Thursday, July 29, 2010

Papa Wemba (sans Papa Wemba)

So the 50 Cent concert did not happen. We went down to the stadium to purchase the tickets and the people there had absolutely no idea what we were talking about.

Us: Is this where we can buy the tickets for 50 Cent?
Them: Who is 50 Cent?
Us: The American rapper, you know, 50 Cent? Like half dollar? He is having a concert here this Friday?
Them: (A blank gaze, which I interpreted as "what is wrong with Americans?")
Us: Is there a concert here Friday?
Them: No. (pause) Do you have any Coke?
Us: No, sorry, we don't have any Coca-Cola. OK, thanks! Have a nice day!

And, thus, no 50 Cent concert in Congo. At least for the time being. I guess we received some faulty information. But, as they say, when one 50 Cent door closes, a Papa Wemba door opens.

First, let's address the obvious question: who is Papa Wemba? Answer: A Congo musical legend. Read more about him here.

We found out Papa Wemba was having a concert from the same soda-loving source who crushed our 50 Cent plans. This man informed us that the Papa Wemba concert was happening the next Saturday and it was not going to be in the big stadium but across the street at a local club. Henry needed no more convincing. The man had him at the first "Pa" in "Papa Wemba".

Like 50 Cent, going to a Papa Wemba concert is not something I dreamed about as a small child. But so be it.

Come Saturday, we were ready to get down with the local club scene with a group of friends. We were told the concert started at 8pm. We arrived at 8:40 thinking we were going to be a little late. What we failed to consider is that we are in Congo and everything moves on Congo time. No one was there yet.

The inside of the club has a stage and the perimeter is lined with different bars. It sort of looks like a carnival for drinking. There are tables and chairs and once we walked in different waitresses tried to usher us towards their set of tables. We picked a spot and ordered some beer. We were the only non-Congolese there.

Three hours later. No performers yet. It's around this time we learn that there will be an opening act before Papa Wemba arrives. Key point: Papa Wemba is not even there yet.

It's also noteworthy to mention, whenever you find yourself out and about on the local Congo club scene, be prepared to be horrified by the bathroom conditions. My friend and I asked our waitress where the restroom was and she led us to a room which can only be described as "atrocious". It was dark. It was smelly. And you were expected to pee right on the floor. Which others had done before us. No thanks. We opted instead to pee outside, camping style, by the car. And here's a helpful hint - passed on to me and which I now pass on to you - if you open both car doors on one side and do your thing in between the open creates a bit of privacy. Sort of. Boy, are my standards gone. As I huddled between the two doors, I distinctly remember looking up at the moon and wondering "How did this happen to be in my life?".

But I digress. Finally, around the 4 hour mark, the opening band started. They were a bit crazy and a bit awesome. Dudes loved to dance. The videos posted here do not do them justice. As far as I could tell, our group was still the only non-Congolese present.

After a couple hours or so, there was still no sign of Papa Wemba. During the night, I had been feeling quite ill from various Congo related ailments and I reluctantly came to the conclusion that I could live another day without the Papa Wemba experience. And so we decided to tap out for the night. As soon as we left, I had the feeling I was going to regret leaving. Of course, this was confirmed when we found out Papa Wemba arrived about 20 minutes later. On the plus side, my friend Lisa was able to get her picture taken on stage. And even without seeing Papa Wemba it was a really good and interesting night.

For future reference, for the next Papa Wemba concert, it's probably best to arrive around 1 or 2 am. At least. I also love the fact that when I made my exit from the club, it was amidst some punching and shoving between the police and people trying to get in. Oh, excuse me one moment while I scurry out under your fisticuffs. Don't mind me. Bonne soirée! Ah, the Congo nightlife. Always an experience.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Last week, there was a minor demonstration outside of our residence. We live next door to the Presidential Palace ("Palace") and, evidently, some government workers were extremely displeased with the lack of salary they were receiving. Understandably.

