Just a short update so ye all know we haven’t been eaten by rebels.
Actually Beni feels less and less like a war zone and more like a quiet but strange African town. It is completely safe for us to walk around and I haven’t felt in danger here at all. There is a UN curfew at night, so combined with a lack of electricity I’m usually in bed before 11pm. It feels like being a kid again.
I’m just back from a long French/Swahili church service. After 3 hours of not understanding anything and being entirely zoned out I decided to make a subtle exit. The entire congregation of about 400 locals all turned to stare at the churches only white person leaving early!
The work is intense but overall it’s going really well. The actual stuff we came to do is progressing beyond my expectations. I’m really loving working with the group of lads. It feels like teaching again which is class! Already we can see great progress, though so much of their psychological well-being is still affected by their daily circumstances. We have our first session with parents, care-givers, teachers and NGOs tomorrow which we hope will be significant.
The girls project is going great also. Most of the girls are around 15-16 and many have their own kids as a result of their work. African women have no qualms about public breast-feeding. It must be the only group-based intervention in the world where there are boobs hanging out everywhere as you try to talk!
We have also begun the microfinance projects for boys and girls, which we have high hopes for. The rest of our days and evenings are spent training our local staff, in meetings and trying to push forward our partner NGO to get the girls we are working with out of the brothels and the boys off the streets.
Dealing with local people and NGOs is the most frustrating part of the trip. The fact we are trying to do so much in a short space of time, combined with how hard it is to make things happen, is frustrating. Being 2 out of maybe 5 white people in the entire town results in everyone asking for money, from the young child to the educated adult. In saying that we have been totally blessed by those that are working with us. Jonas, our interpreter, is a wee legend. He is a great storyteller, often confusing fact and fiction, and gives me a great laugh. He is basically my sidekick for 8 weeks who I would be totally lost without.
While the details are stressful, when I step back and look at the bigger picture it’s amazing how it has worked out. Divine planning not ours I believe. However, it is easy to develop cabin fever in this small town and we're in need of a day off and an adventure. Trying to plan a trip into the jungle next Sunday to see some gorillas (people say there are gorillas but I think they may just mean monkeys) and maybe meet the rebels.
My main source of entertainment so far has been a couple of evenings having a beer and playing pool with some locals. I’m playing the best pool of my life and am the current champion in 2 different venues! It helps that the locals aren’t very good. Though I think perhaps God has improved my abilities in order for me to gain respect, as I have no other way of communicating with people! Some locals don’t like to lose. One night this guy was punching the table, calling me a witch doctor and continually threatening to cut my throat. His mates were telling him to wind his neck in (or whatever they say in Swahili). I beat him, then made a swift exit home. It felt good!
Thinking a lot about home especially the imminent arrival of my new nephew/niece!
Love and peace,