Tuesday, June 29, 2010

30 June

This week the DRC celebrates 50 years of independence. Sure there is heightened security, possible unrest, and insane traffic. But the most impressive product of the anniversary is the rush to complete certain improvements before the guests of importance arrive, such as the King of the Belgians. Like a true procrastinator, DRC worked up until the very last second; painting buildings, walls, and road lines, paving, and hanging flags all over the place.

As the dash to revivify the city concludes, it all seems like a bit of a sham. It's like your house is a mess and people are coming over so you shove everything that will fit in a closet and the rest in the stove. But better something than nothing.

It is such a momentous occasion that they even turned on the street lights, though this probably means that there is no power somewhere else in Kinshasa. It's pretty much an absolute certainty that the lights will go out again once the independence celebration is over. You can only have fun for so long.

Please also note the pavement and road lines. Painted by hand with TLC.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Frank!

Our friend, Frank, came to see us in Kinshasa.

Of all the things that made this visit memorable, here is the top 10 list:

#10
Simultaneously watching a World Cup game and a goat being chopped up at a local eating/drinking establishment.

#9
Those whacky Bonobos and their pervy ways. "Pervy ways" included lots of monkey love and a very indecent act with some foliage and a deflated basketball.

#8
Taking Frank to dinner at the Indian restaurant, Taj. Restaurant has a roof deck and great view of the city. Questionable safety on the elevator ride up. Questionable safety on the 8 flights of stairs down.

#7
Eat at Nandos to show off DRC commercialization.

#6
Frank enjoying the Congo nightlife via the nightclub Cheetah 2.

#5
Traffic = horrible. In preparation for the 50th Anniversary of DRC Independence on June 30th, many of the roads are closed and/or under construction. We spent 6 hours in the car on the should-be-40-minute ride home from the airport. And Frank spent another 5+ hours in the car on the way back a couple days later. Brutal.

#4
Trip to the Thieves Market. Large pile of burning tires (a step up from burning trash because of the thick black smoke). Henry bought a large carved staff (which, according to the seller, was "made for the tribal king"). Frank bought a mask. I bought a chubby wooden hippo.

#3
Frank jumping off the boat into the Congo River.

#2
Frank swimming in the Congo River and removing self from said river 20 seconds later.

And #1
The mere fact that Frank was even willing to give the Congo experience a try.

At present, the number of people who have come to hang out in Kinshasa, including Frank, is exactly 1. This makes Frank a rare commodity. Kinshasa is neither easy nor inexpensive to access and once you arrive, it's not like you are immediately enveloped in an embarrassment of riches. Quite the opposite actually.

Who's up next?

Photos by Frank!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Great Wall of Pee Pee

This is the Great Wall of Pee Pee. Well, at least that's what we've heard it called (among other variations on the ending). It's right around the corner from where we live and a visibly popular place for locals to pee on their way to work. And on the way home. And while on a walk. It always seems to be in use by someone(s). It surprises me more when we pass the wall and there is no one peeing. For a little while we saw corn growing at the wall and that was disturbing. No one wants pee wall veggies.

I would show a picture of the Pee Wall in use, but I'm pretty sure it's not nice to take pictures of people while they go potty and then post them on your blog. Even if it is kinda funny and in public.

...And now I've written a blog entry about pee. I expect it to be the last.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Everybody loves Kinshasa*

*At Brussels Airlines

According to the Brussels Airlines website:

Kinshasa is a city with modern shops and restaurants, but it is known above all as the birthplace of African music.

It is one of Africa’s biggest cities and is the administrative, economic and cultural centre of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is a cheap city with a very lively nightlife. Kinshasa has suffered greatly from turbulent changes in the past few years. A visit is certainly worthwhile in order to experience the atmosphere of this city.

A list of sights would fail to do justice to Kinshasa. You must certainly sample the atmosphere of this big African city. Living in Kinshasa is a special experience, since the city is surrounded by countryside full of tropical rainforest and endangered species of animals.

Well, this is definitely the "glass half full" approach. Let's take a look at their description...

Kinshasa is a city with modern shops and restaurants, but it is known above all as the birthplace of African music.

By "modern", I suppose they must mean things like the elevator at the Indian restaurant and....Um...I guess I'm out of other examples.

It is one of Africa’s biggest cities and is the administrative, economic and cultural centre of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Ok, this is probably true. But let's be honest, we need a big caveat on the end...like "But keep in mind, none of it works very well."

It is a cheap city with a very lively nightlife.

Erroneous! Unless your definition of "cheap" includes $25 for frozen peas. As for the nightlife, I hear some of the local clubs are pretty "lively". And I have definitely been flashed by hookers on the street on more than one occasion. Lady bits and all.

Kinshasa has suffered greatly from turbulent changes in the past few years. A visit is certainly worthwhile in order to experience the atmosphere of this city.

Yes, a lovely visit to Kinshasa is the ticket to happiness. It's a great chance to experience all that a failing city has to offer. A must see! Don't let the opportunity to inhale burning Kinshasa trash slip away!

A list of sights would fail to do justice to Kinshasa.

Is it bad that the list of sights matches "10 of world's worst infectious diseases" on the CDC website and many of the UN human rights violations?

You must certainly sample the atmosphere of this big African city. Living in Kinshasa is a special experience, since the city is surrounded by countryside full of tropical rainforest and endangered species of animals.

The endangered species here are the humans. But, they are right on one thing, living here is certainly a "special experience".

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Jurassic Park could happen...

Today, Henry had a conversation with one of the Congolese security guards. It was about dinosaurs.

In French...

Security guard: So you know about these dinosaurs?
Henry: Yes, I know of dinosaurs.
Security guard: Do you know where they live?
Henry: We are talking about the very large reptile looking creatures, right?
Security guard: Yes.
Henry: The enormous lizard like things, bigger than elephants?
Security guard: Yes.
Henry: Um, they don't live anywhere because they are all dead.
Security guard: Really?! What happened?

*Henry retrieves dinosaur knowledge and decides to present two theories...

Henry: Well, one possibility is that there was a huge meteor that hit Earth...and they all died. And the other is it got really cold...and they all died.
Security guard: Wow. When did this happen?
Henry: Not so recently. Millions and millions of years ago.

So there you go.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Soccer Game

Warming up for the World Cup, my friend L and I went to a US Embassy Kinshasa vs. US Embassy Brazzaville soccer game. The players are all Congolese embassy employees and it was a really good match (in my expert soccer opinion, of course). The goals have no nets, there are definitely no lines on the field (or grass, for that matter), and there are only enough uniforms for the active players in the game. We asked what the substitutes wear when it's their turn to go in and, duh, they just switch with the outgoing player. Given this fun fact, I think it's quite advantageous to be a starter.

Our new friend and fellow sideline commentator. I think the word needed to describe the situation here is "cutie pa-tootie".