Six months into life in Goma and we are feeling more and more settled. It has been hectic, stressful, busy, wonderful and exciting all at the same time. We have travelled across the country, visiting new and familiar places, and learnt so much about the Congolese culture.
An important part of Congolese culture is hospitality. Being welcomed into someone’s home is a huge privilege and honour, invited as a guest and getting a glimpse of domestic life.
A few weeks ago I was invited to visit the family of one of my colleagues. We arrived mid-afternoon to their home, where they had borrowed a small generator to power the television and provide electricity for our visit.
We were ushered into a small living room where the whole family were gathered, and given pride of place on the lush cushioned sofas as they welcomed us. After a short round of introductions shouted over the music coming from the television set, we were invited to sit at the table covered with dishes piled high with food.
As a guest, my female presence at the table was an exception as the men were served first, encouraged to take generous helpings of food and provided with the option of beer, wine or soft drinks brought out especially for the occasion.
Other family members seated themselves around the edge of the room and sipped their drinks as we ate. It felt strange to be eating whilst they looked on, but I realised the array of dishes and food on the table was destined to serve not only us as guests but the extended family too.
The sun began to set on the horizon outside and we moved to chairs set out by the road, serenaded by the church choir practising in the building opposite the house. As the daylight dimmed the noise of the town began to still, and the conversation naturally lulled.
We bid a reluctant farewell to the family, extended family and friends who had gathered, happy to have been able to share such a short but special time with them.
As we learn more about this generous, lively and vibrant culture, each moment gives us a glimpse into what life really is like here in DRC. It is a struggle, a privilege and an honour, all at the same time.