I have really enjoyed them not only because the writing is good, but also because there are a remarkable number of thoughtful lines that emerge from the books. Backman does an amazing job at observing life and pointing out what is obvious once you are told, but invisible before that.
Examples from his latest novel, Winning:
The most unbearable thing about death is that the world just goes on.
She never let him be less than what he was capable of.
We fool ourselves that we can protect the people we love, because if we accepted the truth we’d never let them out of our sight.
Our children never warn us that they’re thinking of growing up, one day they’re just too big to want to hold our hand, it’s just as well we never know when the last time is going to be or we’d never let go.
Being married is easy, she usually thinks. You just pick an argument you’re really good at, then repeat it at least once a week for all eternity.
(The author is Swedish and these were translated into English, which immediately gives it a little credence for me.)
Note: I rarely read fiction so anything on the topic should be considered with a grain of salt as I am not an expert and don’t really know what I’m talking about. All I’m saying is that I appreciated these books. I’ve also read several other books by Fredrick Backman that were also good. I’m mentioning these because they were my favorite.
Benjamin and I arrived at San Salvador, El Salvador at 6 AM, giving us plenty of time for a full day upon arrival. I decided to take an Uber to our accommodations (31 USD) and then make plans from there. (While I found the accommodations on AirBnb, I decided against making the reservation there and instead just showed up since the AirBnb host name was Hostal Punta El Zonte – Dorm Room and a search resulted in the location on Google Maps.) The hostel was a surfing hostel located right on the beach. The waves came all the way up to the deck when the tide was up. You could also sit and watch the surfers right from the hostel and listen to the waves all night. Cool!!
While T-Mobile is great in that it connects in almost any country at no extra cost. It limits connectivity to 2G, which is relatively painful when you are trying to research travel. Fortunately, our Uber driver was willing to pull over at a local stand and help me get connected with Tig0 at a cost of 5 USD. What I especially appreciated was his willingness to enter his El Salvador Identity card when signing up my account. (He did ask me to destroy the card when I left, but it was entirely an act of trust – which I much appreciated.) Feel free to reach out to our driver, Melvin Mena on WhatsApp at +503-7130-5297, if you are ever in the area and need a driver:
We relaxed for a few hours and caught up on emails and work before heading out for a hike in the afternoon. We started out walking up the creek right from hostel beach. It was very muddy to start but nothing to worry about as it was a short while before we were wading in the creek itself. We walk to the main road and then continued North along the road. Along the way we saw women washing clothes in the stream along with children bathing. On the road there were stalls selling fruits, especially near the bus stop. It was hot after only a mile or so, we navigated back toward the beach at the next village. Unfortunately, we couldn’t traverse all the way back to our hostel because the tide was in and we couldn’t navigate around the rocks without getting soaked (admittedly I got soaked by a surprise wave, but even so, we scrambled up the rocks to a private house, got scolded for being on private property, and then allowed to exit via the gate rather than going back the way we came. 😊
Back at the hostel, the owner suggested we rent scooters and go exploring. They were 25 USD each and we headed out to see Lake Ilopango, navigating through San Salvador. Unfortunately, San Salvador is 2,000 ft. above sea level, and by the time we reached there, a storm was brewing and it was considerably colder. Scratch that, it started to pour. We took refuge under a bridge for an hour before venturing out again only to encounter even heavier rain within 15 minutes. Bummer! We scrapped plans for the lake and looked for food and shelter. We selected a local pizza joint and headed there until the rain mostly subsided. Upon finishing our afternoon pizza snack, we decided to head back to the beach as fast as we could in the hopes of minimizing the time in the rain. We still got wet, but it warmed up as we approached the coast and wasn’t that bad. Of course, riding a scooter in the rain is a little precarious so we were relieved when we arrived without incident. We had dinner at the hostel before heading to bed. Admittedly, while we didn’t reach our destination, we enjoyed the journey and overall had an enjoyable day.
