Thursday, February 23, 2017

jean claude beer man

i was walking back from the office on my first day, trying to retrace my recalled steps from the morning, through a significantly different urban landscape drenched by rain. i recognized an intersection and took a road leading to mine, when a guy opens a gate at the corner and says, "come on in!" inside is some half-finished house with piles of rubble, broken glass, a tangle of electric cables and who knows what else. i'm a little more street smart than to willingly walk in to my own eventual kidnapping/mugging/beheading so i politely decline. and then he called my name saying, "you live here!"
he knows my name?
then i saw it was jean-claude, the gardener i had met for 20 seconds that morning, when he had no shirt and no hat, which was why i did not immediately recognize him all dressed and dapper now. i peek inside the gate and it is still clearly this bizarre construction site. he closes the gate behind me and goes out into the street and i have a look around. it's a nice old house though in major disrepair, broken windows, no doors, yet someone seems to be living on the second floor balcony. behind the house i see a hole in the wall, an odd shape like in the cartoon when the road runner smashes through a door and his silhouette is left? it was like that. i climb over a mound of garbage and slide my way through when suddenly, hey, i'm in the garden of our house and there are jocelyn and jeanne, sitting with their empty beer glasses.
"where on earth are you coming from?"
i have no idea! jean-claude let me in.
"ah, that's his house now." so that's who's living on the balcony, he has a view of the whole street, and even the congo river in the distance and watches over all. he must have seen me coming down the street to greet me. yay for jean-claude.
when jeanne noticed one day that he never ever took time off, or never even seemed to leave she told him, you can go home you know, to see your family? take some paid/deserved vacation! he waved it off, "that is not a topic for you to worry about." so she figured the obvious, he lives far away in the cité, where everyone knows he has a job and probably always asks him for money. pretty sure his wife boisterously complains when he gets stoned on the couch all day, which seems to be his daily passtime, so...why not just live in the abandoned house? he's in a nice neighborhood, a fairly intact house, a bed with a view and everything he needs and if he wants to smoke weed all day in the hammock well then, no one bothers him about it, "il est pénard."
he also goes and gets beer for you! which arises from a mixture of concern for safety/laziness/privilege. why not.
you give him some cash with room for a tip, some empties and he will bring them back full. of course, it doesn't always work that smoothly. that night i sat with jeanne and jocelyn, pooled some money together and sent him out. for some reason the guard felt like he needed to provide 10 minute updates, as if he were a messenger for a live soccer match, interrupting us, out of breath "jean claude est en déplacement!" "he is now at the store!" "he is on his way back!" they were clearly up to something, there are little kiosks all over the street, it shouldn't take more than 3 minutes for the transaction but jean claude is clever. in this part of Gombé, the beers are expensive, maybe even 20% more than elsewhere, and so he has probably figured out where the absolute cheapest bottle in Kinshasa is, maybe he pays for a bus to the brewery, buys a whole bunch of beers with his tip and then brings them back to our street to sell them to double his earnings. who knows. he comes back 40 minutes later with 2 dusty lukewarm beers and in that time i have eaten all the salted peanuts and i'm just thirsty so it doesn't really matter.

1 comment:

Charabia44 said...

Pauvres Congolais, heureusement qu'ils ont le système D. .....