March 13, 2006

Congolese French

February 15th, 2006

After an incredibly deep sleep, I am woken up by insistent knocking. The hotel staff brings me hot water, tea, butter (the one that doesn’t need to be frozen), powdered milk and sugar. I thank him and ask if my two other colleagues are sleeping. He wobbles his head and looks at me with sorry eyes. I shake sleep from my voice and try again by enunciating clearly. That doesn’t seem to help and I just assume that he understands just Lingala. Later that day, my colleague laughs at this recollection and says that the staff understands French, but I just don’t speak it like a Congolese does.

It turns out that we cannot board the Russian plane that day because there is a fuel shortage in town. I leave $2,000 upfront for them to find fuel and secretly pray that the company is an honest one. I sure would hate to loose that much of the organization’s money.

That afternoon, we walk in the busy streets again under the punishing sun, leaving me to explain why I am hugging the shady spots of the streets (I am almost like an albino after all). The kids pick up bottle caps to play bottle-cap football.

The hotel has three different posters of its owner, the UNDP leader, whose large round face stares menacingly at guest from a faded brown and white picture.

The Antanov Airplane we take to go to Dekese


Carl said...

Ah, the Mighty AN-2, hell of an airplane.

The most successful (sic) aeronautical anachronism in the history of the world.

Black River Eagle said...

This Dekese trip sounds adventurous if it were'nt for all of the hassles and the heat. In regards to this AN-2 Antanov, this baby belongs in a museum and NOT being flown daily as an air taxi out over the African bush. Why the hell are there so many aged Antanovs operating as private airlines and cargo carriers down in the DRC (a question for Carl the Pilot, not 007)??? Have the guys out of eastern Europe cornered the market or something?

It MUST be cheaper (and a helluva lot safer) to operate newer aircraft than this Antanov dinosaur over the Congo River Basin. A salesman offering used U.S., European, or Brazilian aircraft should be able to make a fortune down there. Plus there's the maintenance and spare parts business.

Or is that the used auto and airplane markets in the DRC are already in "good hands"? Hmmm?

Carl said...

The Antonovs have the market cornered because the taxpayers of eastern europe paid for them long ago so they can be had for close to nothing.

The AN-2 is a good airplane for the DRC because, like all Antonovs, it is built for very rough conditions and it can take off and land from short fields with heavy loads. It doesn't need av-gas, it can run on car gas. It is VERY SLOW (I did mean to shout that part out) though. That is why if you have to fly on an Antonov, pick an AN-2, if it goes in, it doesn't have much kinetic energy to dissapate.

Spare parts and mtx, okay, well...ah. Next subject.

Black River Eagle said...

O.K. Carl, got it. Thanks for the explanation. I do have other questions which are better discussed at your place... like how did all those Antonovs get down there in the first place?

I mean she (the AN-2) looks pretty cool sitting on the tarmac there but I don't know if I would have the guts to go up for a spin. Maybe after a few stiff shots of good Russian Vodka I'd could work up the nerve to do it.

When you think about it, you don't really need new spare parts from the Antonov factory when you can easily K-ball parts from the ones that didn't quite make that last turn before takeoff or landing.