Thursday, November 22, 2007

thanksgiving in kin

happy thanksgiving to me. i ate a fish stew in a banana leaf, along with 75 cl of Primus (like the band) beer.
so i made it to kinshasa! where to begin...i flew from washington on an overfull flight (middle seat! ugh) arrived in paris at the ridiculously early hour of 6 am. there were no open stores, no people, only vast benches and as i passed out in one, some clingy fat american couple who, out of the million available, empty, vacant! seats chose the one inches from my head to plop their sweatpantsed arses in and rant about the laziness of the french. sigh.
i boarded my flight to kinshasa and was seated in a row with a bunch of homies from philly with huge diamond stud earrings, gold chains and vulgar t-shirts who kept calling me "dawg." after their conversation about dropping beats intruded into my half-sleep, i figured they were into some sort of music. the plane took off and the coolest thing about this airbus was that there's a camera mounted on the front of the plane and you can watch live video of what's happening on your personal screen. once we took off, the view was switched to directly below the aircraft. me and my boy were transfixed. the only phrase that was uttered in the first 25 minutes of flying over paris and its
southern suburbs was "this is seriously blowing my shit right now." our trance was ended by the steward who advised us that there were plenty of seats in the back if we wanted to stretch out. dawg announced "hell yeah! to all my peoples who are jetlagged, to all those who haven't slept in 3 days, to all you sleepless niggas i be represENTIN'!" and found a nice four seater row to lay out in. he then whined that he forgot his plush neck pillow but some skinny punky english guy brought it to him immediately. i slept and dreamt, awoke to a coconut chicken and beaujolais nouveau.
i went back to my original seat to get my book when i found dawg #2 curled up in my seat. turns out he's famous.
as i precariously extricated my belongings from the seatback pocket some congolese guy across the aisle asks me if i know De La Soul. "uh, yeah, sure i do."
"you are travelling with them? to kinshasa?"
"that's the dude from De La Soul. and that guy over there, that's the other one."holy crap! so i go back to my 4 seater and ask my boy, are you all really De La Soul? He ro
lls his eyes and says, well, THOSE guys are, I'm the DJ from the Roots. holy crap! my favorite juke box go to song is the seed! awesome.
so we land in kinshasa some 4 hours later. i have to pee SO bad. we exit the plane, walk between all these UN aircraft and angry looking congolese police when i get my first public bathroom experience - typical, really. no seat, no toilet paper and diarhea smears on the walls and sink. awesome. i don't think i flushed, sorry.
i go through customs and get hassled by the red cross trying to decipher my yellow fever documents. i realize i'm in room with no clear exit. there's a stairway on one end that doesn't seem to go anywhere and on the other side, a thick wooden door with these opaque glass walls on which i see about 50 hands banging incessantly. there's a mob on the other side of this door. no one else is leaving the room. the roots and de la are being quarantined by the red cross. others are chatting, hugging. i'm the only one trying to leave this room. the wooden door is locked. i'm about to turn the key when a police officer starts yelling at me, you! this way! and he unlocks the door next to the door and pushes me through. there are people yelling, tugging, holding signs, asking me about my luggage one after another they are coming right in my face when in the back i see Moses, holding up a card with my name. he ushers me to the baggage claim which is total madness. it's about 1/45th the size of a normal baggage claim, so there's only 25 feet or so from which you can see and gather your bags. meanwhile, there are guys jumping all over the moving carpet, grabbing bags and perching them on this high inaccessible shelf. i figure these are the bags you have to pay to retrieve. i'm getting pushed, nudged. rain is dripping from the neon lights al lover me. moses is talking to his buddies and i'm trying to make sure no one is sticking their hands into my bag. thankfully my bag isn't selected for the perch. moses grabs the light, portable tube of maps and shouts "let's go!" leaving me to carry my 45 pound bag, my laptop, my duty free beaujolais nouveau (gift for tomorrow's bbq), and my carryon. i'm barely able to balance it all as as we get to the door moses says "it's raining, let us wait." so he goes back to talk to his friends and i'm warding off the constant crowd of beggars, scammers, whathaveyou. i'm sick of this, i tell moses i'm not afraid of rain, let's go. we then exit the main door and into mob #2. just like the mob you see on the simpsons, only instead of moe, you have armless guy. and instead of bumble bee man you have severely diseased little boy. kinda creepy. i manage to catch up with moses who is comfortably jogging and passes off my map tube to some other guy and this young boy becomes my personal umbrella man. he meticulously points out puddles and does not let one single drop of rain fall on any part of my body. he also does not offer to help me with any of my 4 bags. we traverse the parking lot, wade through lakes of dirty water, rivers of garbage, at one point i had to jump 3 feet over a calvert. umbrella man is trying to whisper in my ear. "eh! pas de drague toi!" shouts moses (no flirting!). i get to the WWF truck to be introduced to a smiling patrick. WELCOOOOOOOOOOME! he shouts. i ride shotgun, and there's a swarm of people following me, waiting for their pay. umbrella man asks for euros. no problem, here's two (that's worth 5 bucks ya know!). i give a fiver to one buy and moses goes, no, not him! HIM! and there's an ensuing fiasco over my money and i don't care i shut my door and patrick drives away. we drive through an apparent zombie land. there are people EVERYWHERE. barefoot ladies with giant mixing bowls on their heads in the middle of the streets, guys with random t-shirts that say "i'm a proud lady wildcat" with a picture of a field hockey stick and everything in between. there's a bashed up renault with only 3 wheels that drives half off the road. a broken down bus, a truck overloaded with bags of rice, a tractor trailer with no lights meandering between lanes. there are no street lights - well, there are street lights, they're just not on. there are no traffic lights, you just, go. there are eerie candle lit markets, bonfires, bars, patio tables, and umbrellas. there are people pushing cars, changing tires, flipping over sedans. i see a police officer pull a man out of a car and punch him in the face. there are stairs to nowhere - stairs that would be one of those pedestrian overpasses, though they're missing the overpass part. there are busted up billboards. potholes deeper than i am tall. this is crazy. no one honks, all the drivers are very vigilant and courteous. there's a minivan which looks like it has an endless supply of people. it keeps stopping and letting 3 or 4 people out. patrick tells me how they fit everyone. "where your feet are, there are three people, sometimes five. in the trunk, at least 8..."
we talk about thanksgiving and beaujolais nouveau, about how rain is a blessing and politics (he doesn't like bush or rumsfeld), and where patrick comes from - kinsangani which was pretty much empty since the war. he tells me that the streets are actually empty, there are way more when it's not raining - i can't imagine what this looks like. he puts on some great congolese music. he talks and drives, not seeming to care how often we can't see through the windshield. and then i'm here, at the memling. it's basically the level of a best western. most of the clientele is white, working for the UN. the menu at the restaurant has duck, lobster, foie gras. i ordered the one thing i didn't recognize : liboke. my waiter tells me it's delicious, and it is. the only thing cold that doens't come with dysentery ice cubes is primus beer. it comes in one size: huge. and this is what i am eating for thanksgiving.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

DeLaSoul ? Cékiça ? R. dit que je suis vraiment inculte. Il trouve le CD dans sa collection et maintenant je suis au parfum ...