We have mentioned Voice of America (VOA) a couple of times on this blog, and we should have put more emphasis on this site, as it provides news coverage from around the world as well as learning English lessons.
As a matter of fact, our blog entry of 24 November 2010 informed about VOA News The Classroom, a new (at the time) segment of the VOA Learning English section where students, especially lower level ones, could find more resources to learn through activities, articles, programmes and stories.
All in all, Voice of America (VOA) provides an invaluable source of authentic and updated material which comes in really handy for those intermediate students who must sit an exam where they will have to deal with authentic material.
Today's listening activity is taken from Voice of America (VOA), although it doesn't belong in the VOA Learning English section, but in the mainstream one. The activity is suitable for intermediate students.
Watch the video and answer the questions below.
1 How high is unemployment in Eastern Congo?
2 In what parts of Congo can you find the Chikudu cart?
3 What does the Chikudu cart symbolise?
4 How and where is the Chikudu cart made?
5 What does Matias Mulumba sell for children in his art store?
6 Who invented the Chikudu cart?
7 Why don't some drivers buy motorcycles or trucks?
To check the answers, you can read the transcript.
In this dusty corner of Eastern Congo, locals say unemployment is 70, 80 or 90 percent. With no available jobs, many seek out a living carrying things - vegetables to the market, construction materials, crates of goods to the supermarket.
Unlike other parts of Congo, this region boasts a vehicle they say is only found here: the Chikudu cart. It is a two-wheeled scooter of sorts that these men can push more than 24 kilometers a day, carrying more than 114 kilos of materials. On a good day, they can make $6 to $8.
But for Eastern Congo natives, the Chikudu cart is more than just back-breaking work. It is a symbol of Congolese endurance through decades of conflict and crushing poverty. One man takes photos to sell to tourists of the Chikudu statue in the center of downtown Goma.
“The statue that you see here represents the hard work of the drivers to survive and to develop our town,” he said.
Like other Congolese tools and art, Chikudu carts are hand-made, deep in the countryside. They cost drivers $50 to $100 dollars and are crafted from wood found in the Virunga Forest, a national park that has been plagued by conflict for decades.
Matias Mulumba owns an art store in Goma. He sells miniature Chikudu carts for children, and occasionally foreign visitors. He says the Chikudu is not just a symbol of the Congolese struggle, it is also representative of this region’s unique and practical craftsmanship.
“The Chikudu cart is unique to this region- you can't see it any other part of Congo. That’s why they decided to build a monument to the vehicle. It does a job. It helps many families to eat.”
He says Chikudu carts were developed by farmers, who once pushed their goods to market over Congo's rocky roads on wheel-barrows, and can now deliver three times faster.
But in a land now populated by motorcycles and trucks, some drivers say they wish could afford a more modern method of transporting goods for cash.
“I’m doing this because it is not possible to get another job here in Congo.”
The driver laughs when asked about the golden Chikudu statue in the center of town, saying with eight children at home and without even the ability to read, what else would he do for a living?