Wednesday, June 4, 2014

there is no more line between right and wrong

i met one of those old french expat guys who have lived in just about every country in central africa. and what does he say? that DRC is by far the shittiest, dirtiest, corruptest, unbearable place on the planet. tell me something i don't know buddy
marie's landlords have a little basin next to the house with fish, turtles, and adorable baby crocodiles in it. they are so cute! every 2 days they get hungry and come to the door and make little puffy noises.
[so side story is that we came home from the club late on saturday night, kinda hungry and i find marie in the kitchen hacking at a raw fish. i say, "wow, totally gross, you've really gone congolese on me!" but no, it's for the crocs!]

here crocky crocky

back to the crocs. every two days you dump pieces of raw fish onto this little pile of rocks for them to eat. there's plenty of fish to go around for everyone, the fish actually get the head, which is totally weird, and the turtles quickly come to the rocks too. but instead of everyone just eating their piece and being happy, they all want it all. so the crocs are stuffing their faces with all of it, they can't even swallow, their mouths are stuck open and they are choking, and then come the turtles, traing to grab right from the crocs mouth, stomping on his face and everything. this whole time there's a little turtle, well forget it, he's just ´the Little guy and he álways will be because he waits patiently, and only gets the bits. and eventually you have to shut the door and watch from the window because it just gets crazy. this is the exact same situation i face every day trying to get a simple permit to land a friggin' plane in Kinshasa. i am holding the fish. the corruption, blatant forgery and lying is just too much.
this country is a complete mess, a shithole with no hope and it's so obvious why. anyone who does their job right will just eventually get stepped on by a turtle.
so i went back to the civil aviation building, the really messy one with the documents everywhere. the guy insists we meet offsite so his colleagues don't listen in.
how about the grand hotel?
how about your car?
i really don't like these meetings in cars. but we go around the corner and park under a tree. we are told who to pay, how much. this is in addition to how much we need to pay him for this info, too. it's now double our budget of 10,000 USD, for something which should originally only cost 2,000. this is getting out of control. i zone out and remember how the french expat guy told me that a congolese airline had a plane inspected in Holland (of course, why do something in Congo when you can get a free flight to Europe) and the inspectors broke the door to extend their little stay in Amsterdam. when someone complained, their passport was confiscated for 3 weeks and they couldn't leave the country. what would i do if i couldn't leave this country? i look out the window at a truck full of angry military guys. they look like a big green uniformed human pile, with yellow eyes gazing out. i come back to the meeting, ok, and we need documents in duplicate, triplicate, stamped, receipt of stamped document with stamps, etc...we drive back. there is still some wheeling and dealing to be done in their local language so i let the men discuss step out of the car.
there is a guy in front of civil aviation selling peanuts, the tasty roasted and really salty ones. he puts them in a cone of paper and hands them to me. i unroll the paper as i eat, grease spots staining the text, oh look at this, a confidential communication between the UN and the airport authority in Goma. so this is where it all ends up.
i finally approve the extortion, i don't even care anymore, just bring me a receipt, get the plane here. i send my guys to the office to pay, with thousands of $ of cash in their pockets.
they call me: the fee just went up $900
"just pay it."
the poor guys empty their wallets, my finance guy has 300€ which he just exchanged with me. they convert at a sorry exchange rate. my driver chips in the 25$ i gave him to buy me phone credit. somehow they piece it together. they bring me a stamped receipt. we have our flight permit. for two planes actually, one hasn't even been inspected, because one of the inspectors we sent to south africa didn't even show up to look at it, but they issues the permit. i don't care.  
i imagine what would happen if we did what my brother says, just erase the entire country and start over. i start thinking about who i would select to save. taxipapi, tanya my tennis partner, she really brings out the best in my game. filiberto and marie! and ok, my driver, serge. he is a nice guy. even though, yeah, ok, he uses our project vehicles as his personal taxi on weekends, but on the scale of things, where is the line between wrong and right...?


òste e còc said...

Currently, I advocate paving over such countries and installing solar panels on that hot asphalt.

Anonymous said...

C'est franchement affligeant. Mais que faire avec ces pays qui ont été pillés et exploités par les Européens pendant si longtemps ?