Un­for­get­table Ban­gui

Maxx-M - - TRAVEL STORY - Text&Pho­toby MonikPan­di­an­gan

My job as a hu­man­i­tar­ian gives me the op­por­tu­nity to travel to other coun­tries that need in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance. Thus I was in Ban­gui, the cap­i­tal of Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic, from July to Oc­to­ber 2014. Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic is lo­cated in the cen­tre of Africa. It is a land-locked coun­try, mak­ing the pro­vi­sion of lo­gis­tics dif­fi­cult, and the months-long civil war that ex­ploded in 2013 added to the coun­try’s woes. I landed in the coun­try on 14 July 2014, ex­cited about the adventure. I was booked at the Ouban­gui Ho­tel, lo­cated by the Congo River. The build­ing is show­ing its age, there was no wa­ter a cou­ple of days, and I got trapped in the lift once. De­spite all the charms of the Ouban­gui and the gor­geous view of the Congo River, I moved to the Levy Ho­tel, which is cheaper and closer to the city. Ban­gui re­minded me of a vil­lage in In­done­sia, with the dam­aged dirt roads and or­ange dust ev­ery­where. Cater­pil­lars are a del­i­cacy and they sell them in bunches, dried or live, at Mpoko mar­ket, along the air­port road. Wild mush­room, grow ev­ery­where. I loved to cook creamy mush­room soup at my last ac­com­mo­da­tion in Ban­gui, a two-floor house I rented with a col­league. There was no elec­tric­ity be­tween 6 pm and mid­night, the wa­ter was un­re­li­able and after work I would of­ten find my­self sit­ting on the couch, star­ing at a can­dle, my mind free to wan­der. In the cap­i­tal of this for­mer French colony, mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle sare seen ev­ery where along with in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance troops. It felt like be­ing in a war zone and it was fright­en­ing. On the night of 9th Oc­to­ber, we heard gun­fire and ev­ery house turned off their lights at once. There were some ter­ri­fy­ing mo­ments. My col­league, how­ever, re­mained calm. She told me this was noth­ing com­pared to what had hap­pened in her coun­try, Rwanda. I prayed, she prayed, we prayed. God is good. And amidst the sound of gun­fire, I man­aged to call my sis­ter. War is the worst crime. Reli­gion is mis­used to di­vide and sep­a­rate this once peace­ful coun­try. War di­vides fam­i­lies, cuts blood ties, de­stroys lovers, and an­ni­hi­lates trust and con­fi­dence. And what is be­hind the war? From afar, softly yet painfully whis­per­ing, “Neme quitte pas, je ne vais plus pleurer, je ne vais plus par­ler, je me cacherai là, à te re­garder, danser et sourire, et t’écouter, chanter et puis rire.”

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