As a young Foreign Service officer, Frederic Hunter was assigned to the Congo in 1963, three years after independence. He expected to encounter heat, jungle, hardship, violence. Instead, he found the Kivu, a kind of paradise, nestled among Rift Valley lakes. The climate was benign, the beauty extraordinary. It was peaceful, the people were splendid and got along. He lived in Bukavu, a town that occupied five peninsulas jutting into Lake Kivu. Furthermore, an African king lived atop the nearby green and often fog-bound mountains.
This memoir lets you accompany these Kivu adventures. We get to know Hunter’s Number One Congolese colleague, a womanizing rogue. We meet local politicians who all attend a luncheon and discuss strategies for victory in the coming election—seemingly oblivious to the point that they were competing against one another for the post. There are expats: an American academic intoxicated by Africa, a missionary woman who has lost track of time. Hunter’s truck sunk in a mud pit at night and surrounded by a herd of the most dangerous animals in Africa: hippos. Hunter risks more, however, when a local Kivu woman catches his eye and then steals his heart.
This memoir is gentle, insightful, and spirited by turns. It offers glimpses of a lost fragment of Africa that has since been overcome by circumstance and conflict. Kivu still lives, but it lives now in memory.