Back from DR Congo

22 May

Combining Winin Pereira’s book “From Western Science to Liberation Technology” with the trip to DR Congo has a depressing connotation. Former nuclear physicist’s critique of the achievements of the Western science, or rather, the gruesome side-effects of it, keeps resounding in the back of my head throughout the trip.

The extraction of wealth from already poor countries to support filthy richness of a handful stares at me on every step: posh airport shops, large reservoirs of fuel to feed the steel beasts crisscrossing the sky, large bags of plastic waste taken from the plane after each flight, but especially people repeating the rituals of eating the meal, watching the movie and wiping the face with a sanitised tissue.

Adis Abeba airport was built in 2003, so it’s quite modern. Spacious halls echo with lively conversations in local languages and French. I am amazed by very few screens. As a matter of fact, just now I am looking around the huge waiting hall at boarding gates and there are only two screens in view and no clocks. Now, compare that to Frankfurt airport I just arrived from.

The air in Adis Abeba is thin. The altitude is 2370 m. At least it’s not very hot; 16 degrees C at 7 a.m. when I arrived. The air above town is misty or smoggy, it’s hard to say. And on the left I see the same planes – only one logo – Ethiopian.

I feel like practicing French … and it just happens … the guy sitting next to me in the plane speaks only French and we have a chat. Nothing complicated, but enough to get me started. I’m actually amazed at how well I do after so many years of no French!

The views from the plane are magnificent. We just fly over a vividly brown red river flowing through a dense jungle. Lake Victoria (3,5 times bigger than my country) in the back also looked fantastic. I get a bit of picture of what I heard about clouds in Africa being something special.

Before that the view spread over hills, desert, lakes, and a bunch of scattered villages. And now it’s just jungle stretching for as far as the eye can see. It’s funny how we are well into Congo already and it’s still 1500 km to Kinshasa.

And then I experience probably the shortest Boeing 767 inter-country flight between two capitals: Brazzaville – Kinshasa – 25 km. Flying to the country of practically the same name, just across the river. I am amazed at the number of Chinese or/and Japanese passengers on board. It seems to be popular to go to Africa’s remote countries like Congo. Some of them  are probably workers, but many of them are travelling tourists, which is obvious from their behavior and looks.

I am critical of western education, but it must be admitted that the people who had been educated and have read a lot, do show that on their face and demenaor. The local boy pushes the luggage forcefully and stupidly; black guys in front of me weren’t able to even fasten their seatbelts. And one Japanese boy puts his luggage into the locker swiftly and intelligently, closing it once he’s done (the local didn’t bother with closing it, of course).

Entering Congo is quite something … It costs me an additional 160$ – 60 for visa and 100 for “vaccination”. The guy from vaccination crew nags and nags until I bribe him with 100$. He’s persistant and he doesn’t want to let me through with less … Ah, Africa!

And now Kinshasa! City of 9 millions spreads in front of me with all the crazy trafic. There’s four of us in the car and to cover 30 km took us more than 2 hours due to traffic-jams and bad roads in post-apocaliptic scenery, not much better than Mad Max décor. I know I’ll be almost used to it by tomorrow.

At 9.30 a.m., half an hour after the conference was about to begin I’m told on the conference ground that events NEVER start on time here. It’s not minutes the count, but hours. Africa.

I feel like fasting, so I don’t eat anything. My last meal was breakfast yesterday morning and a banana around noon. I’ll keep on without food for as long as I feel comfortable.

Tomorrow will be my day on the conference. I hope I’ll draw people’s attention to the abilities they have individually and collectively. I know everybody sees, and notices, and would like to participate in something valuable to the community and the world. But we inherited so much of junk inside the culture of the corporate global world.

I’m sad to see what kind of problems people have to deal with in Congo due to white people enforcing their “culture” upon them. There’s nothing to envy Congo about — in the war from 1996 to 2005 hundreds of thousands of families were affected.  It’s hard to imagine that 6 million people were killed in the war. So many women were raped and so many children born from these rapes. Many children remained as orphans. Madness! Now some people are trying to change things for better and it brings just so much optimism. The projects are really good, applicable, brave, inter-country cooperation is amazing. Empowering people is the core phrase in the Ecovillage efforts.

Was it not for corruption, DR Congo could well be the richest country on earth! The surface of Congo is 2.345.409 km2. In Congo valley there is appr. 13% of all drinkable water on the planet. 45% of tropical forests in Africa are in Congo. River Congo brings to the ocean 50.000 m3 of water per second. And what I see is people living in poverty! What’s wrong with this world?!

My introductory talk about World Cleanup 2012 went well. 15 minutes. Brief, energetic, strong, concise, accepted with enthusiasm.

