Walter James (SOS Femme en Danger – SOSFED): Walter graduated in 2006 from the University of Minnesota. Following college, he worked on international development in Haiti and Senegal, and studied human rights and international development in Senegal, Costa Rica, and Morocco. Walter first visited Eastern Congo as a 2009 Peace Fellow for The Advocacy Project, where he documented the work of civil society organizations such as SOS Femmes en Danger, Arche d’Alliance, and Tunza Mazingira. The following year, he graduated from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy with a Master’s degree in Public Policy.


07 Apr

Currently it is rainy season in Uvira, so the weather is hot, humid, and sticky. We get rain at least every other day, sometimes a light sprinkle and sometimes a heavy torrent.

Kimanga, the neighborhood in which we live, resembles a pile of mud and trash with houses built on it. And so, during the rainy season, Kimanga’s cesspools turn into breeding grounds for mosquitoes, known as imbu in Kiswahili. I am talking Northwoods-Minnesota-type swarms of bloodsuckers, but inside your house. Garrison Keillor likes to boast about how the brutal Minnesota winters breed the mosquitoes to be voracious and unstoppable. However, I am more inclined to believe that these Congolese mosquitoes are superior in every way to their counterparts in my homeland. They are nearly invisible, swift, and possess a preternatural maneuverability that makes them impossible to swat. Their constant buzzing is mocking and derisory.

Usually the mosquitoes strike at twilight and continue their foraging until a little after dawn. However, I am discovering more and more mosquitoes roaming my house at noon, which is troublesome. The mosquitoes tend to bite me on the feet, ankles, and elbows, but I’ve been bitten almost everywhere on my body at one time or another. Occasionally, I am bitten in a place that leaves me impressed at the mosquito’s ability to sequester itself there long enough without being noticed. I’ve learned that certain articles of clothing are penetrable to bites, particularly socks.

At night, I sleep under a mosquito net, and I fall asleep to the harmonized whining of clouds of mosquitoes gathered right outside the net. They can smell me underneath, and they throw themselves at the net, probing for openings. I won’t lie, it sometimes keeps me awake, listening to mosquitoes buzzing inches from my ear all night long.

It is interesting to think that each time I am fed upon, it gives the mosquito the protein needed to make eggs and produce a multitude of other mosquitoes. So, in the course of my time here in the Congo, I may be feasted upon by successive generations of mosquitoes. I wonder if I taste familiar to each generation, if there is a genetic memory that is passed down, reminding the mosquitoes that “the mzungu is tasty and he glows in the dark”. Am I a claret or a merlot? Am I some kind of exotic takeout restaurant?

Well, here’s hoping I don’t get malaria.


Posted Apr 7th, 2011

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