Tuesday, June 24, 2008

the goat cycle

so on this trip i've seen a goat be born and i've seen one die. the life cycle of the poor, tasty goat.
it was saturday night, my hotel was hosting a wedding and they pretty much told me to scram. they could have told me this before they enshrouded the entire compound in toxic anti-mosquito smoke which darkened the view from my window, and seeped under my door, burning my eyes and stinging my throat. i ran through the fog and complained to the reception guy who sortof shrugged. he shall henceforth be known as chemical ali.
so i called my peeps to flee the gas chamber, and the only person who answered was dr. frank. a doctor by training, who gave up his budding medical career to work at the ministry of environment. (this place really is backwards). i figure he's got some good plans lined for the night and he swings by to pick me up. he usually drives a red stationwagon, but tonight we were privy to the lime green pimpin' 88 mercedes. there's green fuzzy carpet on the dashboard and ceiling, furry seats. i try pull my door closed and i end up pulling off the handle. i ask to roll down my window and he sifts through the glove compartment for a ratchet thing that will let me turn the little gear. the car has no shocks and you can hear the wheels hit the car body at every pothole. nice car, dr. frank.
all of dr. franks phones are ringing, and he is answering each one, and still attempting to drive. people are calling asking, what are we doing tonight? and he's all, you know, the usual, "on va bander a bandal, comme d'hab." (i will not translate).
bandal is a "point chaud" a strictly congolese neighborhood and this is the first time i don't see any UN vehicles or mondeles. there are people, parties everywhere. traffic jams, guys selling stuff on their heads, hawking bags of smoked meat. it's completely dark, dust gets kicked up in front of our headlights.
we ditch the car somewhere and go to a dark patio outside a convenience store with the typical plastic chairs and tables. it's a sea of people on this wide dirt sidewalk. along comes blanchard - which i guess is the male form of blanche. he's definitely not blanche, a big burly congolese guy who lives in...lasalle Quebec! ben ouais!
so we're just hanging out drinking beers, every 10 seconds someone tries to sell us cigarettes, peanuts, lighters, lemons, tissue, you name it. then we smell a fire cookin'. we all look at each other and in unison "chevre!"
we pay our bill and drive down the street to a place only a block away, of course we must cruise by the joint with our windows half down before we decide to sit down. it's a massive sidewalk goat bbq. we double back and go to park and hop a little curb and suddently hear a terrible noise from the under the car. it moves, but only with this ominous scraping creaking sound. we get out to inspect. one front wheel is pointing one way, and the other is at a totally different angle to the car. you definitely have a problem here. dr. frank pops the hood. uh, seriously dude, i don't think looking at the engine is going to help here, as i'm kicking the wheel which sortof rattles. he takes out the dipstick, checks some cables, knocks on a few parts. no, really, dude! your car is fucked. i push against the car to nudge it, and you can tell the whole wheel is completely detached from the vehicle. well, at least it's well parked.
we walk to a patio set up in front of a clothing store. we are conveniently within view and ear shot of what seems to be the biggest goat cooking operation in kinshasa. a stream of guys are bringing in these bundles of sticks on their heads and feeding the fires underneath these rusty oil drums. there are endless grills of meat, and some stands with goat fur, goat horns, innards and livers and stuff like that. the guys are talking, i just zone out, i'm completely focused on the goat zone, where they have just led a goat to on a leash. blanchard refuses to look, he winces, holds his ears and shakes his head like a little boy. they lift the goat and tie it's back legs to some rope hanging from the thatch hut. i hear a blood curdling bleat and it's goodbye goat. within minutes the head is gone, and it has been skinned. i briefly tune back to blanchard's story, something about cell phone coverage and then i see the goat get sliced down the front with a machete and the guy is just digging his hands in and pulling stuff out.
oh, here come the intestines! the guy calmly coils them with his hands, like how rock stars wrap up their guitar cords at the end of a gig. this is some heavy shit. less than a foot away from the fountains of blood, people are knocking back beers, laughing. after a few more minutes, the only thing left are two goat feet, dangling and spinning on pieces of rope.
