Wednesday, August 4, 2010


oly shit bolobo. descending the congo river in our speedboat, it's getting dark so we pull into a harbour that is dominated by rusty shipwrecks, one of them an overturned large canoe-like thing with a tree growing out of it, guarded by military guys. Dodo the boat driver urges me to put away the camera. the sounds of children and people are emanating from all over this village. we jump out of the boat, everyone forgetting to remove their bright orange life vest which only adds to the perception that we are aliens. we leave Dodo to guard the boat and head to the missionary place to check if they have room.

we walk up through the village, leading a parade of children. we pass the trait d'union, former bar turned convenience shop, and the humble abode of kingboy.
kingboy lives here
we arrive at a serene missionary establishment with goats and chickens and they serve us cold beer while we wait for our rooms. we are repeatedly made aware of the rules: NO COUPLES.
i gladly accept my single room, letting the guys duke out their bunk beds.
We go back to the boat and get intercepted by the CGM, who was apparently notified by the priest (jerk). it's a guy in a cardinals jersey and his assistant in uniform with a 70s briefcase. they hassle us, rather rudely that they were inconvenienced by our unannounced arrival. we make them follow us to our boat.
we find Dodo managing well. he's apparently used to this, living, sleeping on the boat, guarding it from thieves. i ask him if he needs anything, and no, he's already managed to get a beer and dinner, and is giving himself a shave.
we grab our stuff, bid farewell to dodo and walk back up the hill. the CGM assistant guy is now eagerly asking for my number, but at the same time hassling us for money. where is the logic? we tell the main guy that we see through his bullshit but he argues that he is very important, and has a lot of work dealing with visitors, and he stops, instructs his assistant to open his suitcase to show us a wrinkled picture of a white guy with sunglasses. this guy is a very important belgian from kinshasa, and of course we know him, because we are white therefore we know all the white people in kinshasa. cardinals puts the picture back in the suitcase like he won this round and continues to follow us as we completely ignore them.
we get to the missionary and our tactics no longer work, we can't shake these guys. we finally give them our passports and lead them to our room and leave them while we drink 12 more beers in the courtyard.
they scrutinze every detail of our papers and passports, write stuff down and call people but they got nuthin'. meanwhile, we're drunk and hungry.
the missionary guy promises that our dinner will be ready in one hour, at 830pm. we are very hungry and from previous experiences where my colleagues went dinnerless at this place they don't believe him and we start to exit the compound in search for some famous bolobo grilled fish. but the missionary argues, ok dinner at 815 pm! geert presents a challenge:
we will go eat some fish and return at 9pm and if the dinner is on the table then we eat and we will pay for it.
if we return at 9pm and dinner is not ready, then we will wait and eat it and will not pay for it.
the aspiring priest thinks for a minute and hesitates, ok.
i asked geert what's the deal and he answers, "this is africa, you need to bet on two horses" and it makes sense.
we walk in the absolute pitch dark towards the nighttime fish market.
this place is nutso. there's no electricty, just candles, people, fish. it smells like fish. it's dark. the most wonderful part is that it is so dark no one knows we are mondele and we can walk through and mingle unnoticed. big fish, small fish, smelly fish. geert negotiates something with yves, one of the missionary boys, but i am too much in awe of all the fish hacking, yelling, singing, pushing, to notice. we meet up at the bar and instruct the aspiring priest to get our fish grilled and deliver to the bar. he eagerly embarks on his mission.
we get drunk, i deal with the pharmacy (story to follow), and a few beers later, our fish still hasn't arrived.
we ditch the aspiring priest for our dinner appointment. we're actuall 30 minutes late and dinner has just been served. we are hungry and won't argue technicalities. i sit down to eat and find one of the other missionary guys hitting on me. wtf, aren't you guys supposed to be celibate?
we talk to a doctor who rattles on depressing statistics about malarial deaths which outnumber hiv cases. johannes and i tell priest and rabbi jokes. hours later, we're about to go to bed and in comes yves, whom we had ditched at the market and totally forgotten about. your fish! it is uncooked. we specifically instructed him to cook the fish, and this was hours ago, what have you been up to since then?? geert lambasts him. we give the fish to the cook and go to bed. yves bows his head in shame, but along with his buddies follows me to my room and watches me undress through the curtains, and eagerly invite me to morning mass. oh don't worry, we will make sure we skidaddle before services!
at 6 am the sounds of bells emanate from the bell tower of the church. but these are not real bells, this is a recording of the vatican bells, but played at the same volume as the bar music, which means scratchy and barely discernible. i go to the restroom and hold my nose, and ultimately decide to hold my urge to pee or poop until we get to kinshasa.
goodbye bolobo.

1 comment:

pbwiener said...

Hi. Just a note to say I love your blog, your writing and your life. I hope you'll think of publishing much of it (the blog) as a book; it's as good as many of the better travel/adventure writers. I've worked with your mom at Stony Brook for many years, and am a big fan of hers too. Blame her for showing me your blog. Keep it going! - Paul Wiener