Monday, November 13, 2006

Kinshasa, here I come.

10 Nov, 2006

The final election results are being released any day now. (Scheduled a week from now, 20th of Nov.) Congolese expect something to happen or for there to be some trouble. I’m not a political commentator so I’m not going to wage into the web of possibilities. But the bottom line is when most people with the means are leaving Kinshasa and the Congo for their ‘other’ lives in Belgium, France, South Africa and wherever else they find themselves in acceptable temporary ‘exile’ I am flying to Kinshasa to shoot a music video/commercial for one of the biggest musical stars of the DRC, Werason.
It can be said that when some people run out of a burning building and others run into it, they do it for the same reason or more specifically out of the same human mechanism. In this case my decision is that I am not ruled by fear, certainly not a nameless and unfounded fear. We shall see. My hosts and employers have made it clear that it is a less than desirable time to have to make this commercial and that we will have to be ready for anything and every eventuality.
Wow. I don’t know how often in life I am in a situation so focused and aware of what must be one of the fundamental laws of nature, namely that anything that can happen will happen.
Of course, our modern (western) lives seem to be predicated on the much more insubstantial premise that we have somehow managed to bring a large proportion (99%) of all probabilities into obeisance and can proceed with almost no chance of anything unexpected or unplanned happening! Ha ha!

I bought Richard Dwarkin’s book “The God Delusion” to read on my journey. We’ll see how that turns out.

I sat next to a South African security expert who was en route to prepare for Mbeki’s planned visit during the announcement of the results. Hey, if Mbeki’s coming then it must be ok I thought. I tried to fish for some ‘intel’ from this guy who did concede that they are not aware of any potential blow up, however he did say that he was there to prepare for any ‘eventuality’. We’ll see.

When I got to Kin I was met by the usual ‘protocol’ guys employed by the Agency to usher me through customs and baggage collection. However this time my passport was whipped out of my hand I was sent post haste into the baggage collection hall without even seeing a customs official. Used to a large amount of variation by now I went with the flow and sat on the very inactive luggage conveyar belt while I waited. After about 30 min I wondered what might be happening. Then Gill, the guy who usually meets me arrived and burst into long reams of French when he knows I understand very little. It seems that the more I say “I don’t understand much French” in French the more he assumes that I must understand something if I can say that much. Must be my accent or something. Anyway, I heard ‘visa’ and ‘pas bon’ and had to assume there was some trouble with my visa. At the end of the day it transpired that the lady who organized my ticket in JHB and visa had erroneously give my travel dates and that I my visa was only for an entry in two days time! If this was South Africa I surely would have been sent packing, back where I came from. This is the Congo so Gill and his assistants ensured that my passport was duly stamped with the appropriate entry stamp (reflecting my arrival as being two days later) and I was in!

We drove a different route to back to the City and I couldn’t really pick up any energy or vibe that would indicate that Kinshasa was on the brink of any kind of explosion of populist or military insurrection.

Back at the Agency it was business as usual. It’s great to see everybody again. I heard from one of the Agency guys that the three Maltina ads we shot last month have tested very well and everybody is thrilled by how they have turned out!

We work all afternoon and then I head off with Kris to his house in the hills, (Ma Campaigne) I wish I could take a photo of the view from up there but it’s almost impossible to find a vantage point. If you thought JHB was security mad, here every single house is surrounded by 3 meter walls, turning the roads into canyons from where you can’t see a thing! Walls, barbed wire, spikes and if you have airs you hire a private security company to hang around outside your house like one or two dudes in the street we live in.

It’s Friday night and everybody is planning to go out and party. Apart from going clubbing the first time I was here, I’ve avoided it ever since. (another story) But when we get home the heavens open and I experience a real Kinshasa thunderstorm that puts a monsoon to shame. Within minutes the drains can’t cope and the house, including my bedroom is flooded! Luckily the rain stopped 15 minutes later and we mopped and cleaned up. I ended up sleeping on the couch.

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