Where I’m at: Brazza
What I’m doing: eating an entire pack of cookies because the cafeteria won’t sell them individually
Why I’m posting: painting a picture with words of our new hometown for you (because I can’t attach photos yet)
One of the goals of this blog has always been to provide updates of all of our exciting, unique adventures abroad. So I’m happy to report that on Sunday, I played golf. And yesterday (and tonight), we played (will play) tennis. Tomorrow night a concert and beers. Maybe some grocery shopping. Another weekend with some drinks, cards, talking politics, dancing. Yep, everything is new and different. Well, the dancing anyway.
Sarcasm aside, everything really is new and different. The politics we talk about now are either Congolese or far away (or in the case of, say, Libya and Cote d’Ivoire, all of a sudden very close) and often is in French. The grocery store may be the Walmart of Brazzaville, but it’s not even the Walmart of Lebanon, Ohio. The beer is…well…not very good. It’s all made by Heinekan locally (except, oddly enough, the Heinekan, which is imported), except for the Guinness, which naturally doesn’t taste anything like Guinness. The golf course is a single 10 hole course, played 9/10 over again from different tees to make 18 holes and is nice enough except for the impossibly slow and erratic greens. Besides that, caddies are required, which does little to stamp down the latent feeling of colonialism since all the players are white and wealth(ier) and all the caddies black and poor. The poker games we play are very fun, but very much less intense than the Chicago or ND games I’ve played with many of you. Though yes, Patrick, Aaron, Kevin, etc….I did teach everyone Crazy Pineapple (though I insisted the name was Oklahoma City).
The one thing that does really feel like home is the tennis court. The club here is actually pretty reminiscent of my old Middletown Tennis Club. That is, the clay courts have virtually no clay, but they are plentiful and readily available. There’s a pool there, a bar, and pizza and burgers on the weekends. All in all, not bad. Plus, once you start playing, you stop talking (French) and let your game talk. I like that.
But the thing that is the most foreign here is the thing that seems to be the biggest domestic product: dust (hence the post’s title). I grew up in the country and there is dirt and dust there. But there is really dust here. The streets and sidewalks look like they’re the boardwalk of some New England beach town. They’re always half-covered in sandy dust that’s inches thick and constantly blowing up into the air to be ingested by passersby. It’s single-handedly the thing I find most annoying here (depressing is another story, as is, fortunately, envigorating). Each morning on my dusty and nose and lung-clogging walk to work, I see all the shopkeepers sweeping the dust into huge piles and then into the street where it stays for about 10 minutes before onto the next shop’s steps. There’s an analogy in there somewhere.
And speaking of analogies, the following isn’t really one, but I found it interesting anyway. While at our embassy-run English club meeting on Saturday morning, I was talking with one of our locally-employed staff. Telling him about one of our American staffmember’s plans to go swimming with the great white sharks in South Africa, he laughed with shock asking, “why?!” He then told me what the Congolese say about the Americans. But that’s such a good quote, I’ll save it for below. :o)
Until next time…adieu!
Who said it: Our public diplomacy assistant, Distel
Why it’s relevant: see above
The quote: “When Congolese see a monster, we run away. When Americans see a monster, they run to it to see what it is. I think that’s why America is the greatest nation in the world.”