I am going once again, to the field and sat down to write a letter to a school child living close to Lomela (which is 250 km from Lodja). There is no formal mailing system in the Congo.
This is how the letter will get to him:
-I will fly from Kinshasa to Lodja
-I will contact sisters in Lodja who know the school in which he works
-I will place the duct-taped letter in their hand
-They will hand it off to a bicycle porter who will pack it in his luggage--the letter has duct-tape on the edges to protect it from the long trip to Lomela
-The bike porter will take 7 to 10 days to make the trip from Lodja to Lomela-he will receive 200 francs
Then the child will get some news from me. But it is highly unlikely that he will be able to (a) find an enveloppe to respond, (b) afford the 200F necessary to send me the letter, (c) get the letter to me in time before I leave the Congo.
Actually, when I said "there is no formal mailing system", I lied. A colleague of mine had ordered an English-Swahili dictionnary from Kenya. The sellers sent it to his physical work address in Congo (instead of the pouch address--big mistake). It arrive to work today...2 years after it had been sent. No joke
Amazing. Surely this will make it to the Guiness Book of World Records.