The Yangambi Research Library

Last night I watched the last episode of Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown on CNN. This time he visited the Congo, which truly is a place where paradise and hell are juxtaposed. Following a life long dream of traveling the Congo River, ignited and fueled by a passion for Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Bourdain ventured into an area few other people will ever see with their own eyes. By doing this, Bourdain has done us all a great service.

Watching the program, what touched me the most was the Yangambi Research Library, which belongs to an abandoned Belgian research station in the middle of the jungle on the Congo River. The Belgians left 50 years ago and since then no research has been performed here. But still the librarian and the administrators come in everyday to catalog, organize and apply for funding from the defunct Congo government. There is no electricity to protect the books from the humidity, window panes are broken and let the rain inside, and no one receives a salary. Still they come everyday to keep up whatever they can of the maintenance, eeking out a patch of normalcy in all the craziness that currently is tearing Congo apart. If there ever were people who loved their library, it is the people who care for the Yangambi Research Library on the Congo River.
I sincerely hope that Anthony Bourdain will return to CNN for a second season. Parts Unknown has been an experience to watch and it has truly been a thrill to see the world according to Bourdain.

In the words of my friend, the Australian: I shall return.

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