Oct 29th 2005
On our way back to Kinshasa (“we’ll be on our way by 9AM, I promise” says my colleague) we manage to stop three times for food sold by the side of the road. By the amount of food that is rushed into our faces, I realize that, if Congolese people are starving somewhere out there, it’s not for lack of food—which makes me very sad that basic lack of infrastructure seems to be the main reason for people dying here.
At the first stop, we get Palm Oil for cooking which is cheaper and purer in this part of the country. I buy an snack called Mbika to hold me over until lunch. Highly work-intensive, Mbika involves pounding squash pits into powder and adding shrimp and water to make it paste-like and wrapping it into a large leaf. It has the consistency of firm cottage cheese, quite salty with a seafood bite and tangy. The kids look at me with interest through the window of the car, amused to see a white girl daintily removing the item for the leaf. I give them a thumbs-up after the first bite and they all burst out laughing.
At the third stop, I borrow money to get five avocadoes for 40 cents, 3 tomatoes for 20 cents, 5 large mushrooms (it’s mushroom season! I love it but get bitten by the pincer ants that guard the stems like precious bounty) for 60 cents and 4 small, white onions for 20 cents. Our bus quickly resembles a Congolese loading truck with Pondu leaves bursting from the seams.
We drive back in drizzle which turns into a thick white fog that obscures anything beyond 2 meters ahead, making it perilous to overtake trucks on the narrow road. We watch with horror the aftermath of one truck after the other, spilling people and their loads after violent accidents. Thank God we have a cautious driver! The drizzle turns into cold rain, dragging dust and trash from the corners of the stores and settling them in muddy puddles in the street and sidewalks: I know I am back in Kinshasa.