Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thought I would share a couple of experiences from my Kinshasa visit that still have me laughing every time I think of them. After I  arrived here and I finally had my suitcase in hand, I passed through customs, and then, moved on to have my shot card checked. My seat mate from Paris had warned me about the shot "certification" process and that I watch because this was the first place unsuspecting visitors might be bribed. The man checking my card quickly ran down the shots and looked at me and started grinning. He explained I would have to have a yellow fever shot before entering the country. Or, he indicated, as he furtively looked at me and around and behind himself, that for $50.00, he would let me go without the shot. Otherwise, I would have to go over he waved to a closed door and get a shot NOW. I smiled widely, took my card and pointed to my yellow fever shot which I had taken 8.5 years ago. These shots are good for 10 years. The card had been stamped officially, documenting that the shot had been given in Florida. Poor guy! He KNEW he had made some fast money from this old, white haired lady. I won! He lost! As he waved me on and out, I smiled cheerfully and waved back at him!!

I met "Il Papa" or, "the pope" as he introduced himself to me in the elevator. He was a very short older man with an unusual hat atop his head. At the third floor, he opened the door and held it open and began singing Amazing Grace in Italian. After a couple of minutes of beautiful singing, he shut the door and we again stopped at the sixth floor. He held the door open, looked at me and the other two ladies in the elevator and continued belting out his song. He stopped singing as we continued our ascent and asked if we liked meeting the pope? I suggested I liked his singing but wondered if he sang also in another language, possibly French or Lingala? I also mentioned I had seen the pope (not in reality but on TV) and he laughed.

Another time, in the elevator, one of the hotel staff people began chattering at me in French. I mentioned I didn't speak French but, if he spoke more slowly, I might understand him. He began French 101 with me. He asked me my name and I answered appropriately and he told me his was Freddie. I had to ask him in French what his name was. Then, he asked where I was from and we practiced how to ask that of someone.  I was asked if I liked the hotel and practiced how to say that. I am staying on the 10th floor. To get the language lesson in...we stopped at every floor. This extra special service and friendliness was everywhere here. I would love to see some job descriptions to see if this is just cultural or expected of employees. Last night, while eating with Lidia from the CDC in Atlanta, we both experienced our first person who was either having a bad day or had missed the memo about smiling, helping, and serving guests quickly and efficiently. Both of us commented on this young lady and how she did not fit the rest of the employees' work ethic.

Next post will have photos!

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