Goma under alert

17 May 2013

Goma under alert

"Go Bag"

Of course you have already heard about the so-called "Go Bag", you have even thought about it more than twice. You have probably imagined exactly what you would put in it. But how many of you actually have prepared it? Some of us maybe have left a set of clothes and a tooth brush at the office; but a proper Go Bag? The staff in Goma can tell you that they weren't ready. When the 86 volunteers and all the UN Staff heard on the radio « Break – break ... This is an emergency call. All Monusco staff must go to Mayday », the "Go Bag" suddenly became an obvious priority.

At this moment, the best prepared stayed calmly at their office, but most of them – who got the information via SMS half an hour before the official emergency call – rushed at home to prepare what they think might be useful : laptop, camera, passport, official documents, some clothes, enough money, tooth brush and tooth paste and some food. Actually, for many this last item was the trickiest. What exactly should I take?
- Spaghetti: I probably won't be able to cook at the compound
- Tuna tin: doesn't smell good
- Bananas: that will do the job
- Wine: will surely be appreciated, but not sure this is the good time for that.
- Milk: Raw milk? And the chances are high that it will leak on my bag.

It seems that we will have to improvise on site. In the different concentration points, what people are looking for is not food but information. "How far from here is the M23?", "Do you think they'll manage to reach Munigi?", "By the way, where is Munigi?", "What's going to happen for the refugees of Kanyaruchinya?"

Any update?

A security alert in a UN compound actually looks like a huge conference room of a giant broadsheet. Huge networks of improvised journalists gather, produce and dispatch news. However, the difference with a classical newspaper is that each person produces her or his inner daily.

The night is slowly coming and the questions become more trivial. Where am I going to sleep? What am I going to eat? What is going to happen to all my belongings at home? Nevertheless, despite the exhaustion, despite the confusion, the new roommates queue in good order to get a mattress, a sleeping bag, some water or some food.


Morning. All the faces have the same expression of tiredness with the same question on the lips: when and how all this is going to end? Waiting becomes hard when there is no predictable end. A heavy lid of impatience is covering the compound. Pleasure does not come alone in this kind of situation, it has to be "introduced". This Sunday, pleasure, was incarnated by a small and fluffy pink ball.

In this specific environment of proximity and solidarity, volunteering is neither a status nor a choice, not even an action. Volunteer is a fact; naturally and widely shared. After all, to play 'football' with bored kids is not an act of volunteering. You just have to let it go and, while the fun comes, time disappears.

Dribble and shoot! The young Esther could have scored if she was really playing football; if we had a goal. But there is no need to score today, the game is self-sufficient and the balloon never stops. No matter the age, all of a sudden, we all became kids playing among the UN cars (even if some kids were well bearded). This small pink ball was like an anti-anxiety tool for all the young boys and girls present in the compound. We forgot the place; we forgot the situation and most of the kids just enjoyed the moment.