Friday, July 09, 2010

Random thoughts on life in Brazzaville

Here are a few thoughts I've been wanting to share with you. They are completely unrelated from each other, but each represents a little slice of life in Brazzaville, Congo.

1) The 50 year anniversary of the independence of Congo is coming up August 15th. To prepare for this illustrious event, the city has decided to tear up and replace most of its water pipes and roads. The end result I'm sure will be fantastic (at least for a month or so until new pot holes form), but in the meantime I'm getting really tired of seeing "detour" signs everywhere I go; there are basically only detours left to drive on, no straight road to anywhere. You literally can't drive into certain neighborhoods now. I'm sure that one day I will go to leave my house and I simply will not be able to! My friend Barb has had to stop going into the prison on Fridays because she literally would have to jump over a ditch to get onto the property (guess that's one way of doing security--build a mote!). For several weeks the route between my home and work (along which the aforementioned prison lies) felt like a military training course; I gave myself points for every danger safely avoided and daily new obstacles of holes and piles would form. But now it’s impassable and I have to brave the main roads which take me out of my way and put me onto the path of policemen who want to pull me over. But the 15th is rapidly approaching and I’m hoping they’ll be able to finish these ambitious projects in time.

2) The main (pretty much the only) supermarket in town smells like a hamster cage. This is actually putting it in kind terms considering the cute and cuddly connotation of hamsters, so let’s just go with “rat butt”. I took a poll amongst my friends and they unanimously used the word ‘urine’ to describe the notorious odor. Now this smell is to be easily explained in most of the small boutiques in town—they have cats to keep away the rats and these cats raise their babies under the shelves in the store so the store literally becomes a litter box. But the source of the supermarket smell is less observable, although I did look at some food the other day whose packaging had clearly been chewed open…probably not by hungry customers. Thinking about this makes the muddy, pungent open-air market seem a whole lot cleaner to me by comparison. At least those sweet market ladies aren’t trying to sell me something a rodent has previously gnawed on!

OK, people, you know I love Congo and don’t complain very often, so you’ll allow me this one post, right? I’m only supposed to say good things about the country, so here’s my positive spin on the ranting of the previous paragraphs—Thank you, city planners for working on all those rough roads that lie between my house and place of work. That will make my commute totally awesome! And thank you, super market store owners for being willing to operate in this country where conditions make doing business difficult. I’m glad you’re here!