It was very interesting to have a chance to meet with two Congolese ministers: the minister of communication and the minister of environment. They are quite supportive to the idea of ecovillages and World Cleanup 2012. We’ll see how they support will actually develop …

For the first time I afford some Congoleese food. The dinner is quite nice. Rice and beans and 3 kinds of greens. We enjoy a long discussion after about the formation of GEN Africa, about regional branches (possibly), about individual projects such as Mama Na Bana. It is  nice but I don’t feel really comfortably in a country like this, which is practically based on corruption.

Going to remote areas would be something totally different, but there’s no time and I, honestly, miss home … This is just an excursion …

I am actually happy I am leaving tomorrow. Kinshasa feels like hell. There are corners that are cute, but in general the city is one big embuteuyage (or however you write this French word for traffic jam) and a cess-pool.

I can’t really feel sorry for Africans, I really can’t. They have the climate and the resources, but they are simply dumb and disorganised and thus unable to fix their situation. Maybe they just have to hit the rock bottom.

Our visit to the place where Ecovillage Mama Na Bana is going to take roots was the highlight of my trip. It’s remote, although it’s only about 2h drive from the city down a dirt road. You need a good jeep to reach it. I have never driven down such a “road”.

People are poor and they have cut down every single burnable tree to produce coal for cooking for 9 million people of the capital. 1 sack of coal is 10$, which is a lot for poor farmers.

To me the tropical climate is just too much. Very little wind, humid heat (like Turkish sauna), intense raining … Ok, things grow, but that’s not the only measure of the quality of the place. It’s really annoying that the country is so difficult to enter, vaccination is needed, the infrastructure is terrible …

I know there might be beautiful places out in the jungle, but I am not anymore attracted by jungle where I am not at home. That is the home of other beings, other species, and if I am not invited I have nothing to look for there. That place is sacred.

To create a heaven where now it’s hell, that’s the challenge of our time.

A positive side of all the waste being so openly visible is that it makes the hell so much more obvious while in the case of the West it is all hidden, covered up. The roads are smooth, the hoses looks nice, the waste is taken out of sight, so we think we live in a world of order, care, responsibility and solidarity.

Can you imagine having to leave at 9 a.m. to get to the 14h flight on an airport which is tiny and only 30 km away? Driving there will take at least 2 hours, so they say, and then the customs and all the airport bureaucracy …

I got a little dhiaorhea after eating at Lua yesterday. Nothing critical that a day of fasting couldn’t solve. Just water and juices today in the morning, and in the afternoon I’ll see.

There are some similarities to India, but in some respects India is neat in comparison to what I experienced here. You can watch a documentary about this chaos, but you can never get even close to understanding the mess, without smelling all the exhaust in the scorching heat and hearing all the traffic that’s reverberating in the city 24/7 supliying it with underlying vibration that just kills the spirit in people. It’s indignifying that people live like this.

Driving to the airport was something. Vultures in police uniforms waiting all along the way, harassing you. I’m white so they stopped us twice. First 10$, the 20$ … Luckily no other police control stopped us after that … It’s just sooooo annoying, especially when you don’t have time …The trip also cost me my knife. 30€ extra …

Finally on board!

They checked the luggage manually once again. Unbelievable how much control in various forms. When I get back home I’ll be closing myself in my caravan and just writing for a while!

In 4 hours the flight takes of for Frankfurt and in 16 hours I’ll be almost home …Funny how relative things are. Compared to Frankfurt airport ADD seemd like a very simple, small, underdeveloped airport. But compared to Kinshasa it is ultra modern, clean and orderly.

Scenes from the road:

A guy holding a broken piece of mirror while another guy is shaving him.

A truck being fixed right on the road, blocking all the traffic.

Round holes cut out in MB208 for windows.

Woman selling fly laden brown worms by the side of the road.

Holes, holes, holes ….

A shoe market under the blue sky.

Carts full of various stuff pushed by 1-4 men (wood, planks, sttel, tires …)

Small women, sweating like anything, carrying large bundles of wood on their heads and sometimes also bundles of coal.

Cars stuck in muddy puddles.

MB207,208,209,210 … in all stages of deterioration.

Children bathing in a pond close to a village.

Children running away from cars.

A man taking a shower from the hose with soap and everything.

4 men pushing a broaken van towards the downward sloap.

Policemen “directing” traffic.

$ exchange “boots” by the road every 100m or less.

Guys selling socks approaching me in the car. Sock’s corner.

Children in uniforms off to school.

A boy saying he’s not in schoold because of money.

Fuming exhaust in black.

Pyramids made of oranges for 50, 100, 200 Fr.

A guy selling car coolers.

Another guy selling 2 springs.

A girl lying on the pavement with head on a rock.

Police controls on and on.

A woman selling 10 avocadoes and a few green mangoes.

Guys carrying bottles of cold water on their heads, some selling Congo maps and flags.

A rich fat woman with sleek high heels and a shiny blouse saying: WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?

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One Response to “Back from DR Congo”

  1. lua June 3, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    sorry about the dhiaoreah

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