Leon Salumu, the head of the TL2 PALL project (assisting law enforcement) spent three weeks of October 2016 in the eastern United States. When he got back to DR Congo, Cintia Garai, the TL2 project’s administrative assistant, asked him a few questions. Here are his answers:
You traveled around New York City one day on your own. Was that hard? How did you do it?
I had a map. I arrived at the train station, and I asked where I could find the Statue of Liberty. They showed me on the map and it turned out that I was not far. But then I realized that because of the weather I couldn’t see further than 10 meters. It was raining and so foggy. I couldn’t even take a picture. I planned to take a boat to see the statue, but because of the weather, I decided to turn back. I visited the skyscrapers instead and the shops. I didn’t want to leave the avenue (Central Park West) or I would get lost too much. Even so I had to ask where the train station was; it was just in front of me. I had a return ticket, so it was easy, and I arrived at the hotel on time for my plane.
What was the most interesting thing that you saw in NYCity? Why was it interesting?
The huge buildings. And I liked the park in the middle of the city. There are so many people living there, but still they saved a place for a park. I was also surprised by the cultural diversity. It would have been hard to identify people like “he is American, she is European or Asian”; there were so many people with different origins in the huge crowds. It was amazing.
It was also interesting to see more dogs than children; the Americans love dogs!
What was the strangest thing that you saw in NYCity?
I couldn’t have imagined that in New York I would meet people who beg for money. That was strange. There was someone on the metro, he was drunk I believe; he started to bother the other passengers; he shouted. I was not sure if he was really drunk or crazy, or something else. That was a negatively strange experience.
On the positive side, what was surprising is the respect of the law. People obey the law. For example the traffic signs and at the red light the pedestrians stopped. And even in shops people are quiet.
You spent a couple weeks in the northern part of NY State, was it different than you expected?
First of all I was very glad to see the house of John and Terese Hart. I really liked that they live in the middle of the forest. It is calm and perfect for work. The landscape is beautiful, and the trees, the little stream… I also liked the Keene Valley Mountain.
That was a big surprise to me. I have never climbed any mountain in my life. We climbed 3 peaks in a row, we started at 7:40 and we arrived back at 19:00. I think it was very important for me.
What did you do in Adirondack State Park? What did you like most about the Adirondack Park? What did you like least?
What I found surprising is a long path in the park: it was very clean. There are people living around the park, but I didn’t have the impression that they would impose any threat to the park. They could almost be called conservationists. Some people own a piece of forest, and I saw some boards with information that here we cross private land, and here are the conditions: don’t litter or don’t disturb the ecosystem.
And I couldn’t see any paper or plastic along the road, it was really clean.
When we were on the peak, I was surprised to see a very little bird. It was so cold up there! And I was wondering, how can this little bird survive here?
What was the most interesting part of your trip?
The most interesting part of my trip is related to our meeting with US Fish and Wildlife Service; they made it possible for me to come to the States and attend a meeting on Commercial Bushmeat.
I could see that they were really interested in our activities. Law enforcement is getting more and more attention. We discussed lots of questions related to the concept of bushmeat. Most of the people from different NGOs working in Central African countries considered bushmeat as entirely illegal. That is certainly not correct in DR Congo. Not all bushmeat is illegal. It was interesting to see this strong reaction against all hunting.
Another very interesting thing was that USFWS asked us, the TL2 Project, how we plan to continue our work in the long-term, after the directors (Terese and John) retire. It was reassuring to see that a donor wants to make sure of the continuity of a project. And this question was important, we discussed a lot all through my trip.
For you, what was the most important part of this trip?
Apart from USFWS I also had the chance to meet Wildcat Foundation, and Rainforest Trust. These 3 organizations truly support our work and intend to help us; they are very enthusiastic. This was important for me to see.
What advice would you give to one of your colleagues who had an opportunity to visit the United States?
You need a certain education to get along in the United States. You should speak some English; without that it would be very difficult to travel around: the signs, everything is in English. You have to have discipline, you have to follow the rules, it is different than in my country.
But apart from that, I would suggest to everybody to go and see, because it is wonderful. We visited some museums, and in one of them I read this: “The inquiry, knowledge and belief of truth is the sovereign good of human nature.” I really liked that. Especially because as a part of my job, I make inquiries and I have to find the truth.
If you want to add anything else, go ahead!
I would like to thank John and Terese Hart, and also US Fish and Wildlife Service for making it possible for me to visit the USA and to participate in the bushmeat meeting.
I also enjoyed the meeting with Sarah, the eldest daughter of John and Terese, and her baby and husband, Chris, whose food was the best during my entire trip, I ate a lot when I was with them! And I was happy to meet Kim of course, who already worked with us before.