innocent at all. It’s the start of dependency, which continues until you’re adult when you don’t have to (or don’t think you can) build schools, water-sources, etc. in your own village but that you’ll have to wait for the NGOs to come and build it for you. After so much time in the field I feel very strongly about this. There is a culture of “donnez-moi” - each and every person asks me to give something. Given Congo's history I'm careful to say that the NGOs and MONUSCO has created this culture, but I’m quite convinced that their not helping much decreasing it.Probably a lot of people will disagree, and I know this warrants a much longer post.
6. To show that although I have been in the field for two weeks without internet I have learned about the most important thing that happened to the human race: we have met another race on another planet: here.
The house on the top-right with the brightly colored windows (3 windows and one door) was where Freddy and I stayed in Mweha. Actually the family stayed in the house but they had a small maissonete with one bed (proper mattress!) and we could use that for a few nights. Ha!
I love being in the field, but it is also very tiring. Often you don’t sleep really well: rats, Freddy keeps hitting me in his sleep (I still think he does it on purpose), etc. In the field you stay with a household so you have to adapt to them: if you sleep in the living room on the floor you wait for the chief of the household to go to bed first. Villagers eat late. Dinner is often not ready before 8 or 9pm so the hours before we are waiting (we talk, I read my Kindle and the guys listen to the radio). Also, I am always together with my team: wake up at 6am together, work together, eat together, socialize together, etc. It’s difficult to get some time on your own. For example if I go for a walk on my own in a matter of minutes there are 20 children walking with me. The picture above, for example, is in Mweha. I try to work but the children keep on looking at me and people keep on walking in to salute the muzungu. Macartan: if I haven’t done too much work done… :)
The guys at work in Mweha – after all the surveys were done in Mweha.
View from our house in Mweha.
A big tree had fallen down (a long time ago) and the top part now hung above a cliff. Result: cool pictures. Btw, for all the pretty women that read this blog: In the field we normally do not have breakfast or lunch so most of my belly is gone.