I’ve now reached my marker for having “lived in a place”. I had set this as five months, given that my study abroad programs in college were one semester each, where I lived in Ecuador and Australia (going back for a second round in Australia to co-lead the program there. This is what I had defined as living in a place.
My journeys started with a year in Finland, then 5 months in Australia, 5 months in Ecuador, 2 years plus in Ghana, another 5 months in Australia, 1 year plus in Afghanistan, and I’ve always semi-counted Fiji in that list even though it doesn’t qualify in terms of time spent there, it does qualify in my mind for having really lived in a place and having experienced to a level far beyond just passing through.
Now the Democratic Republic of Congo qualifies for such status, not in one stint, but five combined months of trips here. It certainly isn’t the same in many ways, but I do feel that my time here has given me an understanding equal to or more than other places where I’ve lived.
Plus, given my frequent trips back and forth, it now seems to many that I live here. I knew I was spending significant time here when the guy at the marina last week saw me and wanted to prove he knew me by calling me by name before he opened my passport. I know I have a unique name, but I was surprised that a border crossing guy (as technically you go through the whole border crossing routine when crossing Lake Kivu within DRC) would remember me as opposed to the no small number of passengers that come through the place.
Now when other expats recognize me in restaurants and parties, they presume I live here at the frequency in which they see me.
My colleagues back home joke that I should take up residency, which technically I did last year when I had to sign on to our bank account here. I also have a Congolese driver’s license to make it official.
I’ll be back in the area to Burundi in May, possibly back here in June, and then again in August, so I might as well get used to the status as well as improve my French.
Congo sucks you in and won’t let you go. It’s certainly a unique and fascinating country, and it has captured my heart as much or more than other places I’ve lived. I call where I am home at that moment, so DRC definitely counts as that.