Having resolved to make the most of my time until I head into the field, I've had the privilege of spending time with Terese in the TL2 Project Office and around Kinshasa.
And, as much as I have envied the protection and security enjoyed by the people who work for the US government here, I have come to realize too how restrictive it is, and how I should enjoy the freedom to go wherever I please!
I am so thankful to Terese too for including me in her plans here. I've met some wonderful people, and had absolutely riveting dinner conversations that weigh very heavily on the future of my own research within the country.
Last night we went down to Embassy Row to walk Georg the Dog, and get a little exercise and enjoy the sunset air as the city finally cooled down. What a difference, really! Since I've been in Kinshasa, nearly 2 weeks now, I'd yet to see a single non-Congolese-person walking on the street.
It's remarkable since Kinshasa really is a town of walkers! But there on Embassy Row, along the edge of the Congo River, there were all sorts of fair-skinned diplomats and families, roller-blading, walking their dogs, and enjoying the beauty of the day.
I appreciated so much finally getting to stretch my legs again. We ended up doing a bit of jogging, but only to escape from the stray dogs who were intent on picking a fight with Georg!
The Congo River is really remarkable, and what a shame that I'd never gotten to see it from Kinshasa before. The last time I was here for only a day before moving onto Kisangani, but now that I am in Kinshasa through March, it's excellent, being able to take the time and enjoy the sights.
How funny that, across the river, is a whole separate country. Terese told me stories of walking along the DRC side of the river during the wars in Brazzaville, witnessing the red flashes just across the water. I imagine itt was similar for people in Brazzaville during the DRC wars!
The coup attempt still lingers within the city. A huge section of the walking path was "interdict" to walk upon, so enforced by large bands of red-bereted soldiers, sprawled lazily in their plastic chairs with their automatic weapons propped up haphazardly next to them.
There was a big tank too, and I snapped some ninja photos of that that I wish were less blurry, but not at the expense of my safety!
Today, after we worked hard in the morning, we went to the Patisserie Nouvelle, a darling little coffee shop in Gombe right across from city market. We sat outside, drinking our tea and eating delightful little buns and, eventually, delicious omelets! The outside air was warm but not stiflingly so, and between the intermittent sounds of birdies chirping, one could hear the grind of ancient motors or the peppering calls of hawkers saying "Cartier! Cartier!" as they shook their box of fake gold watches at passers-by.
Perhaps we will go later to buy yummy sweets, that were Oh So Delicious to look at, but, full from brunch, we declined and instead went home to sleep off our food comas.
Congo was not entirely forgotten either, as, upon emerging from the patisserie, we were surrounded by hawkers and beggars and street kids. The tall lanky mute (who I think was deaf) was still patiently watching our car, and took great effort in orchestrating our exit from the parking lot, however unnecessary. The street kids scowled at him as he got a little money for his work, and we pulled away, careful to avoid the many potholes that are pretty standard on even the most rehabilitated of Congolese roads.
Now it's back to work, readying for another exciting dinner companion in just a few hours.
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