Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Congo wrap-up and plans for February

January was really enlightening! I went from knowing literally nothing about the Congo to being quite conversant on recent news, history, food and culture from the region. WOO HOO! I had no idea what to expect from this little venture, but so far it's been quite fulfilling!

Here's my wrap up of what I have learned/how my opinions have changed in the last month:

  • I do not like fufu, however fish cooked in banana leaves is quite lovely
  • What I simplistically refer to as the Congo is a region that has had soooo many names in recent history: Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Republic of the Congo, Zaire, and currently the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
  • I expected to read lots of accounts of how the people of the Congo were negatively affected by Belgian colonization, but I did not expect to discover that America was involved in the assassination of the first democratically elected leader. That rocked some of my perceptions of American foreign policy
  • I think what most impacted me in learning about the history in the region is the notion that so many of the issues in the DRC right now still relate to foreign involvement. I think that the Congolese had been so taken advantage of for so many years, and had seen so much death that the hands of foreigners that at some point the sanctity of life was questioned by some, and those Congolese who have gotten sucked into the armed groups involved in the sale of conflict minerals display this lack of respect for the Congolese people, their countrymen and women, which has lead to some of the horrific incidents of rape in the area. There was a point in "Heart of Darkness" where the main character says something about how the hardest part of his job was the times when he had the "suspicion of their not being inhuman." It was easier for the Europeans involved in trade in the Congo in the late 1800s, early 1900s to think of the Congolese people as "inhuman" than to even consider that all men are equal. With the way they were treating the natives, they HAD to think of them as inhuman because it would be indecent to treat a European or American in the same manner. The congolese people were being abused on so many levels. After being treated as less than human for decades, there had to be some kind of damage to their national psyche. There are some aid groups working in the Congo right now, and I'm so happy to read that a lot of their work relates to education and counseling.

So, that's my sum up of the Congo! I didn't realize I would be getting into some really heavy subject matter in looking at this region, but I'm glad to have learned so much.

I'm looking forward to this upcoming month. Thanks to your votes and mom's hints, I have decided to focus on Costa Rica!


  1. I knew zip about the Congo & their culture & struggles before your blogs. Thanks for all your research Nikki.
    Actually I think I need to put them on my prayer list...sad history...plus they eat yucky food.

  2. Your trip to the Congo has definetely raised my conciousness. I appreciate the quality effort you put into this work.