Turning 25 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Yesterday was my 25th birthday. For 24 years I have spent my birthday at home. “Travel. Do what you want all year round, but you have to be home for your birthday!” was my mom’s order and I obeyed. But this year it was different. I was in Congo and I loved it.

I had a super nice day, slept in late (that was my gift to myself), had a huge breakfast, spent most of the day looking out onto the magnificent lake with a sweet friend and ended the day with a yummy dinner, interesting conversations and candles on a tiramisu! 🙂

A birthday is a nice time to take stock and review the past year and this has been an eventful year and how! The year began with a big move – I moved to the Netherlands to live with the man of my dreams and fell more in love with him than ever before! I started another masters where I met beautiful, awesome, inspiring people from all over the world who I am now proud to count among my best friends. I landed an internship at one of the best development organizations in the world and felt I was part of something bigger. The opportunity to come to DRC was granted to me on a silver platter and though it scared the living daylights of me, I took it. Then I got married to the man of dreams. Standing there in front of all our friends and family we promised to love each other until love shall last and had a fabulous party drenched in love, light and happiness! Two weeks after the wedding, I was on a plane to DRC and now here I am with two weeks to go until I leave it.

I have been in Congo for the month today, and I am surprised with how settled I feel here. If someone had told me a month ago that I would be so comfortable here I wouldn’t believe them. Heck if someone had told me a year ago that I would be celebrating my birthday in DRC the next year I wouldn’t believe them either! But here I am – In the beginning I was shocked but now I’m getting used to seeing men with guns. I was awoken a few nights ago by a grumbling, growling Earthquake that shook my house like a leaf in the wind. Later the next day I saw a volcano get active and spew lava on the horizon. I heard apparent gunshots and stories about some colleagues getting kidnapped. I had my first experience of racism that made me aware of my own conscious and unconscious assumptions and hurtful behavior towards those around me. It also reinforced my fierce pride in the color of my beautiful brown skin. But I also met some amazing people, I lived for a month with of the most inspiring, strong and brave women I have ever come across. I was part of a colleague’s wedding, I helped her dress up and spent all day with her, feeling a familiar festive family vibe, I had the honor of sharing the office with super sweet, talented and hardworking people. I learnt that if you are smiling and friendly to people, most people reciprocate. After all everyone is looking for a friendly conversation. I made new friends, swam in the lake and danced with the wind in a storm! Congo is beautiful, and devastating and glorious and chaotic and I love it! I have never felt so alive before, never felt so close to the version of me that I have always aspired for – strong, independent and content.
In this one year I learnt a lot about the world and much more about myself. I see now that I am capable of making an amazing life for myself no matter where I am. I was a 7th month, premature baby, stories say that when I was born I was so small and fragile that the doctors were scared I wouldn’t make it. I was a warrior then, I am a warrior now and no matter what, I know I will make it, I always do.

All in all life is good, it is more than good, it is grand and the fact that I am blessed with the love of so many beautiful, inspiring and positive people only makes it better each day!

A big thank you to all of you and I sincerely hope I can reciprocate all this love in everything I do…


Srush

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