Monday, February 17, 2014

2/17: 2 Nights in Kinshasa

We spent the past 2 nights (Saturday to Monday) in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while waiting for our Cameroon visas.  Now we are in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo.  Tomorrow we fly to Douala, Cameroon where we can finally unpack and get to work.

We haven't eaten anything exotic and we couldn't leave the apartment to tour because it is considered too dangerous in Kinshasa, but Ruth says that she is pleased with everything so far.  We were expecting to be shocked by the conditions here but found it not too different from some of the poor towns we've seen in Europe.  One difference is the vast numbers of pedestrians everywhere, many carrying loads on their heads.  Most people dress very well, and the women generally wear beautiful African styles of long dresses.  We saw a man getting his hair cut in a chair in the dirt alongside the road.  There was an auto repair guy working on a car nearby and many other services and vendors.  The funniest IMHO was the guy selling Scrabble games to people stuck in traffic.  (If the traffic is stuck for long enough maybe people starting looking for entertainment.  But Scrabble?)

Our flights were uneventful, except in Brussels when the police put a man on the plane who didn't want to go to the DR Congo so he wouldn't take his seat.  That delayed us for about an hour in Brussels.

The Kinshasa airport is like other small airports, with shuttle buses to bring us from the plane to the terminal and a dirt parking lot.  The people were polite.  The mission hired Antoine to meet us and help us get our baggage and find the Sneddons' car.  That was reassuring, especially since our last bag came about 30 minutes after the others.  We didn't take many good photos because some places it isn't allowed and we didn't want trouble.  Still, a border officer made us delete the last 2 photos when we entered Brazzaville.

We stayed with Roy and Kathleen Sneddon in Kinshasa.  He's 80 and she's 78 and they're enthusiastic, hard-working missionaries, studying French and enjoying Africa.  Their apartment building is surrounded by walls and razor wire and has armed guards who inspect for bombs before lowering the steel barriers to let a car in.  I've never seen such security in other than military facilities.  But the apartments are nice and modern.

Sunday morning we heard the chanting of an excercise class of about 50 working out in a plaza outside our window at 7am.  It looked like fun, African dancing with a lot of rhythmic jumping.

We went to church and were asked to share our testimonies for 5 minutes in Sacrament Meeting.  They had an English Sunday School class, but Ruth preferred the class in French to help her learn.  (She has learned fast understands most of it now.)  The meetings were just like services in America, except with more reverence and louder singing and the power went out twice, briefly.  We enjoyed visiting with the members and feeling part of an African unit.

There were 2 guards at the gate of the church meetinghouse property, which is surrounded by high walls.  Security is a major concern in Kinshasa, or anywhere in the DR Congo.  There are police everywhere and they can't be trusted.  One couple told of being stopped 6 times.  Usually they give the police a Joseph Smith pamphlet through a slightly opened window and they let them go.  But once they had made an illegal turn, so the police called a tow truck and took their car to headquarters with them in it.  They had to pay a fine that time.

Sunday evening the Sneddons invited all of the other mission couples over to get acquainted.  They all live in the same building and are fascinating people.  That was fun.

This morning we explored the Mission Office, got our visas, took a motorboat ride across the mighty Congo River to Brazzaville, and got settled into the Hotel Adonis to await our flight to Cameroon tomorrow.  We chatted in the Mission Office lobby with an unemployed doctor and former missionary named Sebastian Kazadi (pronounced like Cassidy).  The man who drove us from the airport, got us our visas, and chartered our boat is a former lawyer and judge and current bishop who now works for the Church, and goes by the name of Aime.  We were picked up in Brazzaville by a former telecommunications engineer who now works for the Church and is called Geitan (sp?).  He was the main force in getting official recognition for the Church in Gabon.  Just last month the mission opened Gabon and sent 4 missionaries there.  The Church has some incredible members helping to move the work forward in this part of the vineyard.

Kinshasa Meetinghouse

Kinshasa Institute (Temple Site on Right Out of Photo)

Typical Kinshasa Policeman

Roy & Kathleen Sneddon

Overlooking Western Kinshasa

The Sneddons' Living Room

View from the Sneddons' Apartment

A Guy Balancing a Load on his Head

Woman Carrying Bread Through Traffic

Wheelbarrow (Pous-Pous)

The Mighty Congo River

Kinshasa seen from the Congo River

Assists to the President Crossing the River with us

Memorial to Brazza (the Frenchman who "Discovered" Brazzaville
Hotel Adonis

Our Room in the Hotel Adonis
War Memorial in Brazzaville


  1. Wow! It all looks so interesting! I'm looking forward to seeing more! Love you! (Thanks for sharing so many pictures!)

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  3. Loved hearing about your adventures. Great pictures.


  4. This is actually a little disappointing! Africa looks so... normal!

    Kim (one of the people I work with) is planning a trip to Africa and she's wondering what malaria pills you guys are taking.

    My picture of you with Summer is the background on my laptop, so Summer sees it often and likes to point you out.

    1. Our malaria pills are Doxycycline Hyclate 100mg taken once per day. Lariam may be a bit better but has worse side effects for some people. Malarone is the most effective but expensive.

  5. It sounds like you'll fit in well, with your top-notch language preparation and your experience travelling in Europe! Like Carrie, I was also surprised to see how normal the pictures looked - cars and big buildings and beautiful architecture and such. Today's poverty lives in modern cities, each with the ugly and the lovely both.

    We're so glad you have friends to help you travel and that you're safe and happy too!

  6. They say that the real African life is in the villages, so we are looking forward to going there sometime. Also, we went to BonaBeri, the other city in our area, and we saw a lot more poverty. The people live in shacks with tin roofs. They don't like their pictures taken, and it feels kind of mean to act like tourists and show Americans how poor the people are. Maybe we can get some pictures of the church members' homes, with permission.

  7. Hi, I have been offered a job in Kinshasa and I am torn on whether to go or not as unsure it is safe enough. I am a woman, blonde and 30 years old. They will give me a flat and a car (apparently it is ok to drive there) and they claim the city is safe but looking at some government travel websites etc it does not look like it would be. Please could you let me know if you felt unsafe? Thanks, Irene

    1. Did we feel unsafe? Yes, a little. But we always feel a bit unsafe in a new country. We have many white friends who drive in Kinshasa and none have been assaulted, although we heard a story about a bandit with a machete robbing people down by the river. We went for a walk and did some shopping on our last visit and didn't feel unsafe with our groups. I think that you get adjusted and feel better over time.

      If my daughter were offered a job there I would advise against it because I would worry about her. The police are all corrupt and will stop white people to extort money. Missionaries are advised not to stop unless forced. If you are forced to stop, don't unlock doors or open windows. Show documents through the glass. If they tow your car to the police station you will have to pay a fine.

      Civil unrest is a problem so white people generally live in fortified, guarded buildings, keep to the main roads, and don't go out at night or alone. Then you feel a bit imprisoned but safe.

      But if the pay is really good, you love adventure, you speak French, and your employer will put you in a secure flat, this might be a good opportunity.