Friday, January 15, 2010

Road Trip!

This past Sunday I experienced my first Congolese road trip. Sr. Daniela, Lydia, and I went to Ariwara, another town about 30 miles away, to visit the community there and check out the sites of the city. 30 miles might not seem like such a significance distance as to designate a road trip, but this relatively short distance took us over two hours. That is because the roads here in Congo are really special. For those of you who have been to Disney World or Disneyland I can descibe the trip like this: think of the dinasaur ride at the Animal Kingdom where you travel back in time to pick up a dinosaur or the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland- both of these rides take place in a big bouncy jeep-like vehicle. Now strip away the darkness and the dinasaurs and Indiana Jones and make the ride last for 2 hours. That is the trip to Ariwara.

When we arrived, dusty and shaken, we were heartily welcomed by the kind sisters at the Ariwara community and shown around the convent. The sister’s there run a “big” hospital that we toured. The hospital is basic with many people crowed into each ward, but it is the biggest in the region and provides the only health care. My favorite part of the hospital was the maternity ward where there were several brand new adorable babies. After the hospital tour we had a tasy lunch of...goat meat! Mmmm. We also had cake!!

After lunch one of the sisters took us to the Ariwara market. Ariwara is bigger than Aru and the market there is huge...they even have almost real stores. They have all sorts of food, clothes, shoes and many other things. The market was fairly quiet since it was Sunday, but even the quiet Sunday market was much bigger than Aru’s daily market. It was enjoyable to stroll around and see the sights, but Ariwara has a different feel than Aru. Aru is small and friendly whereas Ariwara felt much bigger and more stand-offish. I can only imagine what a Safeway will feel like after 2 years! When we returned from the market the sisters insisted that we eat some more cake before leaving.  Which made me very happy because cake is my favorite food and I don't eat enough of it here.  Then it was time to go home so we climbed back in our Indiana Jones mobile and bounced along for 2 hours.  

The drive back was glorious, the sun was setting over the African savannah and I would swear you could see a lion peeking out of the tall grass waking up from his late afternoon nap. Although Ariwara is only 25 miles away, the landscape transitions from the mixed forest-grassland of Aru to to the desert, so the drive offered a variety of breathtaking panoramas. I enjoyed seeing a bit more of the Congo, but I also fully realized how difficult it is to travel in this country. This is such a shame because it’s incredible beauty could be so much more appreciated if it were accessible.  It was a nice treat to get out of Aru and visit another community, although the strain of travel has me looking forward to spending next Sunday at home! 


  1. Karen --- Thanks for sharing your trip into more of the interior of Congo. To fully experience the quality of the highway, however, you must travel in a "mammy lorry", which is a big old truck with no suspension and benches where the bed of the truck would be. If you think goat is not so great eating, wait until you are seated next to, above and below a whole bunch of them in a mammy lorry with a name like "I see you ( but get out of the way)" or "Fear woman".

    Love, Chuck

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