Tuesday, June 16, 2009

From Kin La Belle

Back in Kinshasa for the first time in three years! Wow!

I am even staying in the same room in the Guest House at UniKin where I lived for the year when I taught here.

The city looks mostly the same. There is not much new construction. The condition of the roads is a bit worse (this being after the rainy season). Talking to friends, everyone says things are getting worse. In 2006, the exchange rate was $1US to 450FC (Francs Congolais), and pretty stable. Now it is $1 to 720-750FC. $US is accepted here as official currency (typically for larger transactions—not in day-to-day purchases—only $5 bills and larger are accepted). Since most people who are paid are paid in FC, their purchasing power is diminishing. For someone like me, I come in with US$ and profit from the economic shift (when I do not need the benefit). That is just one easily quantifiable marker of the changes. There are many other less quantifiable stories that I am hearing about how things are here.

Despite my three overnight flights and little sleep (partly due to the showing of a great Nigerian film “Preacher Man”—strongly recommended IF you like Nigerian film, which is its own genre), I have been able to spend lots of time with friends during the first 24 hours of my trip. This part of the return can be quantified by the number of Primus beers I have shared, and the fact that I ate more meals in a 24-hour period than I previously thought possible. Everyone seems as happy to see me as I am to see them.

On the road in front of the house, there is a teenager who runs a sort of phone booth. These are everywhere—if you don’t have a phone or can’t afford to add a full block of credits, you can go and pay to make a call on one of his phones. He also sells SIM cards and credits. I went to see him to buy a card, as I did a couple of times each week when I was last here. He remembered me, which was nice. He updated me on changes to the cellular network, exchanged some money for me, and told me how he has been doing. And I did the same.

Today I will go over to the faculty to get to work.

Postscript: I wrote this blog yesterday (Monday morning) on my laptop but spent most of the day without electricity. There was still none this morning, but I came downtown to the American Cultural Center and was able to get online here and post this.

No comments: