I am not sure what to think about driving here. It’s very different. My husband wrote a post about living in Congo that sums up driving better than anything I could ever write. So I am reposting it here.
Edited for content
“We do not drive here – EVER. The company employs four local drivers whose job it is to get us safely to and from the airport each day. Matou, Djescain, Pierre, and Yannick. They also ferry us on grocery runs or other miscellaneous missions and wash the vans (every day). But where they make their money is on the 22 KM drive from “Belle Vue”, our housing complex, to N’Djili. It is the busiest, scariest, craziest, dirtiest, bumpiest, and longest 22 klicks of driving imaginable (see “Kinshasa Traffic”).
At least once each drive I am sure we are going to wreck. In the short time that I have been here I have undergone a speed course in the “The 5 Stages of Kinshasa Traffic”:
1. Anger – What is the matter with this place? What is this driver’s problem? Why can’t these stupid people pick a lane and stay in it? Where did the lanes go? How is this possible, why is this happening to me, etc, etc, etc.
2. Denial – this one is optional because after the first day it is pretty obvious that nothing is likely to change
3. Bargaining – also optional, and pointless
4. Depression – This is very real. In addition to constantly thinking about your own safety, you get 45-60 minutes of looking out the window at chaos. There is no way to adequately describe what I see every single day along this road. I gave it my best (again, read “Kinshasa Traffic”) but I doubt that after reading it you will actually feel frantic, and sick, and grateful, and dirty, and lonely, and guilty – all at once.
5. Acceptance – so all that is really left to do is accept. This road exists between me an my airplane. I will drive it twice each day until I go home. We may crash. We may kill someone. Or not.
Ultimately, the “or not” part rest squarely on the shoulders of our drivers. And every day they measure up to a challenge that seems to much to ask of anyone. I always buy a cold can of Coke for whoever takes us shopping. One of the mechanics buys bags of vegetables for them when we go to Goma, and everyone says “thank you” when we arrive at our destination.
Before we arrive at the airport, and before 50 passengers (and one flight attendant) put their lives in our hands, we have done the same. Fearless and determined are these men – our champions of Kinshasa traffic.”
It is the same here. I have cried quietly. Held on tight. Prayed, bargained, pleaded and hoped we would not die.
Sometimes I wonder if I could not drive better than our driver. Sometimes I know I can and take over and get us out of the ditch. I have not crashed yet or been in a crash but I know we will and I don’t mean a fender bender. I do not want to even go to town here because we have to walk acrostic the street.
I have lived in New York and LA but I have never even dreamed something like this. Riding or driving here is like the stages of grief, clearly wrong in every way. I do not recommend it. I have had the misfortune of seeing a man hit and his leg all but removed by a boda-boda. A child that I am sure was killed and a Mother laying in a ditch with her child standing over her. All of this in a days drive of less then 3 km to town to get a pineapple.
There is no words that describe the smell of human waste you pass or the faces of those you see on the way. The women scrubbing clothing and hanging them on bushes, children smaller than mine hurdling cattle with no hope of learning to read, men lost without work or purpose. Some times I wonder if even God has forsaken this place. All in a days drive to town.
Eyes wide open. Eyes closed. It’s all the same. Like nothing You have ever seen.