I dug up some old journals the other evening and found a notebook I carried with me on my first trip to Congo. Reading it, I realized how much I’ve forgotten. The chicken that flew into our guesthouse room one morning. The plastic jar of Smucker’s grape jelly with Arabic writing on it. And how much I remembered–the first night in Rwanda, eating fried fish in a dark restaurant near the border. Hot chapati bread. My first time eating goat. The man who followed us through that field, yelling, “Sixty-seven! Sixty-seven!”
Sometimes, it seems it was a dream. Or, that it happened to someone else. But there are pictures, and there is the notebook, pages filled with my handwriting. It’s been two and a half years since I first went to Congo, and sometimes it feels everything has changed since then, when on the surface it seems nothing has. We’re still in the same house, in the same city, with the same friends. But I am no longer the same, though I hardly know how to communicate the change, or to quantify it. Even reading the notebook, I know I’m not quite the same person who wrote it. The person who wrote that was more optimistic, more trusting. For her, things were more certain, but she was also more anxious and less sure of herself. She was more rooted, less likely to question. A bit more passionate, but a little more reserved as well. She believed certain things, certain relationships, would never change.
So, perhaps then it is somewhat true that these things happened to someone else.
Generally, I like the person I am now more than the person in this notebook, and whatever I may have lost in certainty or solidity, I have gained in adventure and possibility.
And that change, I cannot help but think, is a direct result of Congo.