In the morning, I took a beautiful walk along the beach at sunrise and then spent the morning working on the deck. Once Benjamin was awake, we breakfasted, and decided to head out to El Tunco where we could upgrade from scooters to 250cc motorbikes. We waited on the main road for what seemed a ridiculous 45min. for the local bus to take us <10 km South (not sure why but the first bus didn’t stop at our stand). The bikes were significantly more powerful and hopefully safer if it rained. We headed East to Tamanique Falls. Upon reaching the town we asked a local mom for a guide. She made some calls and looked around but eventually her 11-year-old son, Horacio, came strolling down the road from school and she called him to take us. He didn’t seem particularly taken with the idea and took his time to get changed out of his school uniform. Upon realizing that he was going to ride on the back of the motorbike with me, however, I think he warmed to the idea considerably. He told me this was his fist time – not just on the motorcycle, but also in being a guide. I was excited to give him a chance.
The beginning of the trail was rock paved and relatively easy, but in short order it turned to dirt. And, unfortunately, when we started to go downhill in the mud the bike slipped out from under us and dropped, shattering the mirror. Ughh!!! Only minor scrapes and bruises for both Horacio and me. (I confess we were cautioned when renting not to take it on the trail but the 11-year-old kid encouraged us saying it was easy and way faster. Yeah, I know. I’m not interested in your opinion on the topic. 😊) We parked the bikes on the side of the trail and continued the rest of the way on foot. The turnoff could easily have been missed so I was grateful for our guide. The park was 1 USD per person (guide was free) despite the sign stating entry was 2.50 USD. The first view of the water was a jumping spot. Horacio encouraged me to go for it, but I asked him to demonstrate first. Rather than just jumping from the top, he cautiously climbed town to a lower point and then jumped. Encouraged, I went for it from the top. It wasn’t particularly high, and it was wonderful to hit the water and cool off. I jumped a couple more times. There was a second pool to jump into that was considerably higher, but the climb out was precarious (with a 100ft drop onto rocks) and Horacio wasn’t willing to demonstrate because of fear he confessed. I decided not to risk it as I really didn’t know the route back out. (I had a slight regret for not having an older guide to demonstrate the bigger jump, but I overcame my self-disappointment when I saw the next part of the falls.)
We hiked down to two additional falls and pools – which were progressively spectacular. I’m so glad we came. I (of course) took another swim in the pool of the tallest falls. Spectacular!
Back in the town of Tamanique, we met up with Horacio’s mother, father, and brother and took the former for a quick ride on the motorbike. I loved the family and would have invited myself to dinner if we didn’t have to get the bikes back. Instead, we borrowed a basin and washed off my bike to remove any evidence of falling in the mud. While I couldn’t fix the mirror, the rest of bike looked unharmed. We rode home, refilled the gas, and took a couple beach stops before returning the bikes.
At El Tunco beach we spent the late afternoon watching the World Junior Surfing Championship. These kids were awesome. Next we stopped in a local outdoor eatery for pupusas (a first for us) and then on the way back to the main road accepted an invitation to church. Hearing such gusto in the songs was wonderful.
Knowing the buses stopped running at 7 PM, however, we excused ourselves at 6:25 PM and headed to the main road. After waiting 30 minutes a bus came, dropped off a couple passengers, but then took off again before we boarded. Hmm… what’s the deal. By now it was dark. Fortunately, a small pickup truck stopped upon seeing my tentative thumb, and we hitched a ride back to El Zonte and our hostel for one more night. Having eaten already, we crashed early with alarms set for 3:15 AM to catch a shuttle and then a boat to Nicaragua.
Our shuttle picked us up at 3:30 AM, yes, 3:30 AM and drove us directly to the coastal town of La Union, El Salvador. We arrived around 7 AM, and waited about 1.5 hours in which time we also went through immigration (to exit El Salvador).
At about 8:30 or so we walked out onto the pier and boarded a boat to cross the Gulf of Fonseca from El Salvador to Nicaragua. The boat ride was about 3 hours, with beautiful weather and some great views. Upon crossing the border into Nicaragua, which was in the middle of the gulf, we had to put on life jackets. (I guess the risk of capsizing in Nicaragua than El Salvador. Or perhaps swimming becomes more difficult on the Nicaragua side of the gulf. 😊)
We beached at the village of Potosi, Nicaragua. It was fun to enter the country by walking up the beach from the boat. On shore they made a thorough manual search of our luggage before allowing us to walk up to the immigration office. It took perhaps an hour for the Nicaragua immigration process, but it didn’t matter since our shuttle hadn’t arrived by the time we finished. The shuttle drove us to León where we rented a car. (The alternative was a 110 USD private car to Rivas, so I considered the cheaper two-day car rental a steal in comparison.) Of course, by the time we were driving away with the car we didn’t have sufficient time to catch the ferry we were hoping anyway, so we adjusted plans and headed for Granada, Nicaragua instead.
