Sometimes I wonder what “Survival of the fittest” actually means. Does it mean you are the fitter person when you stay or when you go? What makes you fit to stay in a certain place? Your kindness and your sensitivity towards mankind? Or is the opposite true? In the end, the expression “Each own its bone” is probably best suited.
People deal with reality in very different ways and a good mix between empathy and distance is needed. It is most important to keep a sense of self, a curious spontaneity that keeps you interested and on your toes. That spontaneity cannot be mistaken for naivety, which it often is, and being clear about this from the very first moment is key. Assertiveness is another one of those characteristics that is a requisite for survival. To say things when you feel them and when you mean them. Assertiveness, however, has to strike a balance with diplomacy. Say things when you feel them, but try to be subtle about it.
In eastern Congo, navigating through this labyrinth of emotions is a full-time job, heightened only by the real sense of threat. “Survival” takes on a very different meaning here and this goes way beyond human relations. That is why sustaining healthy human relationships is of the utmost importance. You need a support system to keep you happy and sane. When that support system falls away, you’re in for big trouble.
I’ve learned that, here, as much as I don’t mind being by myself for long periods of time, the presence of nature, animals, a blue sky and healthy air is not enough. A quote by Aristotle comes to mind: “Man is by nature a social animal.” and I whole-heartedly agree. People need a sense of community, a sense of being valued and respected by others. Living in eastern Congo, one thing is clear: “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”, another Aristotle quote that hits the nail right on the head.