Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Today was an incredible gift. I was supposed to speak to a group at a Kinshasa University on business and media ethics. It was moved to today so that I could take a Kinshasa tour and see a bit of the city...of 10 million people! This is a relatively short trip with lots of speaking, sharing and training. So, tomorrow, I have two university groups and I have to go somewhere before noon and get my tickets and leave my luggage for my 10:30 p.m. flight. Yup...before noon for late at night. That is how we do it here.

And, speaking of here....a few stories from today. We stopped in the middle of a three lane highway and sat for about 5 minutes. The driver and our tour guides said nothing. Then, the guide hopped up, opened the door and told us to get out. We stepped into the middle highway lane with a ton of cars, with drivers who don't obey any obvious rules, whizzing by us. One woman from the Embassy who is severely handicapped and on crutches had some serious concerns and trouble exiting and we had a young kid on the bus who just jumped out and his mother about puked. The reason for stopping?? There was a statue of an historical perspective and the tour guide wanted us to take a picture of it. the middle of the highway, two tour buses full of people were taking photos. Only about 20 of us...but still, a tad dangerous.

Our first stop was La Gare Central, the central train station. We were told we could only take a photo of one train car...that is the rule. We walk inside and a man in front of us was screaming because the cops had taken his camera. He wasn't with our group but walked in and saw hundreds of cool old train cars from the last 100 or so years and shot a photo. He hadn't heard the rule apparently. He was still making a fuss when we left. Lots of no taking photos in Kinshasa! These were old cars, and the trains weren't running , although there are more modern ones that do and are high speed. The country is refurbishing these and apparently don't want outsiders to see them at work.

This car is the only one we could take.

I loved seeing all of the men carrying huge packages on their heads. This guy must have had 40 or 50 pounds of water bags for sale atop his head.

Interestingly, as we drove around, I saw several men with a pyramid shaped box like package, filled with fresh eggs for sale. Not sure if one buys a level had fewer eggs and lower had many more. Possibly, one buys a dozen and he had packaging elsewhere. The tour guide was busy and I forgot to revisit this.

At the central station there was a huge fountain which wasn't working and at each corner was a huge leopard guarding the side. Leopards here signify justice. Interestingly, the huge plaza had about 50 flagpoles and not one flag flying. There were also no Congolese in this beautiful plaza, except for our tour staff. This lack of locals was seen everywhere we went. No one local at the National Museum or at the Mausoleum of Kabila, a former president. More on the Mausoleum tomorrow!

Saw a young man on the street wearing a shirt that announced, "Sarcasm is one of the services I provide."

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