We have a team of 16 people. Eight are from Goma and eight from Bukavu. They are university students who have studied economics, development, law, statistics, linguistics, and computer science. Of course our women look very smart with a mix of African styled dresses, Western fashions and even some jeans. One woman has a beautiful peach pantsuit that would leave Hilary extremely jealous. We do have a few men on the team as well, but we must look to the women for exciting fashion. Similar to their peers around the globe (but not in IH745 where I outlaw it!), our team of young people are very busy texting…

I am sitting beside one of our Research Assistants at lunch time. She takes out her laptop (yes her laptop). She puts on “Desperate Housewives” and a few others gather around. (It’s an older episode, Susan is on dialysis, before she gets her kidney from Paul’s wife, who later killed herself. Remember? Gabby reconsiders cheating on Carlos with the young gardener guy. Tom and Lynette are still together.) I am so confused. I’m also glued to the episode because it is so weird to see the Housewives here in the DRC. Where am I again? Other popular shows among our team include CSI, Criminal Minds, Dr. House, White Collar (?)

We must work hard to train our Congolese team. Their first language is Swahili or one of the other 243 local languages spoken here. French is the national language.  I love French. Anyway, a prerequisite for our Congolese team was that they be English speaking. We convey our study in English, the materials are translated into French, and then the surveys are conducted in Swahili. This is complicated but possible because this team is so talented and we will check, check and recheck to ensure they understand our survey tools.

We discuss occupations with our Congolese team. We ask if there is any manufacturing here in the DRC. What is ‘made’ here? They tell us nothing is made in the DRC. Agricultural products are grown, resources are mined, livestock raised, fish are caught, but nothing is made here. Goods are all imported. Water is bottled in Rwanda or Uganda, but not here.

Next, we discuss historical events (so they can help our survey respondents (Women for Women participants) remember ages and birth dates). The team can only think of wars, elections, and natural disasters. They can think of no good events that people would be familiar with such as celebrations or sports events. I give them time to think. I wait and take a drink of water. Two drinks. Nope, no good events have happened here. They tell us that if there are concerts, exciting events, or famous visitors, they go to Kinshasa, never to the Eastern DRC.

I’ve been trying to read more about the situation of women and recent reports on rape and violence but the articles on gender based violence in the DRC are blocked. I receive a message that I am violating my internet agreement by trying to access them.

(I glance up and Bree is talking to her pastor and I think Rex’s mother (remember he was her first husband and the crazy pharmacist guy poisoned him? Not sure which season this is.)

One thing for sure, I am enjoying the French! Au Revior!  Je me sens bien.