How managing a radio station in the Congo turned into Jennifer Bakody's new memoir

Jennifer Bakody, a journalist from Nova Scotia, went to the Congo in 2004 to manage a small radio station focused on peacekeeping. She writes about this experience in her new memoir, Radio Okapi Kindu.

Below, Bakody talks about why she had to write this book.

jbakody.jpg(Photos courtesy of Jennifer Bakody)

The responsibility to document

I felt honoured to be working with these journalists. The reporting was a matter of life or death; sometimes for the journalists themselves and sometimes for the people around them. Being associated with that and seeing them work that way was such an honour for me. I spoke about this project with my friends and family back in Canada. They had never set foot in Kindu and had never been to sub-Saharan Africa. They were so interested. I was so happy talking about it.

I realized very quickly that it should be documented. I also saw the responsibility to do it myself. I had this foot in both worlds. My colleagues didn't speak English very well. I did. They didn't have the time and the space to sit back and write this stuff down or to document it. They were documenting the news on the radio. They were reporting. They were news-gathering. It began to feel as if I don't do this, I have failed. I had to do it.

Going back to do research

I didn't have everything that I needed to write Radio Okapi Kindu because I never went there, initially, with the intent of writing a book. Most of what you read in this book involves very careful back reporting.

The difference between the notes and the memories wasn't grounded until I went back and got all of the things that I knew to be true, somewhere within me. They were those things that you just can't write down. They were those things where you have to be there. You have to feel them once again. You have to sense them once again in order to make them real.

It was the most joyous occasion to go back and do that back reporting. It was a highlight of my life. I felt, as a person, so complete to have this information that I sensed was missing.

The station is the character

The book, as it is now, documents this time, this place and things that I couldn't have known about at the time. I'm glad that the book has found a place. Because the story is Radio Okapi Kindu. It existed before me. It existed after me. It is itself a character. It is, for me, the main character of the book.

Jennifer Bakody's comments have been edited and condensed.

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