back to the heart of africa. if you were to split africa into two types of countries, you'd have the beret countries, and the non-beret countries, reflecting the dress of the police. beret guys are angry with guns, non beret guys are not. namibia is a non-beret country, DRC, beret. you get it.
when you travel from a non-beret country to a beret country, it takes some getting used to. first of all, the seat number on your boarding pass only determines the general vicinity of where you will sit. i think it's only a rule that you be within 10 rows. if someone isn't in your seat, there's probably someone next to you with a card for somewhere 7 rows down on the other side of the aisle. this usually isn't a problem, people figure it out, southwest style, until some UN bitch on her cell phone with her white jeans (who can get away with having white jeans stay white in africa??) shows up and wants to sit in her seat, and only her seat. i do not want 21C, i want my seat, 22C. so then everyone has to get up and rearrange, like one of those little puzzles with the moving squares and the one empty space. so we had to move the 90 year old handicapped woman and the lady with three babies and delay departure so miss espana can sit where she chooses. miss espana was in a super crummy mood because they made her check her huge suitcase at the gate. they were having some sort of space crisis so anyone with those rolly suitcases that everyone believes is carryon size but isn't, had to check them. my bag was just as big, but i managed to slip by the tagging guy while a congolese passenger started making a scene. perfect timing. i wanted to back him up though, seriously faux-hawked south african airways guy, have you ever been to the kinshasa airport? it's like the bargain bin at filene's basement on the day after christmas. if they had made me check my stuff, i would have just as well bought a whole other ticket on another plane because it would have been cheaper than replacing all my personal electronics.
so in the departure lounge i had gotten all pissed in my mind at my travel agent, because i saw on the board that there was a kinshasa-joburg flight that landed in time for me to connect to DC on my way home - and would have prevented me from spending another night in hellhole joburg at the end of my trip (lonely planet guide: if you have to go to johannesburg, find a reason not to. if you still have to go, don't go outside. if someone mugs you and you're white, they'll assume you have a gun, which means they definitely have a gun). anyway, the airline was HBA though, never heard of it. landing in kin, i saw their fleet. hera-bowa airlines or something. um, have you ever flown on a plane with visible rust? one side of the nose was dented in, concave, like they had a fender bender with a boeing.
the n'djili airport was just like i remembered it: chaos. my star handler moses was waiting at immigration, with his huge dolce & gabana belt buckle, fly pointed shoes, fresh pinstripe suit with a pink silk tie and killer shades. i gave him some biltong (game meat jerkey from SA) and he patted the customs guy on the shoulder, who serenely halted opening my bag to search it.
i used the toilet, which wasn't hooked up to any flushing mechanism, just a bowl. the sink, just a sink with holes, no spiggots or anything. AND someone actually asked me to pay a dollar to pee.
the baggage claim is also like i remembered it. everyone crowds around with their baggage ticket in their hand like they are betting on a horse race. they check every single bag that comes around and compare it with their number to see if they win. oh! so close! #124996, and i have #124995! so what, as if their belongings may have jumped cases, like a hermit crab or something? is what they checked maybe different than what comes out? so the bags go around, and these guys red in jumpsuits go around on the conveyor too. like, you can choose your bag AND the guy to carry it for you. i don't need a guy, cuz i got moses, right? and so i keep having to turn them away. moses is hanging around with his boys, and talking on one of his phones and when i have everything he picks the lightest bag, like my laptop. so then i do get a baggage guy and he's not happy with the $2 i'm giving. like, that's a lot, shut up. i've given away so many single bills, it's a good thing i came prepared like a stripper.
it was amazing coming in on a sunday afternoon. everyone is out on the street. piles of garbage, piles of tires, piles of junk on wheels that still run, couches for sale in the dirt under trees, people stuffed into vans that have airholes cut out of the sides, and a pleasant new addition - community gardens everywhere. green plants growing in all the medians. cool.
kinshasa round 2. it's totally the opposite of namibia, but way better in my opinion.