February 06, 2006

The lost flip-flop

This morning, at the ungodly hour of 9:00am on a Saturday, I heard the doorbell ringing. I hastily put down my Amy Tan novel, reaching for my pagne to tie around my waist, shuffling and mumbling down the hallway to the front door. Expecting one of the doormen to ask me to move my car, I raised my eyes to see a Congolese woman at my door step. I let her speak for a minute, assuming she had the wrong apartment and would soon realize it. But wait…she was speaking to me in Lingala!

I took me a few seconds to process that:
(1) she was speaking to me in Lingala and I was letting her voice lull me because I liked the sound of it
(2) I did not in fact understand Lingala
(3) I was flattered that she tried to speak to me in her language. Was it the pagne that made me look oh-so Congolese? Or that I was a young woman in a large apartment thus making me a probable Belgian from an ex-Colonialist family?
(4) She was convinced that she had the right apartment

I asked her to repeat in French, which she did with no trouble:
“I am the cleaning lady upstairs and I lost a flip-flop on your balcony, can I come retrieve it?”

On my balcony, she leaned over to retrieve the flip-flop, only to discover that it had fallen on the ledge of the balcony below mine. I offered the longest broom I had but, even while being perched dangerously over the edge wielding the broom at the end of her grip, the tip fell a few inches short of the flip-flop.

She left dejected.

Fifteen minutes later, she’s at my door again holding the longest broom I’ve ever seen, explaining that the downstairs neighbors are gone on vacation (lucky buggers). She tries reaching the flip-flop again but is unsuccessful.

Being the smart cookie that I am, I offered a sturdy piece of rope that we tied around the head of the broom. She was then able to dangle the broom in the direction of the flip-flop to brush it off the edge and onto the street below. Unfortunately, the head of the broom being on top, the whole contraption was unwieldy and its off-set center of gravity made it hard to control, pushing the flip-flop further towards the inside edge of the ledge.

Being the smart cookie that she is, she asked for my broom again, tied the two brooms together tightly and went at it again. She had to rearrange the device several times until it was long enough to touch the ledge. Then, with a graceful sweep of the broom, she brushed the flip-flop from the ledge unto the street.

She thanked me profusely and ran downstairs to rescue the flip-flop before someone else could get their hands on it.

12 comments:

Qalamana said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
007 in Africa said...

Qalamana says:

Hi [007 in Africa]!
I don't know whether you remember me from Senegal: I'm Gemma, a Spanish girl that worked with Carlos at the Spanish Commercial Office...
Nice blog and wonderful adventures in Congo: I hope you don't mind me reading it :S I've just launched my own blog and you're very welcome to visit it!
Take care!
http://qalamana.blogspot.com/

007 in Africa said...

Hi Gemma, that Spanish girl who worked with Carlos :) I remember you, albeit vaguely (please forgive me, I have the worst worst worst memory in the world--but I never forget a face so a picture of you on your blog would be nice!). Welcome to the blogging world...
I'm flattered that you read my blog! Just out of curiosity, how did you come across it?

Ammo said...

Wow, I guess flip-flops are in short supply over there.

Beaver said...

Wow that was one important flip-flop :)

007 - G. came across your blog from hanging out at the beaver's :) she was delicate enough to ask if you'd mind her reading your blog. How delicate, isn't it?

I actually have a pretty good portrait of her here:
>Cool Graoul - G.

I hope this refreshes your memory :)

Beaver said...

Sorry - I messed up the HTML - here is the URL...

http://beaverpics.blogspot.com/2005/02/fevrier-2005-cool-graoul-gemma_06.html

007 in Africa said...

aHA! Of course I remember you (see, I told you that pictures are worth a thousand words...). Beaver, I can even make out Branwyn in the background.

bitsandgiggles said...

That was a fabulous story, although I'm not surprised because your stories usually make me laugh or make me think.

Lori pierce said...

I came upon your blog after looking into traveling to the Congo and got the big warning sign not to. I am from Nashville, TN USA and have been interested in doing some mission work there. Can you email me and let me know exactly what you do and how you got to the Congo? You have no idea how you are fulfilling one of my dreams. I also read briefly that your parents live in Madagascar. Tell me more. Take care! Can you give me the name of a book on the Congo that is informative?
Lori.Pierce@HCAHealthcare.com
or hayden01@tds.net

Beaver said...

Yeah - they're all there :) I hope to have time to redownload everything to Flickr eventually. There are some great pics of you during our trip to Palmarin on there!

Take care :)

Elizabeth said...

It's so good to get something accomplished on a Saturday, especially a good deed. Much more productive than mine, anyway.

TheMalau said...

Those "mapapa" must really have been the only ones she had! Good deed 007!!

Now what is this I hear about you and Madagascar?