Goma lies covered in lava. It has been over six years since Mt. Nyiragongo erupted and covered the city. Walking down the streets left me feeling empty; the energy in Goma is distinctly eerie. The only vehicles on the road belong to NGOs involved in humanitarian assistance. All the roads are unpaved, coated in a grey lava dust that gets all over your shoes and clothes. Buildings are delapidated, cracked, roofless. Garbage is piled neatly along all the roads; stores and businesses are run-down kiosks or buildings half filled with lava rock.
I felt nervous and isolated walking on those streets, like the people around me had been hardened to hardship and were used to the emptyness. They smile and joke but there is something off. A culture of people living on the edge of their seats, waiting for the next life-shaking event to push them to once again fend for themselves. Or just to continue fending.
What will happen to Congo? A country rich in resources and therefore rich in power struggles, conflict and exploitation. Yet generally, a culture of open and friendly people who are the first to tell you, la vie est belle.