Cabinda is a 'freckle' of Angola enclosed between the Republic of Congo and The Democratic Republic of Congo. It was separated from the rest of the country when, through a treaty, Angola ceded a strip to the DR Congo so they can have access to the ocean. In exchange, DRC gave Angola a land concession on the other side of the country. In isolated Cabinda, there is nothing more than oil exploited by the big oil corporations, poverty, and the Mayombé jungle.
In my first, and originally only day that I would spend on this 'freckle', an unexpected message came to me through Facebook. It was an Argentine doctor who, through contacts, learned that I was an Argentine who was traveling by bicycle and was now crossing Angola, the country she had just moved to only three weeks ago, and it was Cabinda, where had actually moved to. She contacted me to offer me anything I needed, so that very night I met Sil at her new house, as well as the other two Argentine colleagues who work there with her.
Sil (vina), is a pediatrician graduated with honors, and later Head of Residents in the most important pediatric hospital in Buenos Aires, one of the best in all Latin America. Given her skills and her credentials, she could very well be amassing good fortunes with the medicine of these days, the one that has little to do with healing and much to do with profit. However, Sil decided to follow her true vocation and dedicate her self to what moves her the most in his life, which is a deep need to heal her little patients.
After several years of practicing in Buenos Aires, life took her to Africa, first through the UN to Guinea Bissau, and now with BIPAI, an American NGO, to Cabinda, this Angolan province that is as small as her native Tucumán. There she treats children with a terrible disease called sickle cell disease, a condition of the blood exclusive of the black race, in which the red blood cells take the form of a sickle (hence its name "sickle cell aenemia") preventing them from flowing freely through the circulatory system.
With a mortality rate of 80% in children under 5 years of age, a terrible suffering for those who carry it and without any local treatment, unless donated by the rich countries, is one of the least known diseases in Africa and causes thousands of deaths annually to those who do not have the fortune of receiving outside help. Those who are fortunate enough, have the luck of having first-rate care like Sil's, a person with whom it is enough to go to the hospital to see her at work and see the love she emanates towards her patients. It is truly moving to see the positive effect that her love has on those little ones for whom she is contributing to give them a future that surely they could never even dream of if it weren't for her.
In a world where the predominant trend is people living in different degrees of unhappiness (or apparent happiness), doing works ranging from mere economic convenience to pure inertia, finding someone who experiences genuine inner happiness through doing what she does, is a gust of fresh air in a world contaminated by the fever of money, the accumulation of material possessions and eternal dissatisfaction.
Sil is a clear example that living dedicated to what one loves to do with devotion is the only thing that can guarantee happiness, as well as allowing us to unfold our true human potential. No less important is the fact that it brings the energy one needs to survive in such complex and adverse environments as the ones Sil faces in Africa, where her work as a pediatrician is only a small portion of the long succession of frustrating extra tasks she has to carry out every day and have nothing to do with medicine.
I have said it several times and it is good to remind of it again, the greatest gift of traveling the world by bicycle is the wonderful people that the road puts on my way, and getting to meet Sil was among the greatest gifts I have received in all these years. It is for people like her that I take off my hat with the deepest admiration and respect, and I could only wish that the world we live in would encourage more people to live a life dedicated to what one loves to do and be worthily rewarded for it, rather than to what generates more profit.
What would initially be a quick one-day pass through Cabinda quickly turned into 10, until I crossed to Congo on the last day of validity of my Angolan visa, in the last hour before the border closes.