SABA Episode #16 – Wow! The Masisi Virtual Experience …

First Miha’s photos hit me. The beauty of the place was quite breathtaking. There is a certain aura about the Masisi territory and it absolutely did not look like I had imagined Congo. I had some quick glances of some very green pictures before my co-host left Uganda but I never found the time to read our last year’s article about Auberge de Rushengo. That was where he was heading …

… And he was taking a bunch of us with him, virtually.

It wasn’t the first time for me to take part in something like this. In 2021 I remotely played janzi during the Online Picnic at Rwanda’s Cyuza Island but I wasn’t sucked into the experience as much as in the fairytale mountains of eastern DR Congo.

By my side, digitally, were the team of Stoked, a design thinking consultancy, and a small group of clients from an anonymous US healthcare institution (hey, they made us sign an NDA). Experiencing a totally new land alongside others brought a sense of connectedness I did not expect — despite the fact that everybody else was on a different continent, and despite the fact this was probably the only hour of our lives we would spend together.

At the same time, I don’t think the difference in our background had ever hit me quite as profoundly … In the script it said:

10 min: Kahiri takes over, invites the participants to ask questions and interact at any time; this is the part where the traditional instrument inanga/enanga mixes with riddles

My job was to play some music and give a cultural context. Easier said than done! I prepared some riddles in Rukiga, my mother tongue, and the issue to deal with wasn’t the translation but all the implied meanings, interpretations … lives lived.

The basic structure of this ancient activity that would normally take place around a campfire is simple. It goes like this: the riddler says saku saku (close to “riddle me this riddle me that”) and the audience is supposed to respond with sambajira, loosely meaning “we are ready”. I was mentally prepared for internet speed hiccups that would get us out of sync but there were none, and the Americans were good sports which was really lovely. They hit the syllables pretty well.

But then, the question I chose …

“Its mouth is wide open and it wants to eat me.”

Mmm, what exactly was I thinking? What does that mean to somebody thousands of miles away? Still, one of the people came pretty close. “Home,” he said.

That was only a half of the correct answer. The full answer is: “home when the parents are not around”. As soon as I began to explain, it occurred to me that to somebody in the United States being home alone could well mean doing things they wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to do, turning on the volume and starting a party (at least that’s what is in the movies). In our cultural setting, a house without the parents can be a very intimidating place because you don’t know what is going to happen next. The missing adults are your sole providers and in a more rural environment they are also the defenders against wild animals, bad people and such. They are everything, and the home without them feels quite dangerous. … I really should have anticipated a cultural short circuit at this point!

Well, I went on:

“I have three wives, but when one of them is not around, I can’t eat.”

How is a foreigner gonna guess this is a fireplace, ha?! To us it’s obvious: at a typical fireplace you have three stones on which you put the pot. If one of them is missing, you can’t cook! More than that, the context of having three wives is not a common occurrence in the States, you know?

But fortunately it didn’t get awkward, and our clients seemed amused.

Still, these heritage challenges were nothing compared to the heart-stopping obstacles Miha was facing — but for that you will have to listen to the podcast [the photo above shows our eventual location]! It is, as always, posted right at the top of this article and available in your favourite podcasting app.

As we say in the recording, it may be high time for you to subscribe in the very app …

Because we don’t know when exactly we will be back. (One day in September, that’s the plan.)

SEE AFRICA BREATHE AFRICA has been conceptualised as a podcast that comes in “seasons”, and so far, we have had two, each consisting of eight episodes. We will now be optimistically preparing for the first proper post-pandemic tourism season and doing all kinds of other work.

Do you know that putting this little podcast together takes our editor pretty much the entire week?! First that was done by Miha, then by our intern Matyas, and now they are both getting swamped. Miha because he is also a lecturer and Matt because he is also a student!

I will appreciate the break too, to absorb the resumption of the entertainment business as it used to be. I’ve also managed to make my life additionally busy by becoming one of the organisers of the film and music festival in my hometown …

All in all, the first 16 shows have been a fun and worthwhile adventure. I enjoy transboundary interactions with Gorilla Highlands Experts with whom I am now strangely familiar although we have never met. Through banter, debate and conversation we have gone through a learning journey together. We have grappled with topics and forged ideas that will impact the way we do life going forward — the central theme of responsible tourism has been particularly impactful for me.

I’m looking forward to the third season of our podcasting later this year!

OTHER SHOW NOTES

Katharina Lahner

Chef Rama

Online Picnics

Gorilla Highlands Mega Trek

Responses

  1. Kahiri and Miha said it well. Providing an “immersive” virtual experience was quite ambitious, but they were the perfect collaborators for the job. Miha gracefully dealt with all the literal and figurative bumps in the road. Kahiri captivated the group with his music and riddles. The riddles highlighted some of the cultural differences we encountered during our week long virtual immersion. I think my favorite moment of the experience was this moment where Kahiri was playing a song for us and Miha was walking through the landscape so we could see this beautiful region we were learning about while hearing some beautiful representative music. It gave me the chills, that sense of awe and wonder when you travel and experience a place for the first time. Our group left so grateful for a deeper connection, albeit virtual, and an even more vigorous desire to visit.

    1. Thankyou Brent! It’s wonderful to know the connection was on both sides! It was such a pleasure to have this shared experience

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