Where We’re At

No, no, not another geography lesson! I promise, it’s not intended to be. It’s just that I’ve spent the past week installing an upgrade for this website, including a little thumbnail map on the home page. This post is simply to give the full-size map a home and to give credit to the source: (Let me also point out that I realize I’ve ended this post title, and others, with a preposition. “Where We Are” may be more correct but just doesn’t have the same ring to it, if you ask me! Besides, I have to pay homage to my Kansas roots every once in a while…)

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Geography, Take II

Two follow-ups to yesterday’s post about where the heck Congo is.

First, the Sara that I mentioned… she knows who she is, but my other friends named Sara might be wondering! Sara is a geography and history buff (an all-around very cool very smart gal) who noticed that I repeated my location and maps over and over again when we first moved here. Once over a cocktail during a visit back home, she said something along the lines of, “all right already! enough with the maps, we get it!” So I thought she might get a good chuckle out of yesterday’s post. (And I have even more stories for you on this topic, Sara, over another cocktail someday!)

Secondly, after posting the article and retiring to bed, I downloaded the newest episode of my favorite podcast, This American Life. (God bless our new Internet plan!!) Act One was a little fictional piece about a blind date between a tipsy gal named Julie and a warlord. Yes, a warlord. From Congo, apparently. Here was the little nugget that made me laugh out loud:

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Geography (or, Don’t you live in South Africa?)

Sorry, Sara, I’ve got to post another map. After three and a half years of living in Congo, I’ve collected three and a half years of stories about people assuming we really mean South Africa. It’s kind of funny, really. On a visit back home in Kansas once, I caught my Dad saying repeatedly that I lived in South Africa. I finally wrestled out of him why he was saying this. For one, it’s not too easy to say “the Democratic Republic of the Congo”—it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. (Which is why I almost always shorten it to just Congo; technically incorrect too, but it’s a place to start.) For another, he figures most people would have trouble relating to something so remote. South Africa is not just easier to say, it’s easier to hear.

He’s right. We travel home to Arizona usually about once a year to catch up on shopping, business meetings, and medical appointments. Time and time again I’ve had some variation of the following conversation, whether it’s with doctors, dentists, acupuncturists, hotel receptionists or sushi connoisseurs:

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Moving to Congo!

Hello friends and family,

Well, we are charging forward with our Africa plans!  Sébastien arrived in Congo last week, where he’ll spend the next month transitioning into his new job as manager of exploration.  He’ll come back to join me at my MBA graduation on August 20, we’ll take the following week or so to pack up the house, and then we’re off!  We’re renting the house to a good friend, have one vehicle left to sell, and no idea when we will come back.  One year is the minimum target unless something goes south in the company’s current renegotiation with the Congolese government… but if we can handle it, we’d like to be able to stay for two or three.

We used to laugh at the idea of moving to the Congo, knowing it was a possibility given Seb’s background in exploration geology, not to mention being a native French speaker.  No way would we ever go there!  Congo* is at the bottom of the world rankings when it comes to corruption and transparency; it’s one of the worst places to do business.  (That the company went ahead and set up operations there anyway tells you something about the potential mineral wealth there.)  The people are the second poorest per capita in the world, and in decline since 1980 despite their vast natural resources.  The country has been in near-constant conflict since 1996.  If you google it, you’ll finds all kinds of frightening stuff, especially in the Goma and Bukavu regions in the east near Rwanda and Uganda. Continue reading