I was on the back balcony and began to hear singing, shouting, and whistles. Soon a large-ish crowd appeared. They were chanting, waving branches, and marching down the street towards the entrance to the palace grounds. Not exactly what you hope to see on your average day in Congo. As it happens to be, the entrance is blocked by a Republican Guard* checkpoint and guarded by AK-47 armed soldiers. One might call this an "undesirable situation". I think the equation goes like this: Congo rally protest + trigger happy non-trained soldiers = potential civilian target practice.

Fortunately, for everyone involved, nothing happened. The crowd let their grievances be known and somehow they all came to a peaceful resolution and dispersed without incident. Sophie and I watched this all unfold from behind a potted plant. Occasionally, during the loudest part of the demonstration, Sophie would give a little bark. I think she was mad at them for ruining her afternoon nap.

*Congolese President Kabila's "elite" guard force

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Bope Family

This weekend we visited our domestique (housekeeper), Emery, at his home. Emery's wife, Emerance, recently gave birth to their fourth child and we were invited over to see the baby and share a Congolese lunch with them. It has to be said: I love Emery. And I love his family. They are adorable peas in a Congo pod.

The Bopes live in a part of Kinshasa called Kintambo Magasin. Their home is not too far from where we live but, at the same time, it is worlds away. Emery's little house is also home to his wife, Emerance, his four children (Eva, Egliatone, Espoire, and new Terry), his mother, his mother-in-law, and his sister (and possibly 1 or 2 more). Everyone in the Bope family is so thoroughly awesome and made us feel completely welcome and honored to be there. Emery made us rice, fish, and beans for lunch and we had an incredibly happy and wonderful visit.

Emery's son, Espoir, on the American jungle gym aka Henry.

The newest member of the Bope family, baby Terry.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Congo Update

- A couple weeks ago Henry and I participated in our first HASH run. HASH is a worldwide running group that combines running and drinking to create one heck of a Sunday afternoon. On this HASH, we drove outside of the city and ran in the (hilly) countryside. During the run, some nearby village kids ran with us. They ran fast and had no shoes. I ran slow and had shoes. Rather humbling, but there it is.

-50 Cent is coming to Kinshasa on July 24th. And according to my husband, we are going to the concert. By the way, the number of 50 Cent concerts we attended, or wanted to attend, in the States: 0. But hey, it's something to do. I'd probably go see Michael Bolton if he came to Congo.

-Recent things I bought on Amazon include: Cheerios, apple sauce (pack of 36 no less), Taboo, a 3000 piece puzzle (feeling extra wild that day), gummy bears (which arrived melted together in one gigantic gummy blob), True Blood season 2 (!), 8 lbs. free weights, Pirate Booty, and a shoe rack. This list seems a little sad as I write it out. It's also a bit pitiful how receiving apple sauce in the mail is now exciting. Imagine the joy when the English muffins arrive.

-Sad news on the chubby wooden hippo front. After a short stint in the freezer (to kill off any potential bugs in the wood) I removed my newly bought hippo from his temporary ice age hibernation to begin a new life on my end table. But, unfortunately, Congo humidity was a big B and, shortly after resettling, my hippo suffered a large crack in his tubby belly. I'm going to try to perform some cosmetic surgery later today.

-This morning Sophie received a 5 minute belly rub from Beefy, the gardener. I am beginning to question if his name really is "Beefy". I am hearing conflicting reports. I even asked Beefy himself if "Beefy" was his name. He said "yes". But then later he said "no". And then he just nodded. Not sure what that means. But, fear not, I am nothing if not a good sleuth. I'll get to the bottom of this mystery. Case #001. Subject: the alleged Beefy. Status: unsolved.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What the...Michael Jackson?!

Some places may think it isn't all that important to have a life-sized tribute to Michael Jackson.

Those places would be wrong.

I think it is very clear from our discovery of the (unofficial) Kinshasa Michael Jackson Memorial Statue how critical a proper MJ homage is to the balance of life. From the looks of it, it appears the artist opted to go for the Michael Jackson circa 1994. But that's up for debate. I think the part I like best, other than this actually existing, is the way the statue is protectively roped off. There will be no touching on Michael. The rope will remind you, lest you forget. Show some respect.

Photo by Frank