Life in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Life in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Life in the Democratic Republic of Congo

My 9-year old daughter, Ella and I moved to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo in August 2014, after I was offered a teaching position at an international school. We packed (far too many) suitcases and headed off to a country that I had only read about, mostly in disparaging newspaper articles about the ongoing civil war in the eastern part of the country.

When we arrived, what we found was a country with a vibrant culture, a generation of people ready and anxious to rebuild and more species of bugs than you could possibly imagine.

Our time in Kinshasa has not been without challenges. D.R. Congo is in the midst of ongoing civil war. While Kinshasa is nearly 1000 miles away from the fighting, it is a large, overcrowded city with poor infrastructure. Poverty and unemployment are very high and this leads to a whole host of other social ills that plague this beautiful nation.

When we arrived, what we found was a country with a vibrant culture, a generation of people ready and anxious to rebuild and more species of bugs than you could possibly imagine.

In January of 2015, peaceful protests against a government effort to sidestep presidential term limits, turned violent and the entire city was essentially locked down for a week as protestors were killed in the streets. In the end, the protests were successful in halting unconstitutional practices.

With elections coming up soon, Kinshasa and the rest of the country are still very much on edge. Pro-democracy activists have been detained. D.R. Congo faces a lot of uncertainties at this time but we have chosen to make it our home for now and will remain. We are learning to love D.R. Congo and hope for peace in the country.

Life in the Democratic Republic of Congo

All of that being said, our life in D.R. Congo has been transformative. Ella has begun learning French and Lingala. She has gained friends from all over the world. I’ve danced to live Congolese rumba at a nightclub where people dance alone, facing mirrored walls, staring at their own reflections.

We’ve gotten matching outfits made in the local pagne fabric. We’ve stood in awe at the crushing beauty of Zongo Falls, eaten some of the best roasted chicken we’ve ever tasted while overlooking Lac de ma Vallee, visited the Lola ya Bobobo Sanctuary and watched in amazement as an endangered (and mischievous) baby bonobo climbed over the fence of its enclosure and jumped into the arms of a fellow coworker.

We are learning to love D.R. Congo and hope for peace in the country.

When I explain our lives to other people I say it’s “Kinshasa sweet and sour.”

Kinshasa Sweet and Sour
Market in Kinshasa
  • Life in the Democratic Republic of Congo

A few months ago, Ella had a classmate over for a Saturday play date. We headed to the market to pick up some items and as we were leaving a group of shegues (a Congolese term for young people growing up on the streets) swarmed us. One ripped off the gold chain that Ella’s classmate wore around her neck, and ran off long before we were even able to make sense of what happened.

Another shegue approached us and claimed that he knew who had stolen the necklace and would get it back for us if we paid him $50: a very common scam. I explained that I was not going to pay $50 but that the necklace was very dear to her, as evidenced by the fact that the little girl was crying.

He didn’t seem moved. We got in the car and drove home, as there was very little to be done. Reporting a crime to police in Kinshasa is useless, at best. It often requires bribing the police officer and usually guarantees that the offender will suffer severe physical harm. At the hands of the officer.

He had fought the thief for the chain. He wasn’t able to get the pendant but wanted to return the chain and wanted nothing in return.

The next day, a friend (who I often visit the market with) called. On the phone, he explained he had gone to the same market. Here said that he was approached by Frank. Frank is a shegue who we had gotten to know since August. We often paid 500 francs ($0.56 US) to watch the car. Frank’s hands were badly cut up. He had fought the thief for the chain. He wasn’t able to get the pendant but wanted to return the chain and wanted nothing in return.

And that is our life in Kinshasa…sometimes sweet, sometimes sour…but always satisfying.

 

Life in the Democratic Republic of Congo



About Adiya White-Hammond

Adiya White-HammondAdiya White-Hammond is a mother, international teacher and an aspiring nomad currently located in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. She left the US in the August of 2014 with the goal of showing her daughter the world.

6 thoughts on “Life in the Democratic Republic of Congo

  1. Avatar
    anandh
    February 15, 2017
    Reply

    hai i would like to migrate with my family to congo on work permit visa. i have two kids aged 7 & 4. how is the situation now there.

  2. Avatar
    Jenn ham
    November 14, 2016
    Reply

    Moved by your description of my home sweet home. I live in Texas but still miss it. In the midst of chaos, there are many people like Shegue Frank who come to the rescue like angels from nowhere.

  3. Avatar
    Colette
    May 2, 2016
    Reply

    Hi Adiya,

    I am originally from the DRC but have lived in the USA for over half of my life. I just recently moved back to the DRC with my 2 kids (ages 5 and 4). It was so encouraging to know that I’m not “crazy” for being here. Your description of life in DRC is spot on.

    Good luck with what you are doing.

    Colette.

  4. Avatar
    Nicole Pelletier
    April 22, 2015
    Reply

    Adiya,

    I love this post and I admire your courage! I met you briefly last year at James Gate–I am friends with Josh Tremble and Kevin McCaffrey.

    I have a student who is interested in doing research on education in the DRC. Our class project is to research an global issue/problem and find an organization that is focused on that issue.

    We were hoping that you may be willing to talk to him via email.

    His name is Nouraddin Hussein. I will await your response before putting you two in contact.

    Thank you again. You are amazing!

    Nicole Pelletier
    BCLA

  5. Adiya
    Adiya
    April 19, 2015
    Reply

    Thank you Johanna!

  6. Avatar
    Johanna Ali
    April 15, 2015
    Reply

    What an amazing story Adiya. You are so brave to leave the place you are so familiar with and travel so far away with your little girl. She is so lucky to have a mother like you. I wish you all the success in the world.

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