i was invited to papi's house for dinner. his wife mami made just about every congolese dish imaginable. it was nuts. 3 kinds of fish, foufou, beef, chicken, pundu etc. etc..and lots of beer and whiskey. i think they were trying to set me up with someone because a lot of male suitors kept coming through the door. but i was distracted. at 9pm i was meant to receive a call telling me the landing permit for my plane was approved, which meant i could continue to drink and be happy and eventually leave for germany on tuesday. but no, instead i got a call at 1130 which said i wouldn't get the permit which made me sullen and surly.
we eventually got talking about the whole situation of how f'd up the DRC is, and no one in the room could understand why the democratic republic of congo would make it so difficult for us, the german government, to give them what is essentially a 6 million € gift of airplane and satellite data to map the vast amount of forest carbon in this country, which exactly what they need to bring additional carbon investments like the 60 million $ from the World Bank, which is enabling them to get paid to protect their forests. which is almost like getting paid to do nothing, which congolese are so good at!! but nothing in the congo makes any sense.
earlier in the day, i went to civil aviation to try and meet the director again, who has been avoiding us because we busted his secretary trying to swindle us by providing a false invoice. as i was at the entrance filling out the stupid form you have to fill out everywhere with your passport number, which, i don't even have on me, i just make it up - but as i was doing so the director walked right behind me. my driver serge pulled aggressively at my elbow and i was all cut it out dude, you're messing up my handwriting, but it was too late, he slipped out behind me and got into his car, gone for the weekend. crap, 10 seconds difference and we could have cornered him in the parking lot.
so next stop, the agency in charge or the airports and airways to determine how the areas we plan to fly with our plane might overlap with sensitive, strategic or dangerous areas. like military bases and stuff. we were told that this information, like anything in the congo, would not come cheap, and that we would probably have to pay on the order of $2,000 to get them to analyze all our different flight lines and tell us which ones to change. which actually makes sense, because it's kind of a lot of work and the whole thing is pretty complicated.
so we go to what is essentially this bombed out building at the local airport with dark corridors and flickering neon lights. the signs on the doors are all inkjet printed, with ink running down from the leaks in the ceiling, and poor vertical paragraph design like:
s et infr-
we had gotten stuck in some pretty harsh traffic, (though i got to see a whole street i didn't know with bedsheet tents on the sidewalks, which i mistook for refugee camps but discovered were actually barber shops, all narrated by serge's typical political rants), so it was 430pm on a friday when we arrived. we were lucky to find anyone still there at all. we got shuffled around from office to office but the dudes we ended up with were surprisingly friendly and helpful. ok, of course they werre flirty and sexist and asked for my number and invited me to go dancing but i am used to these things. these were some high level guys with a giant 8 foot wide map of the world from the 70s on the wall saying "i can't believe this is your first time here! welcome! we love animals!" i explained our situation and he actually called back his employees who were already at the bus stop on their way home. he told one of them to bring the table of prohibited, strategic and regulated airspaces. i look to serge like, ok, let's make sure we get a receipt for this and the guy is all, so this is what you need? let me make you a copy. and thank you, please come again! and that's how i ended up with a list of every military base, training area and strategic zone in the DRC (which admittedly has lots of typos, because there is no where on the planet that is 454 degrees S, but whatever), which i will glady sell to any chinese reading this blog. yaweh!