Hi Everyone...sorry it's been about a week since my last post. Here's Part II
Monday, August 8th: Showtime! The moment has finally arrived. After spending months developing our music program, building partnerships, engaging with potential donors, and everything in between, we finally set out to make and teach music to the wonderful children of Goma. The day began waiting in front of the hotel compound for our driver, Amos, to pick us up and drive us to the school compound. Our hotel was approximately 10-15 minutes from the school compound, so we relied heavily on Amos to transport us around Goma. It was advised to both Patrick and myself, that independent travel should not be something we did.
A quick digression, but necessary to really understand the situation. The Congo is by far the 'least' safest place that I have traveled to. I put least in quotes, because sure there were times that I was uneasy about certain situations, but there was never a time that I felt my life was in danger. That being said, the U.N. had 24/7 armed guards protecting our hotel, the U.N. presence throughout the city is unavoidable, and nearly every male older than 14 has an AK-47 on them. Also, being white is obviously a clear indication that you are not a local. There is a perception that because you are white, you therefore have a lot of money. While this is far from the truth, in the eyes of the locals, I can understand that. This certainly made for some uneasy times when we entered a market and street children and beggars would come up to us and ask for money, and not leave your sight.
Continuing on...So it's our first day, and Amos is driving us to CAMME. It's also our first time seeing Goma. As we drive through the streets of Goma we see motorbikes, SUV's and Chukudus (look them up!). What is remarkable is that there are no traffic signals-everyone seems to know their place...kind of like synchronized driving. We begin our final approach to CAMME and notice that we are entering an area that no longer has paved roads. The district in which the school compound is located is called the "Mabanga" quarter, which was named after the stone and lava rocks left behind after the violent volcanic eruption in 2002. It takes precision and concentration to drive in this area, because the roads are nonexistent and people line the streets, either playing, cooking, burning garbage, or waiting in line for water. I'll never complain about the potholed winter roads here in New York again.
We arrive! Words can not even describe the feeling of the moment we arrived at the compound, and all of the children came running out of the classrooms to meet Patrick and myself. They literally came running out to us and hugged us. What a welcome! And it gets better! The children prepared a song to sing to us! It was a welcome like no other. We haven't even started our program, and yet this welcome solidified the belief that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.