01 Feb Oh Mama Africa (DRC Kinshasa)
My trip to the Republic of Congo, was me deciding to break the jinx that had held me back and finally visit a francophone African country, I set all my fears aside: if I could just go there, then I believed every other thing would fall into place. I arrived in Congo on the twenty-fifth day of November, the plane landed In the Ndijili International Airport in Kinshasa. I was excited to begin my tour, I was still high on the thrill of the two countries I had just visited, and I couldn’t wait to see what hidden beauties lay beyond the airport walls of Congo.
The Journey to the Hotel was a long and tiring one, it was already late and I had to get enough rest for the next day but I ended up spending four hours on a journey that was supposed to take an hour or less, maybe this was the country’s way of telling me that this wasn’t a place for me. I was exhausted by the time I arrived at the Kempinski Hotel in Flueve, luckily for me, the hotel receptionist spoke English so it wasn’t a hassle to get my room keys and go to bed.
The next day, I met up with a friend of mine from Dubai who is a native of Congo, incidentally, he was on his annual vacation at that time so he acted as my guide, he interpreted for me, and took me to the few places which I visited. I must say that my trip to Congo was less exciting and engaging than the previous countries I had visited, Congo to me was Africa, stripped of all her grandeur, there was helplessness to that place, one that made me feel ashamed of my privileges. In Congo, I realized that many countries In Africa were surviving on cheap plastic surgery and as is the case with such procedures, the fallacy Is easy to spot when you really look. I was grateful for the weather though, the rain fell in light showers and when the sun was up it was bright but not so hot as to make one uncomfortable, and at night the whole city cooled. The music was invigorating one of the richest in Africa, I dare say, it commanded your body to move whether there was rhythm in you or not. Makossa is a piece of loud and energetic music, like the indigenes of the country.
I also enjoyed the food, one of the many delicacies which I really enjoyed was the Chikwanga or kwanga, it is a traditional bread consisting of cassava flour cakes that are wrapped in dry banana leaves, then steamed. It is a very versatile food, Its savory flavor pairs well with most of the main meals in the country. Africa never disappoints in these three aspects of herself; the food is always a delight to your senses, the music is loud and moving and the laughter is abundant; despite how unfavorable the condition of the African might seem in the eyes of an outsider, laughter is always in the heart of the black man.
In all my travels, I have never seen such naked and concentrated poverty, it was there everywhere you looked, staring at you in the hands of a little child running behind a car tyre, in the eyes of all the faces that looked at you as you walked the streets. Once, as I walked through triomphale street, I saw a man pushing a cart that was piled high with scrap metal, It struck me how this continent; Africa, is one that equates suffering from hard work, your palms must tell the story of all your pain before you are seen as determined to succeed, yet, the people who eat to their fill and have leftovers, have hands with manicured fingernails. I know that there are jobs that demand a great deal from those who do them, I know that many people have climbed up the rungs of the ladder of the world through these jobs. But if we would lay bare the truths in our hearts, we would see, that the men who push carts almost always die pushing carts.
The Kempinski hotel is located by a river, the river is the border between Congo Brazzaville and Congo Kinshasa, this is the most beautiful part of the city, all the diplomats and ambassadors live there, in homes with a beautiful view of the river, this part of the town didn’t mirror the state of poverty In Congo, it was such that, if I hadn’t gone out, if I had spent the duration of my trip there, I would have returned with the verdict that Congo was beautiful, it was sad to see that this place existed comfortable in the midst of such penury, If this country could fund the development of such an area, it could fund the development of the whole country but as is so in many African countries, no one cares about the masses, as long as those in power are kept fat and happy.
There are gifts in this continent, on her grounds and in her people, gifts that go beyond beauty and culture. Many words have been said about Africa, about her own people sabotaging her, more words will do nothing but fill the pages of newspapers and the mouths of the frustrated, I do not even have those words, I do not know what to say or how to make things better. The average African has learned to survive; to bury the face of all his hurt and tears in the holes of his laughter, he doesn’t make lemonade with the lemons that life gives, he eats the lemon as he would an orange and hides his face when the sourness hits.