A few months ago I wrote about my friend Richard Soko, whose faithful postcards from Malawi had been inducing guilt-ridden heart palpitations in me for the better part of the past 18 months. Three weeks ago I received an email with the subject line above – an unexpected reply from Richard, who’d received the letter I sent from Burundi some three-plus weeks before. All things considered, it was an impressive showing by the central African postal networks, whose donkeys were undoubtedly whipped into high gear to ensure my letter made it to little Likoma Island before the solstice.

An unexpected hitch on the way to Malawi.

Below are the tidings from Richard:

Hie Christopher,
firstly i want to thanks our almighty father for keeping both of us fine

your letter kissed my palm on 23rd Feb 2010 evening and i was very excited to receive one from you my beloved one, thank you. fishing now is difficult since my fishing net is rotten, so am just doing some piece work to earn my family leaving.

likoma is having heavy rainfall that my thatched house is leaking only one bedroom is good which is used for my children, myself and a wife just standing untill the rain ends. chri, Likoma will have a community radio soon, since all equipment is available and hoped to have some internet cafe close to our markert. i have also a mobile phone and my number is +265 xxx xxx xxx

Receive greeting from my family wishing you all the best

Yours honestly


To read about the letter which “kissed [his] palm” almost reduced your intrepid reporter to tears. It has made me, too, look forward to hitting the road again in the weeks ahead, having indulged in the expat circle-jerk of Kigali nightlife enough since returning from Burundi to warrant a few long weeks in the bush. (For curious Rwandan security operatives: be sure to email me for the full itinerary!)

Hopefully, I can do enough triage blogging in the weeks ahead to give some real-time updates of my travels and travails in the Congo.

Lastly, I asked a Burundian friend how to say “I’ve done nothing wrong” in French, in anticipation of all the impending shakedowns from crooked Congolese cops. The best he could come up with was Je suis juste! To my francophone friends, I urge you to send some better suggestions.


  1. I’ve found that “My father is a preacher” shuts them down like nobody’s business. “Mon pere est pasteur.” It will be important to include the word “Protestant” in there somewhere so they don’t think you’re the illegitimate offspring of a wayward priest.

  2. You could try “Je n’ai rien fait de mal” (lit: ‘I’ve not done anything evil’).

    Are you going by the Gisenyi-Goma border? Am thinking about heading out on friday.


    • I’m actually going to head down to Cyangugu from Gisenyi, then over to Bukavu and up to Goma. I want to do a 3-4 week tour of the lake – barring any egregious, Congolese mishaps.

  3. Hey! Off topic question: Has the security situation in Kigali really changed in the last monthish? I have a friend there now who says it has; but I’m not sure how reliable a witness she is…

    • I guess it’s a sort of eye-of-the-beholder situation. Yes, there were a few grenade attacks over a 2-3 week span last month, which – given the general peacefulness and security here – frayed a lot of nerves and created a sense of instability. But no one really knows who was behind the attacks, what their motives were, etc. It’s hard to really gauge if things will get worse (e.g., if this is some internal, destabilizing force that wants to disrupt the elections), if this was a passing thing (e.g., the theory floating around in some circles, that the government did this as a one-off to project the image of a threat, so as to justify a crackdown, etc.), and where things will lead. Personally, I think the perception of insecurity has, in itself, achieved a certain end.

      But then, I’ve been pretty ill for the past week, so I can only vouch for the security situation in the doctor’s office at the Belgian Embassy; at the pharmacy in UTC; and on my friend’s couch in Kimihurura.

  4. It’s “Je n’ai rien fait de mal.”
    “Je suis juste” doesn’t make any sense.
    Your article made my day

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