May 02, 2005

Mission in the Field

Day One
Location: Kananga
Date: 04/26/05
Hours of Driving: 1

I get up at 5:00AM to get to the airport for 6:30AM. The airport is a genuine zoo: there are hundreds of people crowded into a large room with kiosks, people lurking around that shouldn’t be there, porters grab your bags quickly and bring them to places where you don’t want them to go, there are fights erupting to determine who get in which line first, and officials have huge smiles when they ask you for a “sucré” (a sweet, otherwise referred to as a bribe in English).

I count that we pay four bribes for a two hours trip: one for the lady to let us enter the airport, another for the airport authorities pouring over my four papers and proofs of citizenship (in keeping with the legal regulations), one for the group of soldiers opening the gates from the airport to the city, another one in Kananga for the immigration guy. I am so glad that we have a protocol guy who fights through the crowds for us.

After a two hour flight, we get to our lodging which is a beautiful large brick church, with nuns quarters. My room is sparse with a single bed, a desk and chair, a sink over which sits a broken sliver of a mirror. The hallway is pitch black, illuminated only by a semi-circular windows made from bright orange and green tinted windows. The setting is beautiful, an almost Italian-like grandeur to the architecture, with palm trees, long grass and Jasmine plants. The electricity comes on only between 7:30PM and 10:00PM so I rush back to the room to recharge both my computer and my phone battery.

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