Monday, November 26, 2012

5 year anniversary

being a sagitarrius it's not often that i am cleaning sand out of my hair on my birthday!
but this year was second birthday celebrated in kinshasa, actually, as I turned 30, 5 years ago during my first visit to this crazy country. on both, congo gave me the gift that keeps on giving: diarhhea.
anyway, my colleague cyril was born the same day and year, and so, during one of our philosophical conversations about being 35 years old, which is practically the life expectancy in congo, we decided we should do something to commemorate this occasion. 
first, we went food shopping. meat, beer, wine, summer roll fixins. then, we called mr. kibinda at the ole yacht club of kinshasa and arranged a boat, bbq, tent, with a dude to take us to a sandy island in the middle of the congo river. we put together our list of guests, and i even got to pick which of cyril's son's friends could join us. i picked the super smart half dutch boy with the big ears. he's my favorite of the little gang of 9 ear old expats i've gotten to know these weeks.
so on saturday night, we made summer rolls. a ton of them. i got a little creative and started making designs with the cabbage and carrots (did some interlaced plaid, inspired by my brother), and even started writing our friends names in vegetables, and you could see it through the skin. how awesome is that? then, well, we got pretty drunk and had some more philosophical conversations, mine stirred up mostly by this other girl who is working with us, at home she is fixing up a sailboat and getting ready to go around the world in it for 5 years or something, and, well, it just makes you feel just a little lame in comparison. you know, i have 2 cats. anyway we drank a lot of wine and ate some local ice cream we had picked out (yes! the lebanese have finally brought ice cream to kinshasa!) and drank some more and finally just sat outside totally quiet watching the torrential was too rainy and late to call papi so i crashed on the couch. in the morning we went to my house to pick up my stuff and my italian grandma scolded me like i had snuck out or something, i think i'm grounded. also, i need to clean my room.

take a ride to kisangani? we have both men and women's toilets!
anyway, the road to the yacht club is black, stinky mud, probably mixed with oil or something. people who live in shipping containers selling smoked fish - only their idea of smoking is putting it in a homemade rattan grill thing and carbonizing it to something vaguely recognizeable, looks like black charcoal with eye holes. someone should really teach them about preserving fish so it's actually edible.
we got in our boat. and. it rained. and rained. there was a delicate point when i thought, this might turn really bad. after an hour we weren't laughing as much anymore. half of us were huddled under the canopy tent we brought, which the wind kept on picking up and dumping its water onto some unlucky person and then ripping up all the stakes. try staking something into wet sand...i was soaked through my clothes, muddy sand everywhere, my lingering stomach cramps gaining strength...the kids didn't care they were playing in the warm water and finally i joined them for an hour long mud fight and my fruitless attempts to drown the dutch kid when finally...the sun came out. grill was lit, little game of frisbee, some rum punch, perfect! and the summer rolls. everyone is all wow, and picking out their customized rolls. we even had napkins, plates, and the whole time me and cyril are all, wow, we really pulled this together, hey folks, how about some ice cubes made with potable water?  "on a assurĂ© grave!" and sailboat girl she's sitting there, eating a fresh, delicous summer roll with her name on it (also vegetarian to fit her diet), and she goes you know, i really find your peanut sauce too thick. it's definitely too thick. and she's like picking at it. didn't you have soy sauce? now, i should mention that the sauce was that morning, under a pretty severe hangover/diarhhea/no sleep situation and actually, i made it thick so that it would stick to the roll when you put it in the bowl and wouldn't dribble on your shirt. also, peanut butter, if you don't want the chinese stuff costs like, 18$. like i said, j'ai assurĂ© grave. so yeah, i had a look on my face that i guess said, you're on an island in the middle of the congo river eating a summer roll with your name on it, and you are complaining because the peanut sauce is too thick? so, i water it down nice and good, so it's all liquidy and oh oh! shame, it dribbles on her shirt, which she has to wash in the river. ha ha.

deserted island bbq...
anyway, it's difficult to imagine you are only 3km away from a city of millions of people, kinshasa on one side, brazza on the other, lebanese guys on jetskis zipping around, and just over here, turning 35 where people live in huts and fish from their pirogues...and eat them without having to smoke them to a pulp. and i'll take that over living on a cramped sailboat for 3 years.

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