In the morning, we woke up an went for a walk around town. It had a stereo typical Central American feel with some beautiful parks and splendid cathedrals. It was great to walk around except for the staggeringly littered Lake Nicaragua shoreline. Really? The cause is obvious as we repeatedly saw Nicaraguans just throw trash to the ground, but why they weren’t bothered by it was baffling.
Following our walk I worked for a few hours before we packed up an headed to the ferry to travel to the world’s biggest fresh water island, Ometepe. Unfortunately, we missed the first boat trying to figure out our plans so we didn’t actually catch the ferry (leaving out car parked at the dock) till 2:30 PM – at a total cost of approximately 10 USD for both of us. The boat, however, took a full hour to go the 6-9 miles. At this point we adjusted our plans to catch the 4 PM return ferry leaving only half an hour on Ometepe. Obviously, while not enough to do anything significant but we quickly walked up to the Iglesia Católica Santa Ana, and then, in my wisdom, I casually directed us to purchase some ice cream. My thinking was the surely the boat had arrived late and couldn’t possibly unload and reload in 30 minutes. It turns out, I was wrong. By the time we were back at the dock the boat ramp had lifted off of the ramp. Not deterred, I ran and jumped all the while yelling at Benjamin to do the same. He stopped making the gap longer. I called again for him to jump and he came to his senses and jumped. For some reason, the boat attendants were less than impressed but hey, we made it so.
Upon reaching shore again we quickly went to the car and started the 2.5-hour drive to Masaya Volcano. We arrived after dark and within 45 minutes of closing. Again, I had stopped for food – Nicaraguan Franga – on the drive. Benjamin decided to be principled and stay away from street food which meant I had to eat his portions. Sheesh! Now I must also fear his potential Ï-told-you-so tomorrow if the food plays shenanigans with my stomach.
We were able to look down into the caldera and see the magma bubbling below. This was my first time seeing molten rock (either magma or lava) and it was very cool. I was pretty excited that we had made it.
From the volcano we decided to make the drive all the way back to León at night. This was considerably faster than the journey since there was far less traffic and there are no police at night (and very few during the day as well). We arrived at our hotel by 10:15 and headed for bed. Another great day with a little adventure and some cool sights to boot.
The next morning, we drove to see the Santa Ana volcano. Benjamin took some drone shots before we heading back to León. Next up was haircuts and then a walking tour of León. In addition to seeing a few sites, our tour guide shared about revolutionary history of Nicaragua along with the 21st century circumstances under Daniel Noriega’s dictatorship and repression. I appreciated his teaching on the failed 2018 student uprising. It was especially interesting to contrast it with our host, who had a belief that not all societies are cut out for democracy until they reach a certain level of education and sophistication. A level that she didn’t believe Nicaragua had reached yet. (See Nas Daily’s, Why Democracy Isn’t Working video for additional thoughts on the topic.)
By this time we had heard though tour 3:30 AM shuttle back to El Salvador through Honduras was delayed until morning, giving us another night in León and potentially some time in the morning as well. When we finally did leave, it was 11 AM.
My initial attraction to GiveDirectly, and why IntelliTect decided to support them last year, was the studies they did at the onset to show the positive impact of the cash transfers and verification that, in fact, recipients overwhelmingly made positive choices in what to do with the money. Rather than drinking, drugs, or gambling, the recipients chose to purchase a cow, roof, health insurance, a child’s education, home improvements, or something equally worthwhile. Overwhelmingly, the recipients net worth and quality of life improved significantly. During my visit this tip, it was a blessing to be able to see their gratitude, excitement, and accept their thank-yous. While I only visited four or five households this week, I came away with a strong confirmation that these recipients were exceedingly grateful for the cash transfers and that they were not making unhealthy choices about how to spend the funds. In fact, in the Miller, their choice was especially strategic (at least in terms of income generation).
The GiveDirectly team I met with is relatively young and eager about the mission of GD. Everyone had a college/university degree (the academic discipline of the degree didn’t really matter to GD which makes sense to me). Furthermore, based on the team I interacted with, they were all good hires – meaning the GD employees were hard working, believed in the mission, were thoughtful, and eager to improve. In Rwanda, like Uganda, having a degree doesn’t guarantee you a good job, so GD gets to choose the best applicants. (That said, Rwandan unemployment figures are extremely low – less than 2% – which seems very suspicious.)
