I arrived in Johannesburg on time at 8:25am, and made my way to International connections. There we had to go through more passport checks, and security. I was at the gate for the Kinshasa plane at 9:40. The plane started boarding at 9:50 and left a few minutes late. Coming into Kinshasa airport it was brown and scrubby. The runway was pretty bumpy. We were bused to the terminal where I was met by someone with a sign Mr COTTRELLES. The airport was ancient, without air conditioning .There was a slow line of about 40 people for customs that took about 45 mins to get through. They asked what I was doing there and where I was staying and carefully reviewed the International Certificate of Vaccination. I was then met by M. Sylvain Matoko head of Protocole at the University of Kinshasa. He took me to a lounge to wait while he and another went to look for my bag. This was about 2:34pm. After a bit (30 min) of a harrowing wait (hoping it had no been lost at Johannesburg) he returned with my bag and we went to a Toyota Rav4 to drive the university (about 20km away). The weather was warm (~85F and humid). The driver spoke Lingala (the local language), Swahili, French and a bit of English. At first the drive went well over a 4 lane highway (2 each direction). There were lots of signs with pictures of the re-elected president, Joseph Kabila, who looked handsome and youthful. He is about 39 and has been in power since about 2000. Lanes were not marked and driving was like a video game, with big trucks, buses, cars, blue and yellow taxis (often vintage VW wagons), and even funeral processions gaily decked out with flowers like a wedding procession. We drove past some pretty poor areas with lots of rubbish on the roadside. Then after about 6 miles the traffic ground to halt and the next 10 miles took about 90 minutes. Cars and vans were running out of fuel and had to be pushed (the traffic was slow enough that they could keep up). Eventually the traffic congestion eased up but the roads also deteriorated in quality, in some cases completely unpaved. We arrived at the university guest house at about 5:30pm. I was the first to arrive. Mikhail, Christine and Mikhail don’t get into Kinshasa until 5:30pm. The Guest House put together for me a tasty meal of chunks of cooked meat, peppers, and onions. The room has a tile floor a sink (the tap does not work however the one on the bidet works), a table with a table cloth and plastic flowers, a power outlet, a wardrobe, and a bed with a mosquito net and a single sheet for cover. The windows open and have fly screens on them. The roof appears to be mainly corrugated asbestos, with more recent patches in corrugated steel. Outside there is a guava tree that is bearing fruit that will be ready in a month.
September 14, 2011