Saturday, November 24, 2007


i wanted to go back to the airport to pick with patrick to pick up some colleagues flying in - a chance to see the crazy airport road in the daylight, during friday rush hour. we went through a pretty shady hood full of drunks and card players to pick up moses. at one point, in the middle of all these patio tables we pass all these dressed up people sitting in seats facing a tent (like a huppa) decorated with white satin and flowers. oh, a wedding! i exclaim. patrick doesn't even look, says...uh, actually, that's a funeral. really?? so i take a closer look and yup, there's the socked feet of a corpse in a glass coffin. oh, i feel really bad. "ah, there's actually not much difference," he says, "it's a big party all the same." we pulled over and waited for moses, we stopped the engine and turned up some killer congolese reggae - the funeral wouldn't mind i guess. this immediately drew the attention of all the cassette tape vendors who crowded my window. moses suddenly busted in the back seat "j'ai du chevre!" which to me would usually mean "i have goat cheese!" but here it means marinated bbq'd goat, bones, tendons and all. he unfolded a paper bag and put it on the middle console (threw the empty pepsi can that was there out the window). taaaasty. so we drove off, took a shortcut by careening around a bus and through a dirt field and onto some sort of muddy by-pass. soon, other people figured out the shortcut too, and we were knocking rearview mirrors with trucks, buses with bullet holes in them and about 150 people crowded inside, with "securite et confort" written on the side...i saw a land rover side-ram a minibus and lose its bumper. kids were running out to pick up the pieces, patrick saw an opportunity to escape the potential running over of children and we swerved around everyone on the left - and discovered why no one was using this side of the street- we bumbled through a giant muddy pothole the precise size and volume of my brother's hot tub. we ambled out and the car started making weird noises. people were honking, yelling...there's no soon as i was able to open my window (there was a pedestrian crowd leering and smooshing their faces against the glass, including the guys who have giant bags of little bags of water on their heads, selling them through the bus windows) i noticed we had a flat tire. but not just a flat tire, a totally destroyed blown out tire. i imagine for a moment i am in iraq and i'm going to be dragged out of this car, but no. we pull over to a quiet side street next to, oddly a pile of old blown out tires. patrick goes to get the jack and the spare, i ask moses if he's going to help and he says no way, he's le chauffeur, i am the immigration official! yes, it turns out we pay moses a salary to get people through border control without problems. he's good at his job. moses also had some sweet pin stripe pants and a sparkling white shirt so i guess i didn't blame him for not helping. he chatted on one of his three cell phones, i overheard flight info and the description of my colleague (white, blonde, american passport) while i praised patrick for changing the tire faster than the guys in the paris-dakar. turns out we had ran over a huge key that just sliced the whole thing open. i wanted to take a picture of our crowning achievement when moses goes no no no no NO! and i quickly put away my camera before two military dudes and police officers from across the field come running over, guns pointed, sweating, screaming, shouting, the impression that i was going to be looking at the barrel of a rifle soon came over me so we quickly pretended like we weren't there, threw everything in the truck and sped away.
so, you can't take pictures in kinshasa. i read this somewhere and i see that it's quite true. for some reason, they just HATE cameras. like, really really REALLY hate them. like put you in jail for even trying to capture a moment. i found out some guy visiting tried to take a picture of a building once and had people block in his car, lay on his hood, until the police got in his front seat and hit him with the butt of a gun and dragged him to jail. so, no pictures. so glad i bought a new camera! the only ones i can safely take are inside. like the one of another patrick, my gis assistant, drinking what we call terrorist coca-cola, because everything on the can is written in arabic. i guess they import it from dubai or something. where's my nutritional information?!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How about artist's renditions? Can you carry a manual camera with a secret push-button cable on your head and mix into the local crowd?