Two question areas remain, however, and I’m grateful for the ongoing discussion with GiveDirectly as they help me to resolve them:
Is income improved over time and by how much? GD’s goal is that people would escape extreme poverty. However, remarkably, they don’t have any data/studies to show this is, in fact, achieved. I’m very surprised by this given my initial evaluation of them at the onset of IntelliTect’s donations was that they were data and research driven. As a result, the following questions arise:
After five years (for example) have recipient households escaped out of extreme poverty? GiveDirectly doesn’t have any data to say that they do.
What is the percentage of increased income? One study in Uganda, which GD provided for me, shows that over twelve years income goes up a total of 17% (I assume this is after inflation as inflation alone in that time period would be more than 25%). A recipient who started at 1 USD/day would, therefore, be earning less than 1.20/day after 12 years. Another study in Kenya concluded that, “At four years, the families that received GiveDirectly’s cash were not meaningfully better off than control families.”
What is a family’s income to start? (Seemingly, GD was not gathering this information in their census – at least for the one I participated in?)
What is a family’s income after five years (and more)?
Why had GD not been measuring income improvement both before and at a significant amount of time after, in fact why wasn’t it one of their main measures? One obvious reason for not measuring a long time afterwards would be cost, but surely this is the very purpose of the donations and, therefore, you should verify it is working in the long term – even given the expense. At a minimum, use Rwandan government provided data and verify it with sampling.
The other organizations I met with during my East Africa visit learned that training in personal financial, gender sensitization, marital conflict (especially when money become available), and income generation were critical to escaping poverty. What was GD doing such that this training wasn’t needed and how did they verify it?
I have no doubt that net worth and quality of life improved with cash transfers (even perhaps after five years though I haven’t looked for the research to support this). How do you measure effectiveness of poverty alleviation when considering increased income versus net worth & quality of life improvements?
Why is GiveDirectly’s detection of household conflict 10% of the Rwandan wide figures of domestic GBV in the last 12 months?
GiveDirectly’s response to my email on this topic stated (and is consistent with their website):
The discrepancy boils down to a difference in calculation. We calculate efficiency as Cash transfers ÷ [Cash transfers + cost of delivery] which historically comes to ~90%. GiveWell calculates it as “Cash grants make up 83.0% of GiveDirectly’s all-time incurred expenses.” The difference is that we break out our measures into two distinct business systems, (1) cash transfers and (2) fundraising to deliver as cash, with a core performance metric for each; whereas GiveWell groups them all together.
I’m concerned about this for multiple reasons.
The most significant is that they receive money that is restricted to a specific expense category (namely fundraising) rather than the generally preferably unrestricted donation. And, as such, they credit the donations from you or me as going directly to the recipient (well, except for transferring the money). In other words, while generally restricted funds are less preferable, because GiveDirectly has restricted funds for fundraising and they are crediting themselves as having a lower overhead for your or my donations than everyone else even though, in fact, their fundraising is nothing special, it is just that the unrestricted funds that you or I are donating, are not going towards fundraising (or perhaps even overhead).
GiveDirectly’s fundraising may not be particularly good but they are playing by different rules so, on their website, they look better than other organizations website shows the fundraising as a normal cost. This seems suspiciously disingenuous – and hard to decipher – and outside the spirit of truth in reporting. Help me understand?
When, on their website, GiveDirectly doesn’t include their fundraising costs in the measure of giving efficiency and yet compares themselves to other organizations, are they subtracting the fundraising costs from other organizations metrics?
Where does overhead, such as the cost of management cost or accounting, fit in their spending report?
What makes GiveDirectly special such that they believe that not reporting the cost of fundraising the same as everyone else is acceptable? Is it simply that they have a donation restricted to fundraising? What if everyone did the same, would we end up with more truth or less?
Tonight we fly home, Kigali->Entebbe->Amsterdam->Seattle->Spokane. A total of around 30 hours. Before that, however, we get to go meet with some of the specific households that IntelliTect supported with their donations to GiveDirectly(GD) in 2021. It’s about a 4-hour drive to the village of Gitwa, and we will only be able to stay about an hour before heading back, but none the less, it provides an opportunity to hear first hand about the impact.
