Monday was Kabila father's birthday and Tuesday was Lumumba's. Appropriately, since these are this nation's great hero, Monday and Tuesday were both off. Woohoo!
In an characteristic show of solidarity, I celebrated these two national heros' lives by...travelling to another country!
Needing to clear my head after just a week back from South Africa by going somewhere super exotic, I hopped on a boat near the Kinshasa beach, rode on the Congo River for about 7 mins, and promptly disembarked in...Congo! The other Congo that is. Also called Congo-Brazzaville, the safer Congo, the Republic of Congo (not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo), the little slice of heaven.
It is said that Brazzaville and Kinshasa are the closest country capitals in the world--and at 7 mins boat ride between it, you could believe it. Theoretically. In reality, one has to navigate through a series of ticketing agents, passport checks, waiting periods and staring contests that take about a couple of hours before reaching Brazzaville.
When I had sufficiently recovered from the confusing arrival proceedures, these are the things I noticed instantly:
-a DHL office
-a paper store that sells good quality notebooks and brand-name pens
-taxis, taxis everywhere
-outside coffee shops
-noticeably better infrastructure
-a Score supermarket, City Sports sports store, and a currency called the CFA, all artifacts of Western African Francophone countries
After having a bite to eat, we went to the small airport in Brazzaville to board a one-hour flight to Pointe Noire, a city by the ocean. Though the insides are every bit as animated as a DRC airport, there seems to be a method to the madness. For example, I placed my ticket on a pile of other tickets…and the guy at the counter actually calls my name when it's my turn!
Around me people dragged their “refugee bags” to the scales (those plastic mulitcolored bags that, more often that not, have loads of vegetables to be carried to various acquaintances) and proceeded to cover them almost completely with masking tape.
People here are dressed very french-like with less mamans donning the pretty patterned pagnes.