Sunday, October 08, 2006

Les dames de Mont Cyangugu

We live at the top of a hill, Mont Cyangugu, with a panoramic view over the lake. It also has a steep access road which is in terrible condition, rocky when dry and slippery with mud when wet.
There is a daily stream of (mostly) women climbing this hill. I see them every morning on my way to work. There are huge sacks of sweet potatoes, which I think I could hardly lift, carried on the back and held with a band round the head. Lighter, but more tricky, are the plastic basins stacked high with various foodstuffs and clothes and balanced on the head. These ladies can balance their loads, not miss their footing and chat without any difficulty.
There are 2 destinations. There are markets in Bukavu, just across the border in the Congo. This is still another 3 km away from us and down a hill that is as steep as the one they have climbed. Cyangugu Prison is less than 1 km away from us and it is the second destination. Prisoners are provided with basic food and bright pink pyjamas to wear, but families are allowed to take extras to the prisoners.
This is a brief snapshot of life here, but it gives a glimpse of the physical nature of life in the land of “milles collines”. There is a huge amount of walking and carrying, made arduous by the geography. For most of us in the UK it would be unbearable, both physically and mentally, but it is accepted here as part of life.

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