Saturday, February 25, 2012

oh, le grand marché d'enfer

so, after all these years i finally found someone crazy enough to bring me to the grande marché de kinshasa: the chinese girl from my office who goes there every weekend (alone!).
so, it was an adrenaline fueled hour of complete insanity. you have to climb over bags of rice and boxes and piles of dirty garbage and jump over open sewers and people trying to touch you and pull your hair and talk to you.
and they sell everything, everything, but lettuce. didn't see any lettuce. but there were used shoes, used underwear, used garbage bags, mini expensive tomatoes, squash that looked like huge capers, peanuts, cruched peanuts, cabbage, smoked monkey heads. live fish, live caterpillars, dead caterpillars (bought some), charcoal, hair extensions, people who will cut your hair and then put in extensions, grey coarse salt, t-shirts that read "fart loading, please wait" with the little computer bar underneath at 15%, a huge jewelry aisle, brooms, gargantuan metal pots. all this, in a giant mud pit. i mean, ankle deep slippery stinky grey mud.
most of the women selling stuff were super nice, they didn't mind pictures, they yelled mondele! and then chinoise! and we would scream back, congolese! congolese! and then we would have a big laugh.
there were guys in knee high rubber boots lugging giant wheelbarrow things, and would help you load your stuff if you had a lot of it. then a school bus would come by, running over all the stands, splashing mud everywhere. and there were puppies, birds, chickens. my heart was racing. i was sweaty.
people are always sweeping, sweeping dirt, sweeping garbage, sweeping the mud and garbage into big piles of mud and garbage, mudbage, i guess.
i came with absolutely nothing in my pockets, no jewelry, not even any deoderant (reputably the most dangerous part of kinshasa) and came out with a whole meal for less than 5$.
we stopped at the insane fabric place, that is floor to ceiling african fabrics. insane. i bought some great wax batik stuff, though got as expected lost in their bureaucratic system, how is it that you need to interact with 4 different people just to buy a darn piece of cloth? There's the guys all holding scissors and going snip snip snip! can i help you! and you say, yes, i don't want 12 meters of cloth, i really just want two.
i refuse to cut this beautiful cloth!
and so you move on to the next guy....the next guy would have the line of religious fabrics, with jesus, the pope, or a lamb, the lamb of god, and then there are the ones of kabila, the international women's day, even fabrics with aboriginal designs of prada bags and high heeled shoes. so then you pick out your cloth, they write a code on a piece of paper, and then you take the paper to the lady who prints a receipt, and then you take the receipt the person you pay and stamps your receipt and then you take the stamped receipt to the guy with the pile of fabriks, where the fabrik you chose has somehow made it to the pile. in my case, my fabrik wasn't there, and i got an ugly orange neon fabrik with snakes on it and i had to start all over again. anyway, the people there were super nice there, and i guess because i was a little visibly stressed, they kept saying "a l'aise, a l'aise, madame" and it was sortof air conditioned, so it was nice, and as i came out of my heat/stress daze, i finally started to relax, but once i stepped out onto the street as my eyes were still adjusting two guys grabbed me and tried to throw me into some giant bricks, and they took my phone that i had down my pants :(
there were a million people around, and they all just kinda shrugged like, that's totally normal, just like that man over there with no hands, begging. everyday ho hum. and so a security guy who saw the whole thing said, oh, gee, that guy is the worst, he always does that! you know, you should have told me before he did that, i would have done something, but now, i don't think he's going to bring your phone back.
and so we walked back to the car.
they told me not to bring anything, it was my own fault, i even expected it, and changed the password on my phone beforehand just in case. 
so i tried to find some images of le grand marché on the internet for you, but none do it any justice - it's not nearly as empty and organized and dry and calm as what google tells you!
and so, that's the first and last time i'll go to the grand marche. been there, done that.
now, we're off to relax in the savannahs of bombolo-lumene with some well armed escorts, and no phone, no internet, just the sounds of whatever animals are still left alive. goodbye for now, kinshasa!


Anonymous said...

"Fart loading"...Fantastic! Next time bring the buzzer thing from a boardgame and tell them it is a Yahtzee edition Blackberry.

Anonymous said...

Dieu merci tu n'emportes pas ton porte-monnaie mais mon conseil serait "rien dans les mains et rien dans les poches "!!!