Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Daily Archive

Swahili lesson: Unataka kuchuliwa? = Do you want a massage? Tulia, samba! = Easy, lion!

Sarah Enid and Congolese School Girls
Sarah Exports the Peace Sign

I’m still in Kinshasa. I missed the earthquake in the East by a matter of days. Somehow, I forgot to factor natural disasters into the list of possible dangers. Here, in the capitol, my bad education continues. Over the past week I’ve met with high school girls, college students, parliamentary officials, women’s groups, a local private television station, and a priest. My list of fragmentary knowledge grows. Here are a few examples: There is a culture of NGOs in Congo which have been described as the New Colonialism. The only people with jobs in this country are those working for NGOs. Every other vehicle in this smog choked city belongs to the UN. They have a sweet set-up and they do nothing. They do nothing. They know where rebel groups viagra reviews comments are located. cialis how long to work They know everything about the Interhamwe’s whereabouts and doings. But instead they just act as a fat parasite, leeching like every other outsider who has their hand in Congo’s honey pot. Meanwhile, the Chinese are offering Congo a huge chunk of change so they can get at the resources. Congo’s belly is swollen with oil, as it turns out. So if you know Congo only for its diamond mines, well this puppy has resources beyond belief and EVERYONE wants some.

OMG

On the equally frustrating social scene I’ve learned that many of the rape victims in the East are ostracized because people in the village believe that they are cursed, or even that they somehow asked for it. Across the country there is a huge problem with sexual violence and general oppression of women. The high school girls I talked to told me that their teachers are always trying to get them to sleep with them and often their grades depend on it. And the real frustrating part is that when violence and oppression is the norm and there is also a huge problem with impunity many women don’t even think about their rights, or that there really is such a thing as women’s rights. I’m really glad I’m not a radical feminist because I’d likely get all, “I’m GOING TO CRUSH SOME SKULLS!!”. And I am wildly angry, but I have met is there a generic viagra a lot of women who are trying to re-educate people about some pretty basic human rights issues. So, there is at least faction attempting to influence basic awareness. If I come back to Congo again I have been asked to appear on a local private television show, they are going to have a special program. Yeah, hilarious and possibly a disaster, but in any case we’ll get that shit up on youtube. Barring any last minute disasters, I will fly out of Kinshasa on Sunday and be back in SF the 16th. It’s so strange here and I’m really going to miss it. The traffic is the worst. I’ve never had so many near misses in my is viagra blue life, and he roads themselves are really just a series of kiddie pool sized pot-holes. There are vendors of everything, in fact they stand on the side of the street canadian pharmacy online hydrocodone and

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hold out puppies to passing cars, Puppies. They sell crocodiles in the market and I also saw a monkey just tied to some log. We have been lucky to have electricity and running water almost every day. Often power lines get cut and stolen to be sold. I ate a pile of caterpillars, they tasted good. Oh, crocodile tastes like fishy chicken.

Sewing Circle

Okay, I think that covers the basics for now. Oh, here is a Konono #1 video so you can see what Kinshasa looks like:

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Map of Martinique, Courtesy of The CIA
Map of Martinique, by the

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CIA.