Upon arriving in Gitwa, we first went to the government village officers where we met with the section head. He had one of his staff present the impact on the community, using PowerPoint and a projector, comparing before and afterwards.
The impact included:
100 percent of the households had purchased government health insurance (no doubt a government encouraged purchase)
100 percent of the households had electricity – supporting a minimum power equivalent to three lightbulbs
The vast majority owned a cow (another strongly government encouraged purchase)
<more data to come>
After the presentation we got to wonder around the community and I was asked to select any household I would like to visit. Note, as your read these description, they are each anecdotes. They can’t be used to measure overall success of the GD program. None the less, I was encouraged, blessed even, by the interactions.
The Miller – Mugabe Moise
The first building we came to was a flour mill and the owner, Mugabe Moise, was outside. Prior to GD he was renting flour mill equipment and leveraging some training he had attended. Using the cash transfer, he purchase the flour mill equipment, and a second one, outright. He was paying ~5 USD/day for the electricity to run the mill and about 15 USD/month for maintenance. In addition, he seemingly employed one person to run the mills. As a result, he calculated his net profit at the equivalent of 5 USD/day, significantly higher than the 1.90 USD/day ppp value set as the extreme poverty delineator. (Although, I confess I didn’t find how many, if any others, in his household he was supporting.) This was clearly a success story. I suspect he was very likely already above or trending above the poverty line even before the GD money, but regardless, it was a huge success and I’m excited about what the future holds for this gentleman.
The Excited Widow – Musabyimana
This woman, Musabyimana, was so excited she invited us into her home. In the corner was a small wooden bench standing on it side. She explained that before receiving the money, that was the only furniture she had. Now, she had this wonderful set, and the bicycle. She also had a cow and an additional room she had added on for where to put her next cow.
The Farmers – Everist Niyonzima, his wife Uwanyirigira Anne Marie, and their grandchild
This family, Everist Niyonzima, his wife Uwanyirigira Anne Marie, and their grand daughter had peas that were drying on a cloth outside. They said they were for themselves but if they every had excess produce, they would sell it. It didn’t seem like they had any steady source of income and they were seemingly living off of subsistence farming. Their grand daughter lived with them as she was a surprise and so this couple was helping out their daughter.
One of the things they purchased with the cash transfer was a new corrugated iron roof. While they were incredibly grateful for the money, it was hard to gather what they had spent it on and the impact it had made.
(When we asked to take a picture the Everist asked if he could please go get changed first as he wasn’t expecting visitors.)
We met a few more folks during our hour long walk. Some of them invited us into their home. All of them were extremely grateful. None of the remaining ones provided a clear indication that they had used the money to establish a stable income. All of them expressed joy at their improved quality of life due to the various spending that included:
TV and speaker
Land for their children
Improved stucco walls
Painted their houses
On the way back to the car, however, we met two folks that were working to establish a business:
Leveraged the cash for establishing a mobile banking stall within the community
Bought a cow and sold it at double in the town (15-30 minutes from the village), with the intent to purchase more cows from the community that he could sell
After reaching the GiveDirectly office in Ngororero, we switched to their hired car and drove out to the district government offices. We met with the district government leader to confirm permission to go into the community. From then we headed up into the mountains, split up, (Phil and Sean going with their own GiveDirectly field worker), and then want to observe our first census.
“GiveDirectly is a nonprofit that lets donors like you send money directly to the world’s poorest households. We believe people living in poverty deserve the dignity to choose for themselves how best to improve their lives — cash enables that choice.” In Rwanda, where IntelliTect has donated, each recipient was given a little more than 800 USD in two installments a month a part. Interactions with the recipients are as follows:
Community meeting: a section of 2-3 hundred recipients is gathered together and informed about the unconditional cash they are going to receive and how the process works.
A meeting with each household occurs, called a census, where information is gathered to support the process and, if necessary, a phone and SIM card is provided in support of a mobile bank transfer to the recipient.
Recipients are contacted by phone and informed about the cash transfer.
Cash is transferred in two installments separated by a month.
A follow up “audit” occurs in which GD asks recipients how they spent the money.
