The last time I had the opportunity to write was in Pweto. We departed Pweto on Thursday, April 16th for Pepa. It took about 9 hours…the roads are literally non-existent, we went through such different terrain from dry to rocky, tropical to mountains! I have attached some photos to give a small example.
We stayed at the MAG house in Pepa (dilapidated house…. yikes!). Pepa is known for its vast plains, great soil and small community. It is a simple life in Pepa with breathtaking views, such amazing people-cheerful, kids playing, looking healthy and happy. Just before we arrived to Pepa we stopped, with MAG, and picked up a grenade that had been marked. MAG has a community out-reach team that educates about mines, weapons, grenades etc…then there is the ‘destroy-it’ team who takes the GPS coordinates and blow up the mines. Usually, if they are movable, they will take them a few kilometers away, dig a ditch and blow them. Dangerous work but needed- there are thousands of weapons, mines that have been left from the late 90’s, as crop season begins people are cutting grass, slashing and burning and often this is the time they come across such things.
Moba is beautiful; it is no doubt that 1/3 of the refugees of Mwange and Kala return here. Marisa described it like the Caribbean, as it sits on Lake Tanganika (you can see Tanzania from my window). There are really three ‘areas’one being ‘Moba’ and within, Kirungu and Moba Port. There are more motorbikes than bicycles and even motor taxies, a lot of movement and people.
Yesterday we went to a town called ‘Lusaka’ which sits about 40 kilometers away, 1 hour plus drive from Moba. We went with the NGO Acted; they are doing great work in DRC, building wells, schools, health centers and rehabilitating roads (neeeeeeeeeded!!!!). The community is quite receptive to assistance and begging for work-any work.
We returned from our dusty hot journey and were greeted by Paul, head of Public Information UNHCR Moba. Paul will be our main guy while we are in Moba; he is going to take us (w/ a UNHCR driver and car- secure), to surrounding areas of Moba including Fube and possibly Kalemie (these are provinces that sit 300 kilometers north and about 200 kilometers south of Moba where many refugees tend to settle once returning). There are still a few logistics that need to be worked out with regard to where we will stay as there are no accommodations in these small villages and it takes a hours and hours to arrive not to mention, one must calculate spending a couple of hours digging out of the mud…again, can’t stress enough just how bad the roads are! UNHCR Pweto and Moba have been very supportive as have Kinshasa, Lusaka and Kawambwa-we are very welcomed and our project well received.
Marisa and I have captured a number of interviews from returnees, teachers, school children, and Market shop owners to those that are still in need of a job. All of our subjects are strong, prominent and inspiring. We are very happy with what we have done, the images we have captured and, we are excited to embark on yet another leg of our journey.
On a personal note Marisa and I are fine, no sickness to report, a few mosquito bites, a lot of dirt, lack of water and food, but we are managing. It is definitely going to be a difficult month as our stomachs are slowly shrinking we are getting over the first wave of ‘I’m HUNGRY’, sounds terrible I know, but it is nothing compared to those around us, the physical labor of just getting water (walking kilometers and kilometers to the nearest river or well- then imagine, carrying the 20 liters on your head, just to do it again hours later). It is a difficult life here, simple yet difficult no doubt.
Stay tuned…there is no Internet in Moba except for UNHCR and ACTED, we hope to make friends ;-)