Thursday, September 19, 2013

end of the month in kinshasa

so this was the first time i have been to the airport to pick someone up. being on the other side. so thankfully, i was with papi, who suped up his mercedes or something because he drives crazy fast and it only took us 20 minutes to get to the airport. ask anyone, they will tell you it takes an hour.
papi has a military police buddy or something because he makes a call when we're close and then they just wave us in, as opposed to price gouge us for parking (the hourly rate is whatever you can negotiate, sometimes the passenger and the driver negotiate different prices with different dudes and then you have problems..). once in the parking lot we huddle and figure out our strategy. we need to find the best guy we can bribe to get in, or close to the door. papi's buddy only runs the entrance, he has no authority over the little waiting zone. we have a number of suitable candidates eager to do their duty. papi wants to pick the guy with the highest rank, but i can barely see their little badge stripes, i think the guy with the biggest gun is the way to go. we agree on the most angrily tilted beret guy and start walking. 
it's like a kung fu movie where different waves of people come at you and you need to fend them off with smiles, bribes, illogical debate. like the one guy who said "you can't cross this (invisible) line" without paying 2,000 francs per person.
me: why?
"because if we let everyone close to the airport who wanted to be close to the airport, there would be disorder."
me: what if i pay you, and THEN go cause disorder, because i am so outraged at this bribe?
he looks like he's doing a calculation in his head.
our beret dude is only so-so at helping, he basically steps in when he occasionally remembers that he'll get paid the most when we finally get to the door.
we get to the door, i pay him...but then he goes away! which makes our whole effort moot!
the next guy comes along to ask me for a "coffee" and as i pull out bill after bill i'm saying, "guy, this is the most expensive coffee ever! i am not a bank machine!"
my favorite is when you give them money, and they refuse to accept it because my 5$ is a pitiful amount. that's when i say ok, your problem and put my money away and they get suuuuuper mad.
step on it papi! and we peeled out into the street leaving a trail of beggars, and i don't think i'm welcome there anymore but i don't care. oh, unless the plane i am bringing in from south africa has to land here. woops.

which reminds me - never come to kinshasa at the end of the month! i have a line of people at my office door asking me for money...but i am broke i tell them!
white people are never poor.
don't go there buddy...

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