OK, now I really made it to Africa.

OK, now I really made it to Africa.  I arrived in Kinshasa, DRC this afternoon.  The main thing that was bothering me on the way up here was just getting through customs and out of the airport with the pile of bags that I’ve brought.  I have heard stories about people (especially those with an American passport) being given a hard time by the various people along the way. 

On the plane I met a South Africa businessman who was coming to Kinshasa for some sort of project.  He knew several pilots that were flying around the DRC and wondered if I knew any of them.  I said that I didn’t, that I most likely would know some of them soon.  This guy had gone through the rigmarole many times and knew how to get through fast and easy.  He found the immigration officer that he knew gave him a little “coffee money” along with his passport and that was that.  He then grabbed me and said that I was with him, and that was that.  The only thing that almost snagged me was that they wanted to know where I was going to be living.  I didn’t have a clue so I just told him that I was going to live at the airport while pointing to the stripes on my pilot shirt and showing him my badge and such.  He just gave me a strange look and stamped my passport. 

When I made it to the baggage claim area, I spotted my Airserv contact-Henry, a truly massive Congolese man.  He saw me and made a bee-line towards me.  “Ah, Patrick!  Comment allez-vous?” 

“Tres bien, merci”, I answer in the most mangled French ever (I had been listening to the French CD’s I had loaded on my Ipod on the way up).  Anyway, all my bags showed up and then we were on the way. 

South Africa was a good warm up for real Africa.  A lot of the South Africans that I have met in the last few weeks would often refer to people they knew who were “flying up in Africa”.  When I would hear that, I would think to myself, “isn’t South Africa in Africa?”  I guess now, I see what they were talking about. 

In South Africa, it wasn’t “just like home”, but it was very comfortable.  There was just about anything you could want to buy and everything was modern.  Still, you couldn’t go far without seeing something to remind you that it wasn’t “back home”.  And I am not talking about chickens under cars and such.  Every house/complex that I saw had 12 foot high walls with razor wire and/or electric fencing.  That’s not something I was used to seeing, but I think it will be the norm for a while. 

There was also a huge contrast between rich and extremely poor.  There was a lot of brand new BMW’s driving by vast shanty towns.  I think it would be like if the wall between the US and Mexico was taken down one day and Tijuana and San Diego instantly became one city.  I guess that is essentially what happened at the end of Apartheid. 

So far, all I have seen of Kinshasa is between the airport and where I am staying.  It really is a sprawling city.  There are many obvious reminders of the wars that have been fought here.  It seems that there has been little or no reconstruction since then.  I saw many of the walls along the roads with bullet scars and holes from various explosions.  I saw a few places where bridges had been demolished and not rebuilt.  Maybe I can get some pictures once I get more of a feel for things here.

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6 Responses to “OK, now I really made it to Africa.”

  1. Kristina Says:

    I’m glad you made it! Your description sounds so interesting. Good things you met that businessman!

  2. Mom Says:

    I am thankful that God has His angels watching over you!!

  3. Auntie Says:

    Wow-what an adventure! Someone is going before you! Take care, you’re in our prayers.

    Auntie

  4. Dad Says:

    Well, it is something to have arrived. I guess it will take a little time for you to get settled in. As you are putting pictures in your blog, it would nice for you to have some pictures with you in them.

  5. mormor Says:

    Patrick, reading about your experience in customs reminds me of when morfar Carl and I came to TZ….but for Olle & Alice, I don`t know how we would have made it through!!! Can`t wait to hear more from you about your Africa experiences…..love, mormor

  6. Helene (Evelyn´s cousin) Says:

    We will be watching over you in Sweden too…
    Take care and good luck with your work.
    Hi from Stockholm says Helene

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