My life was untroubled by the existence of Martinique until Daily announced his intentions of living there for eight months in order to research his dissertation. As his degree relates to French Colonial History the presumption was that Martinique was formerly a French Colony, which is correct, but it never would canada pharmacy have occurred to me that it remains an actual part of France to this day. Like its Caribbean neighbor Guadeloupe, Guiana (not where Jonestown was) in South America and Reunion (which produced Miss France) near Madagascar, Martinique belongs to the Overseas Department of France. Each place is treated, to my understanding achieved through little effort, similar to various states here in the U.S., with direct representation in France’s government. Unfortunately this also means that they use the Euro which, if you haven’t noticed, is kicking the dollar’s ass these days. Understanding that our friend was stranding himself in a foreign country where he knew no one Aaron and I began to discuss the possibility of selflessly throwing ourselves into the tropics in the dead of winter to visit. Phone calls to the MVP Gold representatives of Alaska Airlines were made, long slogs discussing logistics complex enough to cause mere calculators to explode in confusion, and a flurry of modern communication ensued between the States and the tiny island of Martinique. Miracles were performed and so it was set in stone that Aaron and I would typical age of viagra users journey from our comfortable northern climes and descend into the sun-soaked paradise at the beginning of February. Then the flights were changed and we accrued an additional leg and a couple of extra hours. Suddenly I had gone from a routine entrenched spoil-sport to a globe-trotting member of the international jet-set. This required renewing my passport and finding some way of ensuring I would not be fired or evicted from my home. The gears were set in motion and the pieces fell into place as effortlessly as, eh, whatever the free online live ce pharmacy technicians metaphor would be in this case. I even went so far as to borrow a French phrase book from a co-worker who jabbered foreign at me one afternoon without any provocation, assuming that she owed me for this grievous offense. The fact that I hardly cracked the book cialis online open during the first couple months of its occupation in my life can only be explained by revealing a complicated series of tragedies and misadventures inspired by Greek myths. With time running out I began mumbling phrases in mixed company and adjusting to the red-hue my cheeks assumed. However feeble my attempts at incorporating a second (or third, I suppose) language, my research into the place I would ultimately see was first-rate. Martinique subsists on the French government but this economic aid does not mean there is no industry on the island. Tourism accounts for most employment as it requires a large service sector, and there are agricultural exports such as sugar-cane and bananas; the former is mostly dedicated to to the production of rum, for which Martinique is renowned. During the hurricane season of last year, tho, the island lost its entire banana crop. This disaster was followed closely by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake which caused one death (heart attack, I believe) and some destruction. Statistics available were slightly out of date and deviated slightly source by source but unemployment seemed to hover around http://cialisonline-lowprice.com/ 28%– higher perhaps this year due to the bananas being destroyed. So far as I understood it I would soon be traipsing through a tropical wonderland where they make a lot of booze and no one has a job, standing out like an albino, speaking the wrong language and probably wearing some garish garb with the mistaken idea that everyone on the island thinks hawaiian shirts and linen pants are the best way to combat the heat and humidity. The only available evidence that Martinique was not an impoverished death-trap like Haiti or Jamaica was that my pale-face friend was able to wander around on his own with no horror stories beyond every yard in his neighborhood being patrolled incessantly by enraged guard-dogs. After being disappointed with the available literature on the internet (the Martinican tourist site focuses mainly on rum and food) I found a blog written by a British woman named Lindsay who is currently living on the eastern side of the island teaching English to school-children. Her experiences furthered my understanding of what was to come: flying cockroaches the size of baby birds; Dengue Fever. Fortunately she did vouch for the existence of food in supermarkets which could be stir-fried which implied that, were I to escape any untimely demise by insects, disease and kidney-thieves, I might be able to eat; that there would be seafood available (I’m that kind of vegetarian) was a given. Didn’t check into the mercury content of the Caribbean, tho. Her travails with cat-calling lecherous old-men in town seemed unlikely to cause me any problems, for which I was grateful. Maybe if I were blond.

Mount Pelee Erupts
Mount Pelee Erupts, 1902

There are also volcanoes, or at least one. Mount Pelee sits above the town of Saint-Pierre along the northern coast. The city had been the original capital of the island, referred to historically as the Paris of the West Indies, until 1902 when an eruption obliterated the town along with close to 30,000 inhabitants. In under ten minutes. Despite the tears it was exciting to be able to travel to the rebuilt Saint-Pierre where excavations allow you to poke around ruins looking for petrified babies and heads. Except transportation seemed

to be a tricky deal. The towns are separated by large swaths of heavily forested mountains. Car rentals seemed pretty cheap but testimonials suggested attempting to drive alongside the locals was invitation to heart attack because they are all insane. There’s no railroad and the country seems to lack a cohesive transit system beyond an unofficial bus known as a taxico: Large vans or small buses that run normal routes between two cities and just picks people up on the side of the road– you scream in foreign to get out wherever you need to get out and the driver decides how much you’ve cost him. So what I knew before going: A small island populated by French speaking blacks, guard dogs, mosquitoes, giant flying cockroaches and my friend Daily. It would average 85 degrees during the day and maybe 75 at night with a breeze and the humidity would be high. It would be expensive due to the fact that not only is the island on the Euro but almost everything has to be imported. We would be at the mercy of a ramshackle public transportation system or mercenary cab drivers. If the hurricanes don’t kill you the next earthquake or volcanic eruption probably will. There may be thousands of impoverished people whetting knives waiting for feckless whitey. Then we found out we had booked our trip for Carnaval week. At least this was more than many people knew when conversation came round to my imminent leaving. Of those who had any idea the place existed most could only recall it floated around somewhere in the Caribbean: It’s one of the lower islands in the Lesser Antilles which cut the Atlantic from the Caribbean close (geographically speaking) to Venezuela. Fewer understood that it was French, not just culturally but politically. One person, I discovered days before taking off, had actually been there before and suggested I take a rum distillery tour. The idea of being hung-over in a tropical climate made less sense than me being in a tropical climate. None of this really explains how a small island in the Caribbean close to Venezuela became an overseas department of the French Republic, but since my return I’ve asked some questions and done some reading. Wrong order of events, of course, but something of the history: (more…)

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