at this point i have to pee. bad. i was hoping it would just go away but it didn't. i'm pretty sure that the clothing store and the video shop that are hosting this impromptu party don't have actual facilities. i have to raise the awkward question "where can i whiz?" blanchard and dr. frank argue about where to send me. it is not clean here, you need to go there. they start talking about getting aids and diseases from a bathroom and i'm like, guys, i can hover over a hole without getting TB, trust me, i'll be fine, just tell me where.
dr. frank decides that i will go pee in a discoteque a block away. we walk there and he does the head knocking hello thing (guys do this instead of kissing) with the bouncer and i go in. it's empty, except for the blacklights, seedy prostitutes in this teeny tiny one room place with a dancefloor. i go to the back door, which leads to an open courtyard. the men's bathroom is apparently anywhere, as dudes are zipping up their flies and leering at me. there's an arrow painted on a pockmarked wall pointing to the ladies room.
now, if a bathroom consists of several elements, like a toilet, a seat, toilet paper, maybe a flushing mechanism, all this place really had going for it was the door. i rolled my pants up to my knees before wading through the deep puddle and peed in some sort of pile. and this is the 'cleanest' bathroom around.
we return to our patio to find our goat served in a paper bag with onions and some chicken and some of that manioc crap that's so gross. our utensils are toothpicks, one each. we have to buy napkins from one of the kids. i don't recognize all the different textures, there's a lot of bone and gristle that you just spit onto the ground, but in the end, most of it is pretty friggin' tender.
the guys decide that they want to go dancing. i need to write a no dancing clause into my contract or something because all over this trip, all guys ever want to do is go dancing so they can rub up on me. i'm perfectly content to sit here and drink beer and watch more goats get slaughtered, but i guess if i'm ever going to see a kin night club, it's now. and so i prepare my "i don't know how to dance and i have a really bad back" speech, which has worked well so far..
we go to bombayala, a "ruthless" disco according to the sign. we enter after a high five from blanchard to each of the bouncers. they make me walk in first. great. record skipping, crowd parting - whothefuckisthis? some sort of tunnel vision nightmare full of angry people, one of the many moments i wish i could just darken my skin for a night.
we meet a cute girl with huge dreds who leads us to the back and shows us a door. a door that obivously goes to the bathrooms. they are pushing me in - i'm like, bathroom? why? no, i'm fine. what? blanchard insists. we pass the men's room with its glorious views of guys peeing freely, then the women's room with a line of ladies adjusting their halter tops and finally, the handicap bathroom. blanchard kicks open the door and voila, the secret back bar. nice job!
mirrors on every wall and ceiling, people dancing with their reflection, major blacklights, green lasers, disco balls, everything. thankfully, these girls prove their desire to dance with me and take my hands and stuff, and so the guys go find someone else (after they take their wedding rings off of course). i really hope these girls i'm dancing with are not prostitutes.
at one point though, blanchard is facing me, but he's not actually dancing with me, as he's really just grinding his huge butt into a chick behind him. awesome.
the novelty is over, we start hearing the same songs again, and no one has bought me a drink, i'm outta here. my awesome taximan, baby, from last time, his number still works! he cannot believe where he is picking me up. crazy mondele!
i get to my hotel and this time the guards weren't asleep - they were piss drunk. the old fat papi tried to bear hug me. the other cried "our favorite little portuguese girl!" a third one came stumbling out of the bushes. so the wedding c'etait le fun, hein? mais oui!!! but next time we will marry youuuu! i watched this spectacle for a few moments, these dizzied, dancing, mumbling wastoids. i shoulda have captured video of their antics. i squeezed in the sliding door and high fived chemical ali who spilled his beer onto the computer keyboard. i tell you, these people know how to party.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Quelle horreur ! Et on se plaint des Français qui accrochent les pauvres lapins dépouillés de leur fourrure à la devanture des magasins.