Saturday, November 1, 2008

Commerçant Eyebrows

One of the difficult parts about being in an isolated region like this one is that if there is something that you need... actually need and not just want on a whim (like a Coke) it’s nearly impossible to get.

Like money! We plan to have money transferred soon, since we’re running pitifully low for Rich Whiteys, and there are money transfer outfits in Buta. But as you may have read, Buta is 130km and a miserably muddy road from here.

We have friends there that can pick up the money, trustworthy and reliable, but then the question remains, how to get it to Aketi? Our friend Andre, the commerçant, doesn’t have regular access to the kind of money we’d need, and when we asked him, for the time being, to lend us some money for our forest trip to Yoko, he didn’t have it.

So we were forced to go to a different commerçant, who I’ll call Mr. Eyebrows, a swarthy and seedy gent with a history in the military and a Belgian wife. A big, hulk of a man, dressed smartly, with a shaved head that betrays a few head wounds, had the most remarkably huge eyebrows, dominating his face and giving him an especially dark look. Congolese men are not known for extensive body or facial hair, making it all the more remarkable.

He came to the gate and demanded to speak with the tall white man, and didn’t know what his name was, to talk to him about money, and I was sort of immediately on guard.

He did end up loaning us money, but he had a dark-alley look about him whenever he ogled me, and he ended up getting us to agree to karate lessons for “a few of his friends and children” (see later entry)

He had originally wanted daily lessons, 2 hours each, but we got him to agree to a first lesson with the promise for a consideration of more.

There are some points in Congo, when it feels a lot like playing with fire, and this is definitely one of them.

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