Before coming to the DRC, I was told that the project would be in a remote and very isolated area. Visions of the rugged wind-swept landscape of northern Canada immediately came to mind. What a difference in what I find here!
Ivavvik is a remote Canadian National Park in the very northeast corner of the Yukon Territory. Bordering the Artic Ocean, access is by boat or plane and less than 100 adventurers visit this park annually.
On the third day of a hiking trip through this national park, we climbed to the summit of a small mountain. The only sound was the wind whipping past our hoods. No trees, no animals, no apparent life…just barren tundra, stunted scrub and a jumble of caribou tracks left over from an annual migration that finished months before. Not even a bird. Looking out towards the horizon, there were icebergs and endless ocean for as far as we could see.
Absolutely spectacular in the amazing expanse of this nothingness. Makes you feel small and insignificant. I remember thinking that nature really doesn’t care. She’s been here for thousands of years and will be here for thousands more, regardless of what we do…
For me, that is isolation…that is remote.
There really is life everywhere…
A new restaurant opened up at the far end of the market and we went out for dinner as a team a couple of nights ago. This was a first for Shamwana. The market is alive and growing. People are always coming and going. The streets are full of children, goats and chickens.
Brick houses are being built and yards are swept daily. Kids are going to school. Traders arrive continuously pushing their bicycles and hawking everything from dried fish to flashlights. New churches keep popping up and their drums are forever ringing through the village. The local HF ‘phony’ allows people to stay in touch.
The football pitch is being cleared and there was even an MSF vs. Kisele match last weekend. At least 300 people came out to watch and to cheer on their favorite team. The atmosphere was fantastic and when MSF scored the villagers flooded the field in celebration.
Women head out in the early morning to tend their fields…a large bowl balanced on their heads, the youngest child strapped to their backs and the rest trailing along behind.
Life is not easy…but there is life everywhere. We are at least a full day’s drive to the nearest functioning airstrip. It takes weeks for supply trucks to arrive and the roads can hardly be considered more than paths. There is no telephone, no mobiles, no postal system. I haven’t seen the news in months and our satellite internet connection is our lifeline to the outside world.
…but this is a very different definition of remoteness that I find myself living in these days!