Several people asked this question when I returned.
Only I didn’t know how to answer.
I thought I would write. I thought I would fill a whole journal with words upon words after returning. Writing is how I process, after all.
But every time I sat down and picked up a pen, I would stare awhile at the blank page.
Then I would set the pen down and close the empty journal and do something, anything else.
Because how does one put into words all that is Congo?
A place wholly broken and wholly beautiful.
Where corruption and redemption are so inextricably entwined, telling them apart is a complicated, messy business.
Where an abundance of the world’s coveted resources exists right alongside a poverty so abject it could rattle a person’s soul.
Where men with crippled legs sit outside a Fondu restaurant serving $40 meals, beating on drums for money.
Congo is a walking contradiction.
A lively one, too.
With its cacophony of sounds and its mishmash of color.
Mmmbote Mundeli! and Bonjour!
Children’s giggles and that adorable way they say madam, like ma-DEM. Oh, I could melt.
The lush vegetation.
The bright oranges and yellows, purples and blues of fabric that women stitch into dresses and shirts.
The darkness of skin and the whiteness of smiles.
Children in uniforms walking to and from school and children without uniforms, sometimes without any pants at all, walking the streets, tapping on car windows, begging for money because they have nowhere to go and nothing to eat.
Rains that flash and flood all within the time it takes Shakira to sing Waka Waka.
A sun that rises and sets at six o’clock, on the dime, every single day.
Heat and dust and humidity and bugs.
Women and men carrying eggs and water and towers of whatever else atop their heads.
Orphanages overflowing with bald, big-bellied children, their lips quick to smile, but their eyes?
They tell a different story.
One of sadness and injustice and a whole world of heartache.
Little girls walking around with even smaller children strapped to their backs.
Because while childhood is almost a given here in America, in Congo it is a precious, rare commodity.
I visited a country saturated with resiliency, love, passion.
It’s a country that has not received a fair shake, not then and not now, but marches on because what else is there to do but keep going?
How does one write about a trip such as this?
There aren’t words to do it justice.
Let’s Talk: Have you ever gone on a life-changing trip or had your eyes opened to something they can never be closed to again?