March 23, 2005

Still Green!

**First taste of Congolese food**
A colleague invited us to his little apartment to try a variety of Congolese foods cooked by his maid. The table was overflowing with fish, strange cheesy-looking squares of cooked dough and various sauces. The whole dinner was set to Congolese music videos with a big woman signing and strutting to New York backdrop (blue screen no doubt). The fish is very common and considered a delicacy. It's an ocean fish called Thompson, and since the DRC has no oceans (don't be embarrassed to take a look at a map), they receive it frozen from Namibia and sometimes Angola. The cheesy dough with the consistency of rubber was in fact a kind of bread made from Manioc flour. It tastes slightly sour and is said to give constipation in no time flat. Considering my chronic "intestinal issue from Senegal", I made sure to load up on that (see previous "BRAT" diet posts). It is called Chiwangue (or in Lingala, Kwanga).

The first Sunday there, we organized a trip to see the little town of Muluku right on the border of the country, separated by Congo-Brazzaville by a river where people fish and transport logs by letting them float along the current. As we paused by the side of the road, a police man, with loaded gun, comes up to us and points to my friend's camera. Apparently, it's illegal to take pictures in the Congo. My friend adamantly swore that she was just looking at some old pictures of previous trips to London and we managed to leave without paying the ubiquitous bribe.

Our lunch in Maluku was lovely. We sat on rickety chairs, under a thatched roof covered with plastic. The river was quiet and calm, reflecting the hills of the Congo-Brazzaville and the few pirogues that navigated it. Six pirogues were lying in wait of their owners by the side of the river. It was so picturesque, the water filling a holed pirogue reflecting the green, the clouds and the people. I tell you, it was almost begging me to take a picture.

It was a test of will not to whip out my trusty camera.

We ate fish that was still witching just moments before, wrapped in bundles of manioc leaves and left to simmer on a coal barbecue made from old petroleum kegs. Finally, after hours of having itchy fingers, I just cracked. I went for a walk by myself hoping to catch a clandestine shot of the area. Very quickly, friends joined me on my log to stare at the water. I snapped a quick picture on the scenery. I didn’t have much time to center or crop because there were soldiers around so I hope you'll excuse the results.

**Security Briefing**
The first day at work consisted mainly of a long, extended security briefing.
Amongst the things one needs to watch out for:
-Picking up soldiers in your car (even if they insist and are armed)
-Walking. Anywhere.
-Having too much money in your pocket yet having enough to "get yourself out of a sticky siuation"
-Taking public transportation or taxis
-Letting malaria-filled mosquitoes bite me

Things I have to do:
-Store enough dry food and water to last a week should unforeseen events keep you indoor (read: political upheavals)
-Notify the security guy if I intend to take a trip to the supermarket. To the store. To your house. To the gym. To the toilet.
-Lock my door behind me as well as the large steel grate in front of it (and, if the need arises, slide the heavy metal wall outside my apartment to cut off access of stairs to outsiders)

Oy! Some much for my love of independence... Hey, at least I get to walk to work.

Scene: Office in DRC
Person 1: We have not seen Employee in 3.42 seconds, alert authorities, alert authorities!
Person 2: Activate security procedures B12 NOW, we have a floater, I repeat, WE HAVE A FLOATER!

Cue: Alarm bells and red strobe lights sweep the entire office, a panicked crowd starts to gather close to the exits.

A sound of a flush is heard and employee X open the door to the women's toilet, looking a little perplexed and embarrassed.

Employee X: Sorry folks, I apologize for not alerting the chief of security that I was taking a dump.


Red Handed Jill said...

wow, i bet you really feel like 007 now. very exciting. do you ever pretend you're in a movie or something? i totally would.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I was reading the post and thought to myself... "Geez, it's not so bad after all."

Then I get to the evil camera-snatcher scene and think "hmm this could have happened in Senegal, right ? right ?"

By the time I've made to the paranoid end of your post I'm thinking "ok it is as bad as they say... so why does it sound fun ?"

Take care and keep your sense of humour :)



Victoria said...
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007 in Africa said...

(the previously removed comment was the following--my name removed)

What, no picture-taking!??! And you expect me to come visit?? :)
I read your posts and I tell myself, what has [she] got herself into now... :)
Stay safe!

12:01 PM

Congogirl said...

Uh yeah, I keep forgetting to tell people when I am going to the toilet too... or sleeping in, so they don't get the whole office in a huff telling me not to jump or something when all they had to do was knock on the window!

Anonymous said...

hello dorothee,

great, I might just come and see you in a country where you can't wave your blessed camera in my face all evening like the photo pest you are. you are sadly missed in senegal, take care.

007 in Africa said...

Reg Handed Jill--I feel more like Indiana Jones...007 was always classy, never dirty or frazzled and had all the girls. Indiana on the other hand was a little bit more clumsy, got himself in bad situation and frankly, could use a bath or two at the end of his adventures :)

Marie--Naw, couldn't have happened in Senegal since taking picutres is not actually illegal although people will act like it is...

Vicky--that's a brilliant idea (except people might acutally want to bum a ciggy off me and then that would be an uncomfortable situation!

Congo Girl--your story is really worth telling, care to share?

Anonymous--Thanks, I will take that as a compliment...But who are you?