The census I observed was led by Priscila and I had my friend Cedric (whom I met earlier) help with the translation. We were accompanied by the chief of the district and two armed police they brought with them. I suggested that armed police might interfere with the census process but I was assured they were for “our protection” and the GD staff acquiesced.
The process went something like this:
Explain the program
Confirm that the cash transfer is non-conditional
Caution the household of potential scams
Ask the recipients which of the heads of household would be the official recipient (if no preference is specified, GiveDirectly chooses the female) and get confirmation that both participants agree. About 60-80% of the time the household selects the female and if the couple doesn’t express a preference, GD chooses the female.
Document all income-generating activities – surprisingly, this didn’t record the amount of income, just the various activities (more on this later)
Provide the option for a new Motorola phone (<15 USD value subtracted from the total cash transfer) with instructions on the mobile banking (via which they will receive the cash transfer)
Review guidelines (like no conflict – more on that later) and spending exclusions (which include drugs&alcohol, gambling, and high-interest loans)
Confirm identity and electronically sign acceptance agreement
Photos of both recipients, family, and the house (inside & out)
Generally, a household census is expected to take around 30 minutes but ours was more like 50 (presumably because of the pesky foreigners that were getting in the home.)
It was a well-run process. In addition to the optional phone, the household was provided with a handout explaining the program and identifying the amount of the cash transfer. The census data was recorded in a mobile-enabled, offline (Salesforce) application which included the recording of all photographs.
Before the census, the recipients didn’t know exactly how much they were going to receive – well except for rumors from the neighbors. The actual transfer would occur in two separate transactions, the first within a month or so and the second a month after that. Regardless, once the amount was confirmed, the joy and excitement of the recipient household was overwhelming. In fact, when we left and passed a second household who Priscila would be taking a census with next, the mom came out and gave me a big hug. As a GD field worker, Priscila’s job was to meet and take a census with 10 households per day, which included the time taken to travel between households.
By this time we were running late for the community meeting. This was where GD would announce to the next community that like their neighboring community before them, they would be receiving the unconditional cash transfers. As we approached the building — an old auditorium from a private school that had closed due to a lack of paying students — we could sense the excitement. When we walked in everyone was celebrating by singing. The song was a gospel-sounding government song about following the rules and something about security. It was emotional to hear, but upon learning the translation, it seemed eerily like George Orwell’s 1984 — but no one seemed to be aware or have any concern. Interesting!
The community meeting outlined the process, covering much of the same information that was presented in the census (which was next after the meeting for this community). In addition, the district chief presented before and emphasized after, how everyone must follow the rules, watch and report their neighbors for any suspicious behavior, and implied that the GD activity was in some way associated with the government. When GD presented, the fieldworker got the crowd excited with a shout of “Give” to which the audience responded “Directly.” An activity repeated throughout to help keep people’s attention and excitement. The meeting ended with questions, many of which were already answered but there were some areas of clarification.
From my perspective, both GD activities were emotionally charged and the joy and excitement palpable. A few times, especially at the start of the community meeting, I had to suppress my emotional joy bordering on any tears leaking out. I was honored and blessed to be there.
One important point to note: GD highlighted that the key goal of the cash transfers was for these people to escape extreme poverty. As a donor, this was exactly what I would hope. Unfortunately, it actually opened up an important question for me.
What was the increase in income from before the cash transfer to (some significant number like) five years later?
A second question related to the point they emphasized during the community meeting: couples should not have conflict in order to receive the cash transfer. This is important because they want unity in the financial decisions the couple is making. While I (obviously) have no conflict in my marriage :), this raised an eyebrow for me:
Why did the census, which asked about marital conflict, only detect conflict two percent of the time when UN Women had the following statistics at the time of this writing:
Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence in the last 12 months: 20.7%
Lifetime Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence: 37.1%
Before breakfast, and like the previous day, I awoke, worked for a couple of hours, and then joined up with Phil and Sean for a walk. This time, however, we decided to be more deliberate in walking into areas that were less tourist and commercial (but staying within the safety boundaries suggested by the hotel). We headed north along the main road until we found a dark enough alley – and in this case, I’m referring to enough of the black, volcanic dirt for a road rather than something paved. It was great. We were able to interact with the locals by playing pool and soccer, and obtain a sense of what the real Goma is like behind the preponderance of NGO buildings on the main streets. (Sean suggested we play NGO bingo.)
(See more journaling below, but there are lots of photos.)