January 18, 2006

The Rest of the Trip

It's funny because, from the other side of the River, my Congo (the DRC) looks a little like New York: misty, polluted air rising along high-rises. From all the way over there, you can't tell that the buildings are badly run-down and that some don't have windows, electricy and water. It's still quite a sigh to see.

One evening, we hung out with a pretty cool 40 year old who was half Portugese-Congolese. He had a pretty convoluted history but I scribbled down the following. His grandfather was a portuguese colonialist who settled in what was then spanish-speaking Angola. Angola was then partitionned and he suddenly found himself living in the Republic of Congo without having to move an inch. As you can imagine, this man was somewhat of a survivalist, making his own soaps and candles.

The grandfather wed a Congolese lady who was herself half portuguese and half-Congolese. She gave birth to 9 children, that the narrator defines as, as Quaterains--or "Quartereds". This means that the children are one Quarter African and three Quarters Portuguese. From what I understand, this is not a derogatory term so apologies if it is misused :)

This narrator's father was thus 3/4 Portuguese and married a lady of the same ethnic origin--making him 1/8 African and 7/8 Portuguese. This guy was hunting for photographs of his grandfather amongst his lost aunts and uncles. He finished the story by saying that he spent a few years in the Portuguese army, got his citizenship but liked Congo better anyways. I'm not sure what the story's point was but I found it fascinating that he was searching for his identity both in terms of genetics and in terms of national identity.

Our flight back from Pointe Noire to the capital was a bit of a nightmare with the pushing and prodding at the airport. The airport was, in essence, a corrugated iron hangar placed right next to a splendid new airport yet to be opened to the general public.

After looking at the runway, I spotted what I dubbed "the Tiger Plane": a plane completely spray painted with pastel-colored white tigers, starry skies melting into sunsets. I am told that even the ceilings repeat this gaudy motif and the seats are made from plush fake-tiger fur. Lovely.

I boarded my regrettably normal-looking plane with a mixture of relief and regret at having to leave DR.Congo's less troubled brother.

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Post publication post: Wow, I studied Genetics in Undergrad and am somehow thinking that this statement "This narrator's father was thus 3/4 Portuguese and married a lady of the same ethnic origin--making him 1/8 African and 7/8 Portuguese" is completely wrong. Can someone please help me?

10 comments:

Victoria said...

7 minutes! That's so cool! Now you have a place to go when Congo becomes too Congo-esque for you...

Ammo said...

Vicky has an excellent point!
You should make it a regular weekend trip, though the bureaucracy looks formidable :)
So if his children are a quarter African and a quarter European. they are half what else? It sounds more like they should be 3/4 Portuguese and 1 quarter Congolese, if their father was 100% from Portugal.

007 in Africa said...

Hum...let me look into it, consult my notes and change the post. Thanks for the correction (you're such a little "I-told-you-so")

Ammo said...

I know, and everyone loves me for it :)

Elizabeth said...

If both the parents are 1/4 something, then the child will also be 1/4. So if someone is 3/4 Portugese, and marries someone else who is 3/4 Portugese, the child will also be 3/4 Portugese.

However, if someone who is 3/4 Portugese marries a full-blooded Portugese, then the child will be 7/8 Portugese.

Victoria said...

We have a winner!

Carl said...

And the prize is???

007 in Africa said...

Thanks for the correction Elizabeth and Victoria--I am in serious need of rereading my Genetics school books!

Elizabeth said...

Cheers! No prize necessary, just keep posting.

Jeff said...

I flew on the 'tiger plane' to Pointe Noire over the New Year holiday. If you want to see some pictures of the interior of the plane, you can click on the link on my name here and scroll down the page. Note that on the flight from Kinshasa we actually had a heifer pattern inside the plane, but on the way back we got the Tiger. I don't have a picture of the exterior of the plane, but I can verify that it was incredible - pink and purple, with a majesttic lion on the tail. Note the picture of the cabin filling up with water vapor. The airline is AeroService, using old Antonovs that smell heavily of fish.