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Published: September 17th 2012
It's not everyday that I found the possibility...and the time to take some pictures in Congo, so here is a little entry. I have to admit it, these pictures are actually less than impressive. They have changed the law few months ago, to actually allow taking pictures in the street...but it's still not a great idea to try your luck at it.
I've spent the last two weeks between Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, the two biggest cities of RDC. And as internet is so slow in the country, I'm actually uploading my pictures in between two airports on my way home...in Johannesburg and Sao Paolo...it's a small world!
I've reached a pretty interesting point in my life...when it comes to people asking me...."Where are you from?" Well, I have a European passport, and I grew up in Europe, so my roots are clearly European. At the same time, I've been living the last 16 years in Asia, so I do consider my home as...Asia. I've also spent at least two months in Africa per year the last few years...so in cities like Lubumbashi, I feel like at home, knowing a lot of people...but hey, we've moved two months
ago to Buenos Aires...so today home is Argentina, while my office is still in Hong Kong. Confused? Don't worry, that's kind of normal...speaking of globalization, here we are!
I've now spent a total of nearly 6 months in Congo, and it's not going to stop any time soon. As explained above, I do consider Lubumbashi as "kind of" my second or third home....and that's due to many amazing people!
But this entry is about Kinshasa, more on Lubumbashi later in this entry. I did my first one week visit to the capital in May. Didn't take many pictures...
Kinshasa is a huge city of around 10 millions souls. I did my first visit here back in May for a full week but I didn't take a single picture. The law used to ban people from taking pictures in the street in the Republic Democratic of Congo. That law seems to have changed, but I'm still not ready to take my camera out like this as it can still lead you to serious troubles. So forget about nice picture taken all around....my pics are crap, and this is it.
So Kinshasa is huge, crowded...and right on the "fleuve". The river Congo is actually one of the biggest in the world, just behind the Amazon. It is also the heart of Congo, or better qualified as the best way to enter the deep of the country....but that's not really on my agenda today. Right on the other side of the river is Brazzaville, the capital of the other Congo...and it has the reputation to be a much calmer place.
Kinshasa can actually be divided into three different areas if you consider yourself as a visitor. La "Ville", downtown...la "Cite", the township, and the different residential areas. Most people, at least 7 million people live in the township. This is a no go area if you have a white skin. Forget about walking around here. You do get a idea of "La Cite" when you drive between the airport and downtown.
La "Ville", downtown is a huge, crowded and not always safe area. Here I can walk on day light...but nearly nowhere, and you need to be careful. The traffic is these days pretty ugly in Kinshasa, so a lot of expats have decided to
actually live downtown. Downtown is also bordered by the river, but sadly, there is no nice river walk, well, not yet as of today.
Than there are residential areas...up above the city like "Campagne"...be ready for serious traffic, but nice views, gorgeous villas...another world...
So in Kinshasa you don't walk, and the traffic is a nightmare...well, that really doesn't start well for me! if I had to go back to University, I would probably do a master in "economics of development". My first paper would be on the use of resources in the third world. I've never seen so many huge 4x4....why do NGO employees need cars that cost over 50,000usd a piece, to mainly drive in town. What a waste! This is also another side of the foreigners crowd in Kinshasa....lots of NGO employees, lots of diplomats...and actually way less people working in the private sector. Without going further, may I just say that they are different crowds...When I used to live in Vietnam, you had the same divide between Hanoi and Saigon...in Saigon they earned the money, in Hanoi, they were more on the "spending" it, not really the same mentality...or the
The main question remains about Africa...how is Africa going to lift itself up...by people developing business....or by getting constant aid...that's clearly a question with a very grey area answer...in Asia, they found the answer!
So I did 4 days in Kinshasa this time. This is my second visit, and not my last one. I guess it will take me time to understand everything here and to learn to love the place. I have great friends here, and some nice contacts, so things are happening, slowly. I find it pretty difficult that you need a "minder" in this city. I'm on the independant side of the traveller/businessman/human....so having to relate on others for your moves and security is not really what I prefer, but I'll go with the flow...and still enjoy it!
When it comes to security, as a foreigner, you are mainly safe...because you simply don't walk...not perfect. The city is also, as most of the country, bloody expensive. I guess not that many people come here to simply do some sightseeing! It's impressive to see that in Africa, the poorer a country is, quite often, the most expensive
it turn out to spend few days...or years in it...
I'll be back in Kinshasa early 2013....with more discoveries. Here, for me, it's not really about the place, but more about the people...and there again, a lot more to discover for me.
I then made my way South to Lubumbashi for 10 days. I love Lubumbashi...I feel like any expat living here. It may be a city of more than 2 millions souls, the city and residential area are safe, pretty relax, with the best climate ever. I admit, there is not a huge amount of things to do, but the people are seriously friendly, and in the international community, I've got a lot of friends now...I simply feel wlecome, like at home. There is here this little "joie de vivre" of any provincial city. Small expat community, but big parties!
I'm back one more time in Congo in a few weeks time. You cannot reduce Congo (RDC) to Lubumbashi or Kinshasa....the country is huge...and one day, maybe not that far from today, I'de like to discover Goma and Bukavu. The east is today technically a "war zone"...but that too is
a false statement....the East region has a lot of "pockets of war"...but the cities are safe....with huge villas by the lakes...and expats enjoying a nice life by the same lake.
As you can see, Congo has a lot of faces...I'm here just to look, not to judge...so whatever I think, it's a pretty interesting experience....
I wish one day to be able to take a proper camera around Kinshasa and Lubumbashi as there are pretty amazing pictures to be taken, and not only of the architecture....but of people around.
Congo may have a lot of faces, the one I prefer is the welcome I have received here!
Next entry is back at home...going to discover more of Argentina with my little guys...well....that's actually in a few hours...waiting in the middle of the night my last flight of the month, to Buenos Aires...
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