Monday, September 30, 2013

weekend travels to bandundu

We arrive to nioki airfield, a dusty piece of dirt amidst random huts and houses. We were significantly delayed at the migration (note that it’s not called immigration) office (oh, my old friends, the DGM!) who sat in their hut with our passport literally spent 57 minutes copying our the numbers into old notebooks. The bathrooms consisted of 3.5 pieces of zinc leaning shabbily together – but padlocked? So I peed behind a termite hill, upon which our truck was awkwardly parked on a slant. I realize later it’s because the battery is dead and it doesn’t start on its own, it needs a push. Which is tons of fun when you’re in a middle of a village with every kid for miles screaming mondele! Mondele! 

Anyway, it’s time to shop for food. My logistics guy doesn’t really seem to comprehend the conundrum of buying overpriced food for 10 people for 3 days in a place where they have never seen 100$ bills. He buys a few bottles of water, some crackers and is all, let’s go! Um, no. I’m in this weird store that could have been something on H street in DC, where you order fried chicken from the asians behind the bullet proof glass? Well here i am sticking my bills into the holes of a chainlink fence with indians on the other side. You point to things on the wall, or the faded, dusty packages in display cases. I am doing calculations, sweating profusely while all these people are staring at me, and the town drunk starts doing an amusing dance and attracts a crowd. The only bottles of potable water are little 300ml things and according to my calculation we need like, 200 of them. Moving on tot he next place…i finally find a place with 1.5L bottles but the price is outrageous so i send my congolese guy in to order for me, and a boy to carry everything on his head back to the car.
On this main street is mostly flip flops, matches, plastic items like buckets and salt for sale, it’s behind this where all the real fresh action is. we head through a dank dingy walkway to the meat and vegetable market. Here i am greeted with cheers and shouts – come buy my crocodile! Whaaaaa? This woman proudly shows me her croc head, chopped up boa, antilope, you name it.
croc for sale

She doesn’t mind my photographer, who has to constantly swat flies from his lens. This one woman keeps pointing to a baby and saying mondele! Mondele! And hands me the baby. So now i am bargaining for rice, with this adorable baby in my arms. We wander around some more for onions, spices, peppes and manioc. The boy is back and piling all the things onto his head.
We get back tot he vehicle, where the driver is replaced the oil filters and other things with some supplies we brought from Kinshasa.  we start tossing everything on the roof of the truck like a train in india. And we’re off on our 6 hour drive. the women get to ride up front while 8 guys are unhappily crammed in the back. They complain the ENTIRE time. I remind them that the gear shift is between my legs and everytime we shift it’s rather uncomfortable but no. They say it’s too bumpy, too hot, too this too that. The press guys are not ready for this. We are in congo! you can’t get anywhere without at least 6 hours of mind-numbing spine crunching 4x4 ing!

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