Sunday, September 4, 2011

Walking Around the Neighborhood

I've been having a hard time thinking about what to write on this blog lately. As I had imagined, our life here is much more focused on school and our students so I don't know that I will ever know enough about the Congo to really comment on culture, society, or politics like I could in Chad or South Africa. Living on the school campus is a bit of a unique experience. Though it's a like a compound that is isolated from what's going on around it, we can and do walk out the gate and around the neighborhood whenever we want. Of course, during the week, we're usually pretty tired by the end of the day and even walking 10 minutes to buy a few loaves of bread seems like too much work, but on the weekend we like to walk down to a busy intersection which is about a 30 minute walk from school. On the way you pass one of Mobutu's old palaces which also housed a zoo (complete with a lion that was killed and eaten during the fighting). It's a cool place, totally overgrown but the cages are all still there peeking through the thick undergrowth. You can see the remains of stalks where soldiers (we think) from the surrounding army have cleared some of the land to plant corn in past years. There's also a museum which we haven't been inside yet, but outside of it, there's a statue of Henry Morton Stanley that has long since fallen down. It's kind of creepy as the way his arms are extended towards the sky it looks like he's reaching towards heaven as he takes his last breath.

Another 10 minutes past the zoo/palace/museum brings us to the circle. There's a Nando's (which I've heard is not anywhere as good as Nando's in South Africa, but since I've never eaten Nando's before, who knows) and lots of small shops that mainly cater to the Kinois not expats though you can get just about anything you need in them. The best part though is that it's the closest market type area to where we live, and there are lots of ladies selling vegetables and fruit for much more reasonable prices than in the expat grocery stores or from the ladies who come and sell on campus. What's crazy about Kinshasa is that people don't really seem to care that you are there. Certainly the vegetable ladies want you to pick them for your business, but we haven't really been harassed at all walking around this busy circle or around our part of the city in general. Though children are occasionally excited to greet us, many children let us pass without a second glance something that would never happen in the other places we've been in Africa. People here just seem to be underwhelmed by foreigners. Maybe with so much negative involvement since Stanley first came down the river til now, they've actually figured out that foreigners and foreign aid aren't the answer, or maybe their just too busy to care. Who knows, but I'm happy to get a chance to walk around the neighborhood a bit.

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