Saturday, February 25, 2017

bienfait espoir, ça.

so one of the reasons i came to kinshasa was to do a web mapping training, where you make interactive maps for websites. the office kept asking for one and i kept saying no, the internet isn't good enough, it's going to be really frustrating, and they answered, DRC has fiber optic cable now! so i said ok. 
the first day of the training i was awoken by a mad thunderstorm that turned all the streets to mudslides and shut down power everywhere. i was the first to arrive at the darkened office, an hour late because there was no way i was walking and because everyone and their mom was stuck in awful mud traffic, most inconveniently, my driver. well, turns out there is fiber optic cable but no one thought to fix the generator. did i mention my training had 20 participants registered, many of which took expensive life-risking flights from Goma or Bukavu, so no pressure or anything. what to do? i pictured myself doing a tap dance or shadow puppet show to 40 glazed eyeballs. i went to my phone credit recharger guy and bought 50$ of 3G data, while the rain banged on the zinc roof so you could barely hear. did you say 50? five zero? DOLLARS? c'est beaucoup!
my phone dude. also sells fresh roasted peanuts.
and then i hotspotted my computer for an extremely long day of Loading...Please Wait...ERR_INTERNET_DISCONNECTED. the training was basically, this is what you CAN do, someday, maybe monday. one attendee's name was Bienfait (welldone). repeating bienfait, Bienfait! when he spilled his tea or cleaned it up, never got old. The power came back but the internet didn't. The IT guy was also in the training, and his name is Espoir (hope). Y-a-t'il Espoir pour internet??
second day, same thing. but the air conditioner dripped some weird freon juice all over my computer bag. so, anyway, it was friday, time to go out. One of my students Esaie (try) invited me out for beers and goat in his neighborhood. ah, just like the good old goat days of 10 years ago! the neighborhood, Matongé (same as the congolese part of Brussels) is a bustling, lively mess of cafe patios, people selling stuff on their heads, goat and chicken slaughtering, and smoggy traffic including motorbikes. yup, they have motorbikes now. they were banned until a year ago, and now they are everywhere, being used as taxis, and quick purse snatchings (i though the colombians had cornered that market but i was wrong), which means everyone walks with their belongings clutched to their chests. 
a whole bunch of other people from the training joined us, along with the guy who goes by his initials which are TGV, guy-guy from way back when and some of their wives. it was a perfect cool evening, eating salted gristly meat with toothpicks and just sucking down the beers. 
when it came time to pay, roseline, esaie's accountant wife grabbed the bill "let me see it." lucky for her, whenever they cleared our table they put all the cadavers in a big plastic graveyard, so she went through and counted all the different kinds, corrected all the math and then called our nervous waiter over. the bill was then reduced by a good 25%. and me, i never even check the change i am given...
next stop, well, kinshasa, friday night, gotta be a club! they all asked me what i wanted. i said i didn't want to be molested by grody african guys, but i also didn't want to be surrounded by white people, so, something in between, please. 
so we ended up in this upscale, extremely extensive club in Bandal that went a bit overboard on the lasers. the dancefloor was an exact saturday night fever replica, glowing pulsating large white tiles (though not very good quality, sagging slightly with seams you trip over), but the best part? everyone at arm's length from eachother doing this very subtle butt shaking dance. like if you had change in your back pocket and wanted to jingle it to a really slow beat - just like that. of course, impossible for me and my genetics, but nonetheless an enjoyable group activity with no fear of being groped! but at that point i was pretty drunk/generous and ordering rounds of 10$ beers and paying on my credit card because omg you can pay with a credit card and save cash since the only bank that accepts my debit card went out of business.
we were in a VIP section which came with free bowls of popcorn. i was trying to toss kernels to land in Bienfait's ear when i dropped one piece on the floor. immediately, and not at all imperceptably a little guy showed up with a broom to sweep it up! he also collected the one piece that fell on the table outside the bowl. but what made it more ridiculous was that he was wearing a yellow reflective brussels airline vest so that in fact, the entire world knows that white girl is a big slob and as a result we are all blind now because lasers and reflective tape do not a good combination make. i took it to a point where i was holding my hand out and dropping popcorn to see if the guy could catch it before it hit the ground. then everyone decided it was time to take me home. 
i might have still been drunk when my seamstress came ringing - she's usually 5 hours late but now comes on time ever since i gave her a cell phone, which now holds thousands of modern, creative african wear photos that i had to flip through with my nose running, back sweating, headache, she's measuring me and telling me how much wider my hips are, and finally i just pointed to one and said "ça."

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