Monday, November 16, 2015

I am in Ft. Myers, Florida with my friends, Shirley and Bharath, Shirley's sister, Lily is here from Bangalore, India and Shirley, Lily and I have started the process of planning our trip to India and Cambodia which will commence late in April of 2016. Lily has the most incredible photos of sites we may visit...some she has experience with and others she "knows" from living in the region and from stories her friends have shared.

Now...back to Kinshasa!

Before leaving for Ft. Myers, I slept over at Heidi and Chris' house in Davison. Their son, Chase, is studying Africa in social studies and he needed to review for an upcoming quiz. I was able to check out his map and told him to ask his teacher if I could come share photos and stories from my work/visits to Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and the DRC. Hope he and the class will have some interest. I was showing Chase where the River Nile splits the Congo and the DRC on his map. I was told, but have not checked, that the Nile is the longest river in the world and the Congo River is the deepest, after the Amazon.

What little industry there is in the Kinshasa area, came during WWII. The country is also known for its minerals and is a huge copper mining area. The majority of their products is imported and I found it interesting, that despite the huge forests, there is no paper production in the country which accounts for the huge cost of printing newspapers. Paper is imported and warehoused.

As the tour guide was rehashing the DRC history, it was mentioned that the former President Patrice Lumumba was murdered and apparently put in a vessel of acid as punishment. We stopped to see a monument in his honor and the visit was a memorable one. We were on one of the major highways...three lanes going each way. The driver pulled the tour van over in the lane closest to oncoming traffic and stopped. Yup...stopped on a major highway with two other lanes of traffic whizzing by us. After no conversation for about five minutes, the tour guide hopped up and popped the door open and said, "Let's go." We disembarked and were hopping down into lane two of the highway! One person was on crutches and everyone was a tad upset. We walked around the front of the van, crossed the other three lanes of traffic to walk up to the statue.

Along this highway, we encountered a miles long community garden. There were men and women sitting near the plants, weeding and picking veggies. A great idea to help feed those in need and apparently, anyone can access this food. Of course, they may need to navigate the incredible traffic to get there!

Not my best photo but, I swear, I was scared to death with this whole process. It was shoot and run!

Later we stopped in front of the Parliament building but this was another site where photos were forbidden. The Parliament consists of two bodies: the Senate and the Assembly.

Our driver was listening to a radio station which broadcasts in Lingala, the language of this area. Interestingly, there is Lingala TV and radio but no newspaper in that language. I, of course, asked why and the last day, a guy from off the street, who came in to the library at the US Embassy indicated that though everyone speaks Lingala, it is not taught in school and people would not know how to read in that language. I thought it fascinating that the print media group couldn't come up with that very reasonable explanation!

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