Monday, January 18, 2010

a little bit of everyday life;...

palm oil is what people use here to cook - its a bright orange/red color. its scent is a little iffy, but when cooked into food it leaves a rather round, complete feeling in the mouth.

As with basically everything here, all the flour is imported, in this case from Zambia (which is why the sack is in English). You can also see Stephane's immaculately polished, dust-free shoe on the side - a men's look that is given particularly detailed attention here.

these are some dudes selling charcoal made 30km from L'shi, which is what we use to cook most the time.

whats up with omo taking over the world by the way? it is a powdered washing detergent - i remember seeing TV ads in china when i was little and its all over east africa and here...

also, note taking photos is a bit difficult since they're not really allowed in the city, but we get by by asking individuals when theres no po pos around.

we've been talking increasingly with Congolese mothers who run many shops downtown and who travel internationally, often alone, to Dubai and China (and some to Thailand, Turkey, Indonesia, Belgium, S. Africa, Tanzania, Zambia) solely for purchasing merchandise, mostly clothes and things for the home, to resell here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

cote d'ivoire v. benin

ok, so the goal peak for soccer should be alot higher. but you get the idea.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

copper/cobalt mine (gecamines)

lubumbashi is a mining city - the huge black pile is a NCAR-sized mountain of dirt from which copper has already been extracted (check out that grammar! french is forcing me to shape up haha). now they are extracting other things like germanium and cobalt. as a result, there is a huge area of former forest that is now bare from factory smoke/acid rain which is now where miners/families live.

the belgian prof studies environmental restoration through adapted local plants that could prevent erosion and heavy dust in the dry season in mining-affected areas. the turquoise pebbles and greenish tinge of the ground is an oxidized copper coating (think: columbia roofs, except all over where its not supposed to be).

Gecamines = La Générale des Carrières et des Mines

Thursday, January 7, 2010

lubumbashi local industry

factories for biscuits, bottled water, medicines (like cough syrups), foam mattresses, and beer. i'm not sure this photo fully captures the size of all the beer bottles here, but its pretty ridiculous.

i live with an belgian professor

i now have company in my little university of lubumbashi house! there is a rather eccentric oldermiddle-aged professor of botany who arrived today from bruxelles, belgium. he studies plants that have adapted to copper and cobalt-rich soils and apparently there are many species that have yet to be discovered (by him, i assume!). here he is pressing and drying plant specimens.

otherwise had a tiring full day of interviews, but on the plus side the wi-fi works at the house now. ive been spending some evenings across the street where some congolese families live in the same little courtyard as 8 chinese construction workers (2 come from the same hometown as my mother), where i eat dinner sometimes, chat in broken chinese and french, help translate between the workers and their neighbors (they are all very good at making fun of each other trying to speak each others languages), and watch kungfu movies. its a nice way to pass time when i get tired of typing up interviews.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


i had an interestign conversation with a congolese cellphone-store worker about globalization (la mondialisation) today. i quote (well, translated from french), "globalization is the same as the imposition of a way of life. there, in america, people wear pants, which are then imported here so now we wear pants. the dollar is used there, and here if we are to buy things we need to use dollars." Also, the man from the university of lubumbashi who works with me on interviews, Stéphane, also feels strongly about the USA. today over lunch he said (in french) "for colonization, people had to leave their country abroad to come here to the Congo. now, with globalization, they can use telephones, faxes, the internet to change our lives here. to force us to imitate them, they dont need to come here anymore, we have televisions that show us how people live abroad in america and change ourselves."

an interesting contrast to say, uganda or tanzania where obama things are everywhere and such. here in congo, obviously partiallydue to a very different history of american involvement in DRC (read: Lumumba, a leader during congolese independence who was assasinated by the cia, although this is technically unconfirmed...and mzee kabila), there is alot more ambivalence towards the usa. also, there are no newspapers in the city, although there are a few people who print out the daily news from computers and sell them.

also today i had my first interviewo only in swahili! there are some tanzanian traders (batanzania is what the wakongo say) here from dar es salaam, where alot of the goods are shipped from dubai. Finally got to use the vocab (maendeleo, biashara, desturi, n.k.) from the 2008 summer haha.

no internet at the house :( but electricity came back last night :) illput up some pics once internet is up again. thats about it for now!
stephane talking to workers in shop of dress clothes from turkey/china.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

working those ethnic connections pour la bonne annee

bonne année! (happy new years in french)

homemade indian food for lunch, homemade chinese for dinner - it's been a strange end of 2009/beginning of 2010. Everythings closed for the new year until monday, so ive been getting in touch with some contacts. A Columbia friend from Dubai put me in touch with his dad's business partner here (they run a big supermarket) who has been extremely kind and accomodating and introduced me to some other indian traders. Also, chinese people like to talk to me here, probably because they are bored or lonely since many don't speak french particularly well. One chinese store owner, with my same last name and from the same place as my dad who lived in Congo-Brazzaville (the country across the congo river) for over a decade, invites me over often for meals at his home with his little sister in law (who is my age so that is nice) and other chinese workers.

basically everyone ive met here speaks at least 3 languages, and over the last few days ive heard conversations in french, swahili, english, gujarati and hindi (india), lingala (more eastern congo), chinese, some local languages, and any combination of the above. my heads been getting a little muddled so now i just sound slow in any language besides english!

im starting surveys again mostly of congolese traders on tuesday when everything reopens with this guy from the university, Stéphane. i think im going to take a slightly different turn before - i want to look more at the connection or disconnect between economic activity and développement and dependence, since theres clearly alot going on here but prices of everything constantly fluctuate depending on the US dollar rate. i doubt the lehman brothers and other banks are even aware of how far the financial crisis reached.

on that note of american imperialism, top 40 songs are constantly blasting in stores, and i cant help but wonder what lady gaga or shakira would think about their music videos being received with 'wtf's from this corner of the congo...