Friday, January 13, 2006

Three moments during the journey from New York to Kindu

I looked out the window as the city lights of New York became smaller and disappeared. An hour before I had smiled at the Air France agent who told me I was likely to miss my connection in Paris. Such things really aren’t so important when I think of all the flights I had made and missed in Congo, and the crucial one that got me to Tanzania to be with my family. I also recalled the time I spent at JFK exactly one year before when my flight to Morocco was canceled. It took me a personal record of eight days to journey from NY to Niger. Or maybe the smile was because she had just said that I might have to take a Sunday flight and I had the break the news that the next flight to Congo from Paris would be three days later. She glanced back at her computer, gave me a voucher that could buy food at JFK airport, and told me she would put me at the top of the stand-by list for a flight leaving an hour from then. I pondered getting a glass of wine with the voucher, the decided on a Tuna fish sandwich. My logic was that if I missed the flight I would definitely be needing a glass of wine and would willingly pay for it, and if I did not, I could enjoy one on the plane. Eating a tuna fish sandwich next to the check-in counter seemed like a logical choice. I made the flight.

I stared at Kinshasa from a rooftop Indian restaurant. All cities look better from higher up, but especially cities in third world countries. It’s like standing back from a piece of imperfect art: you can’t see the flaws. The restaurant had a gold glitter toilet seat that seemed especially funny after I had drunk a beer. The elevator operator was Congolese man wearing an ill-fitting bellhop styled uniform. Congolese have a way of being regal amid the grime of cities or the poverty of villages, and the juxtaposition of this man and the dank claustrophobic elevator made for a perfect example. The elevator always stopped on the second floor on its way up and down. “It’s a like a car shifting gears,” said my friend, and we all laughed.

I opened the door of my Kindu apartment. One of our guards, Pappa Donation, stood outside wearing a thinning yellow t-shirt and smiling mischievously. “Bonne fete,” he said and handed me a small plastic sack. Inside were three eggplants - a perfect present.


Blogger OORANOS said...

Have a good time

5:31 AM  
Blogger TheMalau said...

Have a good time, and don't break too many hearts, Sahara Sarah. I am really interested in having your perspective on the Salon, especially on daily life in the inside of Congo. send me your email address at alimamina at yahoo dot com.

6:30 AM  
Blogger Congogirl said...

Oh, you make me miss the Taj. This is an excellent post :)

12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

glad you're back safely. arriving back in kabul was a real bitch...the experience would've been much nicer if someone had met me at the door with three eggplants. bonne fete, chica.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Black River Eagle said...

Welcome back Sahara Sarah. Good luck with your work and your life down in the D.R.C. Good New Year's resolutions and opening posts for 2006.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Sahara Sarah said...

Thanks for all the comments! Malu, will get in touch soon.

12:44 PM  
Blogger RealMuhy said...

wow. I was almost in Kongo for a mission. Long story and not me there at this moment!
Good to have found your blog here. I am still courage to be there, though. Good luck there, and enjoy it, as there are many people who want to experience a life in Africa, me is the example!

9:42 AM  
Anonymous hey said...

hey great mannnnnnnnnnn

8:47 AM  

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