Posts tagged ‘Kinshasa’

November 4, 2019

Protected: Reflections on the Year

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

October 20, 2019

Kinshasa Orientation

For the next two weeks it was a mixture of following up with business opportunities (more Othy, but sometimes both of us), and looking for an apartment. Some days I worked from our temporary home or from a cafe in town (a juice bar and crepe place called Surprise Tropicale) while Othy went on apartment searches or to meetings, and other days we both worked from home. After about two weeks we finally found a place that we thought would be a good fit. Although the construction was slightly shoddy, it was close to town, a good price, and a bit quieter since it was off the main road. Our broker helped us arrange a meeting with the landlord and we wrote up an agreement. In Congo it is common to pay three months of deposit, but to get an even better price we agreed to pay six months. We paid half with the agreement we would pay the other half when the place was finished in about a weeks time. We were thankful and relieved that we would soon get to move into our own home!

Two days later we visited the apartment and met up with the building manager so that I could see the place in person and so that we could give instructions to make sure the finishes were done well. In speaking to the building manager we learned that the person our broker set us up with was not the landlord and that we had been scammed! When we shared our situation with a few of our Kinois friends, they said “Bienvenue à Kinshasa”, as if this was our orientation or “baptême”. I was pretty sad about it as it would mean that it would take us even longer to be settled. Othy was determined to try to get some justice and our money back, and so he went to the police and continued communicating with the broker pretending that we were unaware of their scam so that we could arrange another meeting with them and catch them. About a week later we caught a guy who was with the broker when she showed Othy the place, but we lost a chance to catch the landlord and her assistant because the police decided not to go to the meeting Othy had arranged with them. We were able to get $400 back from the parents of the one guy they caught in exchange for letting him go free. Apparently in Congo, you spend 48 hours at the police station, and once you are sent to prison than it is very difficult to get out again. The parents signed an agreement to give us the remaining amount after one month, but they didn’t honour it. And even though the police could probably track the whole network down using their ID-registered phone numbers, they haven’t done anything.

We have learned our lesson that in Kinshasa nobody can be trusted and there are a lot of people who will go to sad lengths to make a buck. We also learned that we are mostly on our own and the police aren’t all that helpful and many people escape justice. Contracts don’t necessarily stand up because there is no way to enforce them. I think that for there to be real positive change in this country, the public institutions need to be overhauled so that they function properly. I find it fascinating that all of the institutions exist and many people are employed, but beyond paper-work, very little gets accomplished. What’s crazy is that I’m sure many people would jump at the chance to actually be productive instead of moving through the bureaucratic motions. So I challenge the current or next president with this task! I think it would be like pulling off a bandaid and would cause some upheaval, but money would be much better spent and the public would recognize the leader that made a change that improved their wellbeing.

So finally after a month and a half of being in Kinshasa, we have found a place! It was definitely a test of patience. We are thankful for the generosity of our friend who hosted us all that time. So there may be broken institutions that cast a negative light, but Congolese hospitality is some of the best! More to come about our new apartment! And hopefully some photos too!

October 8, 2019

Move to Kinshasa

Last month Othy and I finally made the big move to Kinshasa. This had been something that had been in our sights for a while but finally the timing was right once Othy was finished teaching his intensive courses at UCBC and I had returned from the conference in Nairobi and Othy from the forum in Nigeria. The timing still felt bad because moving to another country is an expensive endeavour, and Kinshasa is an expensive city. But despite not feeling financially ready, we had to make the leap because as long as we stayed in Kampala, it would only be me supporting the two of us, whereas in Kinshasa Othy would quickly find opportunities to do business.

Even though our apartment in Kampala was pre-furnished, we had still managed to accumulate a good amount of stuff. We sent some of it to Butembo when we sold our car  to friends of ours who live in Beni. We only had two larger suitcases and so Othy and I went to Game at Lugogo Mall and bought two storage bins. Unfortunately as we were packing we discovered that this still was not enough. We decided to fill the box that I had brought the keyboard in from Canada because Othy was planning to bring the keyboard as a carry-on (I didn’t think he would succeed in this). What was supposed to be an oversized box but still a manageable weight, became a very heavy, oversized box! We were hoping that they would still take it and just charge us an overweight fee.

In the early afternoon of September 4th we headed to the airport with a special hire. A friend of ours stopped by and picked up the last valuables that we could not take with us like clothes hangers, cleaning supplies, and remaining food items. We got to the airport in good time but it was very busy. The Entebbe airport is under construction and so the parking lot was almost a gridlock. Our taxi driver didn’t want to bring us all the way to the drop off, but we refused to get out early because there would be no way to move our luggage without carts. Once at the drop off we had to push our carts up the large ramp to the second level because we had too many to carry up the stairs. Then after putting all of our stuff through the entrance metal detector, we waited in the long check-in line for Ethiopian Airlines.

Eventually we got to skip to the front of the line because there were two flights waiting to check-in and ours was the earlier one. Ethiopian lets each person take a combination of 23kg and 36kg, and we were both over and had to pay $8 for each extra kilogram which came to $150 dollars. As for our big atrocious box, they were not willing to take it at all. I waited near the check-in as Othy sent the big box back to a friend’s place by taxi, and withdraw cash and then exchanged it to pay the overweight fee for the other luggage (we were shocked that they didn’t take cards or Ugandan shillings). By the time our luggage was checked in, the plane was boarding and they were calling our names on the intercom! When we arrived at the plane, Othy had trouble bringing his keyboard on board (as I predicted!). In the end they made him check it but promised they would put it in a safe place.

It was a relief to finally sit down in our seats. I thanked God that somehow my energy had kept up. The day before I had had a mean headache and I was glad it had not returned. I was also happy to discover they were serving dinner even though it was a short flight to Addis Ababa. Both of our flights and our layover went very smoothly, and we arrived in good time in Kinshasa in the early morning. All of our luggage arrived, though one of our storage bins was cracked and broken and it was miraculous that it appeared nothing had fallen out. Othy’s friend Jon and another friend were there to pick us up. It was wonderful to receive such a warm welcome! They brought us to our friend Dadis’ place where we would stay for two weeks while he was away in Goma. This would give us the time we needed to find our own apartment.

The Kinshasa adventure begins!