Thursday, November 15, 2012

this isn't buca di beppo's

my italian host family is the best.  i have watched more berlusconi tv in 4 days than in my whole life. espresso every morning. my poor french colleague, i set her up with another woman who answered my ad, and it's the opposite. i come home to fresh made cake, she comes home to the empty yogurt containers she just bought at the store (yogurts are more expensive than wine!). and her host is just not used to having a roommate, and does stuff like leaving the key in the lock on the inside of the door and then going to sleep and then my friend has to knock and knock and knock. 
i have been trying to explain to my hosts filiberto and maria what a buca di beppo is. they do the italian wave thing when i told them about the pope room. they tell me about trying to cook for 300 people amidst a power outage. or how the really rich congolese customers ask if the salmon is frozen and then complain about it. they say stuff like "i was in europe last week and the salmon was fresh." maria says yes, the customer is always right - i will fish her salmon out of the fleuve congo next time!
i invited the french coleague and the italian/nigerian/british girl alex to dine, as well as a guy i met on the plane, an eager new to kinshasa expat kinda guy who is here to start a garbage segregation program. which, when you tell anyone about it they laugh. you can really laugh at the thought of a congolese guy in the slums, standing there with no shoes in front of a yellow, green and blue bin. alex is all, people in italy still don't separate their trash, they throw it on the street, how are you going to change the congolese??
when martin the german guy shows up, he looks at the menu and is all, woah, i can't order anything. and i'm thinking, is he allergic or something? i told him home-made pasta? and he's all no, i only have 10$. now, these are normal kinshasa prices, 20$ minimum for anything, it's 3$ for a beer. and in addition, this restaurant is nice. like really nice. home-made pasta, martin, did you think a congolese was going to make us fettucine? there is attentive service, no one swishing their flip flops, a beautiful garden. it's no buca di bepo, this is palena. probably the nicest in Kin. and this guy has 10$. so i start asking, where have you been eating? staying? getting around? and even though my german isn't so great i get the quick jist that this guy has no idea what he is doing. he thinks he's in a normal cheap cheery african town or something. mombasa? where everything is less than a $ you can walk where you like. he's in some hostel. takes any taxi and bus. eats anywhere on the street. he does all these things. (must be kind of interesting!) i ask him, normal eh? do you think the guy outside this restaurant who was burning metal and animal carcasses and has no legs and one arm stub is normal? (which also makes for an interesting one-hand clapping debate). maybe i told him a few too many stories because he started getting worried, like, wow, i gave up my apartment in prenzlauerberg to spend a year in africa. well, welcome to kinshasa. then he tells me how the congolese government owes his company like, months and months of payments and his investors are really nervous and needs to rent an apartment and blah blah and no one but martin is outraged. what's your point, martin? ahhh germans in congo. welcome to congo!
then filiberto comes, with his nice argyle sweater (it's...100 degrees?) and invites me to see the kitchen and pantry. 40 kg of parmesan! and homemade limoncello in bottles of stolinaya.

because i know the owners they treat me like they used to at palena. very nice. the manager is attentive, friendly, tries repeatedly to find the france-italy game on tv. martin, i guess thinks the manager is the son of the restaurant owners, who also lives with me and works for the UN, so he introduces himself, like, i'm martin, i met aurelie on the plane and the guy is all, why do i care? until he looks at martin's card and starts asking all these questions about how we plans on doing his recycling cleaning - turns out he's some sort of recycling engineer. so they get into this whole discussion, with the manager laughing - can you imagine a congolese guy putting his trash in 4 different bins? hahahaha.  he has since forgotten about finding us the right soccer game on tv and we see panama/spain, sweden/england, but not sweden france. then maria comes and she asks me about the game. i don't know! we all make our predicitons and she calls her son. i hear aie aie no le and some curses. france wins! 2-1! maria slams down the phone and in her awesome accent says, i will leave the key in the door tonight so when you come home you can't open the door and you will sleep-ah outside-ah! no one beats italy!
p.s. picturesof the pool.