I never made it to Congo.

“I never made it to Congo” it feels so hollow to say and foolish. Everything got shot down, before it could begin, and i don’t know what to do. What a complete waste.
It’s been a good while since I was supposed to go to the Congo. Sadly on the day we were supposed to fly, our visa to Congo was denied. Despite doing everything requested of us, the Congo Embassy refused to grant it in London, and literally ripped a page out of our passports. The whole experience was upsetting and frustrating and completely unfathomable. Just a waste effort, time and money. Someone suggested that i’d be better donating the money I spend on trips to the Congo, but they miss the point, i’ve only ever wanted to share my feelings about a region, I care about in the hope that others will feel that way too. I don’t want to dwell on it as it makes me incredibly angry. I say that I’ve been stewing about this for weeks, I’ve let everyone down.
What this meant was I couldn’t travel to the country and do the plans I’d prepared to trying and shed a light on life in the Congo. As I’d said previously, I wanted to go to the Congo to show how things have changed in the region, what life is like and to reconnect with the country having not been there for a number of years. I was aiming to use the trip to the Congo to springboard future activity and campaigns. None of this could happen.
I don’t know what the impact of going to Congo would have been and never will. Perhaps raised some money for WFW, a few blogs, maybe a bit of coverage in a paper. I don’t know. What frustrates me is that I wanted to really be able to show the positive sides of life in the Congo and try and get people to better understand a region that isn’t just about violence and conflict. The place and people are beautiful, it deserves better. The place has been defined by conflict but there is more to the region, much more. I wanted to bring some hope and positivity so people could see the potential.
Since standing in Goma in 2009 and feeling overwhelmed by everything I’d seen and heard I’ve done what I could do few more people aware of the Congo. It has a profound effect on me personally and shaped my life, values and priorities. I’ll never feel like I’ve done enough because I don’t think anyone could, but I’ve tried. I’m still eaten by guilt about the situation there.
What made it frustrating is that in July I’ll be moving to San Francisco, making future trips to the Congo much harder especially given recent troubles with the visa. However, with moving to a new country and city, I’ve got the opportunity to speak and try and engage a new group of people able the Congo. I’ve always been concerned I’d fatigued you all with my ramblings and I’m sure many of your are bored of me rattling on about running, conflict and the Congo. I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t mean anything to me.
I really appreciate the overwhelming support you’ve granted me as I’ve ran for Congo. We’ve done a lot, but there is more to be done and i’m sorry i couldn’t make it back.
I don’t really know what else to write. This is just the end of the beginning.

2 thoughts on “I never made it to Congo.

  1. Chris, I can feel the pain and sadness in your words, and I don’t even know you. But I “followed” you and Dom to Congo in 2009, and I was rooting for you from the sidelines again this time. Don’t listen to those who suggest a donation would do as much. Having the courage even to go, to be willing to live and cook and run amid such unimaginable danger, to be willing to stand next to the terrorized and oppressed and hug them and cry with them and speak for them and shout for them is not the same as making a financial contribution. Not even close. I know, because I make monthly donations and feel completely ineffectual and useless. It’s just not the same as being willing to go. Hear me: It’s the willingness that makes you special and impactful. Forget the thwarted plans; they’re of no consequence. You were willing to go. And you’ll go again.

    I live in Southern California and am excited about your move to San Francisco; I run marathons in SF whenever I can. Perhaps we can start a new Run for Congo Women group here in California and make plans for the next journey. And perhaps I’ll be brave enough to be on it.

    I hope to meet you and your fiancee/wife and other Congo-advocate friends soon. Until then, just stay willing.


  2. Chris – I hope your journey to SFO was successful. I live in Seattle. Have never run a marathon. Am trying to put together my first at the Sahara Marahton in February. Its a marathon through the refugee camps in Algiers for the Saharawi people. I have read about the situation in the Congo for some time. Your efforts helped inspire me. It matters. If you are ever in Seattle, first round is on me.

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