Saturday, April 13, 2013

taking a bunch of kinshasa with me...

Ok, so Ethiopian airlines to Addis. 
The cabin was somehow segregated...white people in the front, Ethiopians in the middle and Congolese in the back. Except for me, I'm in the back.
First interesting thing is how they don't tell you that you stop in Brazzaville. So the plane takes off from Kinshasa, hangs out weird and low in the sky and doesn't go higher, it sort of floats over the city, people glued to the windows and then about 4 minutes after take off "cabin crew prepare for landing" I'm freaking out, omg an emergency?! But people seem pretty relaxed and we gently land in Brazza less then 10 minutes after takeoff. Probably the softest international flight ever.
We pick up some more people in Brazza and we're on our way. Meanwhile, the back of the plane is pretty much like my little hood in Kinshasa. All thats missing is a slaughtered goat. There's music playing out of crappy cell phone speakers (even during take-off and landing), dudes sitting on armrests with their big red Ethiopian airlines headphones around their necks and heads like they are djs. There are card games, texting, secret hand shakes. do they think this is a bus? I walk through to go the bathroom and I had to squeeze through a bunch of guys, just like in a club or cafe, where they purposefully block your way so you have to push them aside, like they want you to touch them...and it's all, hmmmmm kissss hey sexy baby where you flying to
-ughhhh addis, we're on the same plane
And then lip smacking and hmmmm hmm yummy mondele sounds. Really, guys? the plane is full of white people, i think the whole mondele thing ends at the gate...
Later, some Syrian diamond smuggler or whatever comes by and leans over my seat with his "haven't I've seen you before routine" and gives me his card and wants to take me to dinner in Dubai. This is not the dreamliner i was expecting..
The duty free woman gets practically overrun by this mob and now there is a Johnny walker black label party. I have another bottle of wine and am floating in and out of sleep and I hallucinate one of the street walker vendors in Kinshasa. Did I tell you how they have signature sounds to sell their wares? The shoe polishers bang their brushes together. The bread person bangs a flat knife against the large metal bowl on his head and the bag o water guy makes a long kissy sucking noise. So when you're on the street, you just follow your ears. my ears are saying gah! make this stop!
My logistics guy serge is a big airport time underestimator. He sets up your ride to the airport at the last possible minute, my last kinshasa visitor called me at 5 am Easter Sunday, freaking out- my flight leaves in less than 1.5 hours and I'm still waiting at the hotel!!"
Relax, serge will be there. 
And somehow, yeah, he'll sneak you into the customs line with minutes to spare.
on my way out of town, I notice the airport fly by to my left and we keep driving....where are we going?
You can't leave Kinshasa without liboke in your stomach (recall my first ever meal in kin in 2007 was a thanks giving dinner liboke at the grand hotel. haven't really had a memorable one since...)
Ummm, ok, but I'm kind of checking luggage and don't have my boarding pass...
"It's ok, Ethiopians are never on time."
So 20 minutes further, we're in a little bustling town of kinkole and down by the river, tons of Mamans are waving us over, pointing to their drum barrel BBQs with banana leaf wrapped goodies.
Serge orders and even though its only 930 am, ok, I'll have some grilled stew was delicious, spicy, even though I don't like spicy, with onions, fish heads fins and all, floating in this tasty oily broth. 
pre-check-in meal
spicy fishy goodness
i'm nervously checking the time and Serge goes to pay and then disappears in what he calls "market reconnaissance" and goes to all these different vendors, comparing prices of manioc leaves. He loves manioc leaves. Staple of his diet he says, even through its super bland he can't go a day without his manioc. He comes back with a little kid carrying heaps of leaves on his head. We load up the car and he presents me with a dried gourd, which has a tiny bottle of amarula plugging the top.
This is what we keep the booze in, he says. it's naturally thermal - keeps it cool.
It's excellent.
At the airport everyone is all high giving me, hoot and hollering-can I get a sip mondele?? 
In the plane I am gourd girl.
Come bring your gourd girlfriend we'll fill it up with our friend Johnny! Says a man with his toothless grin, nah it's ok, I'm good, but how about a 400franc tip for the DJ? 
Right on sister, nice shirt! I'm wearing one of my African creations.
So long Kinshasa, ride with me until addis and i'll see you again in may!

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