Where in the world is Congo?
First find the continent of Africa on a world map, then look for a big, square country right in the middle called the Democratic Republic of Congo. Don’t get confused by the other Congo right next door! That’s a separate country, the Republic of Congo.
Can you find the Congo River? It goes right through the country from east to west, then makes the western border down to the ocean. The Congo is the second longest river in Africa. Do you know which is the longest? (The answer is at the bottom of this page.)
Get ready to sit a long time in airplanes!
When you travel to Congo, first you fly from wherever you live in North America way to Europe–usually PARIS (France), sometimes BRUSSELS (Belgium). Then you go from Paris or Brussels to KINSHASA, the capital of Congo. If you go from New York to Kinshasa it will take about 20-22 hours, and the distance is about 7,400 miles. Figure out how far your town is from New York, and you can estimate how long it would take you to make the trip.
When you get to Kinshasa you usually stay overnight to rest up. The next day you take another plane to GEMENA (pronounced geh’-meh-nah, with a hard “g” as in “go”). It’s up in the northwest corner. That takes about 2 hours. From there you’ll have to take a four-wheel-drive vehicle out to the towns and villages. That’s because there are almost no paved roads in Congo. Most of them are dirt roads with big ruts in them. In the rainy season, can you imagine what those roads are like?
So are you deep in the jungle? Not so much. The jungle, or “tropical rainforest,” mostly follows the rivers. Our part of Congo lies in a wide area between the Ubangi River and the Congo River, and it’s mostly grassland. But the forest is never far away, because there are so many small rivers.
What do you think of when we say “grassland”? Grass like in your front yard? The grasses in these grasslands are 4-5 feet high! There are a few trees there, but more trees in the rain forest. There you’ll find rubber trees, mahogany, different kinds of palms, and other trees. In the forests and villages there are lots of fruit trees, and all kinds of flowering trees and plants.
Visit a Village
A village in Congo is a cluster of families who have built their homes near each other. If you lived there, you would know everybody in the village. In fact, you’d be related to everybody! A village develops over many years as generations of a family grow up and make their own homes near their brothers and sisters and cousins.
When a family expands over many generations, and fills many villages, do you know another word for that very big family? A tribe. Congo has about 250 tribes. Are there tribes in North America? Right! They’re the people we call Native Americans, or First Nations in Canada.
Besides the huts* where the families live, villages usually have a school and most have a church. Some villages have a clinic, where a nurse can take care of some sicknesses and accidents.
Many people have gardens where they grow some vegetables. The eat some, and they try to carry some to a market town and sell them.
(The longest river in Africa is the Nile. Did you get it right?)