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Reading nothing in particular in Kinshasa

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This bonobo wants to know what you’re reading.

I arrived in Kinshasa two weeks ago today, and am leaving tomorrow, which has gone alarmingly fast. This trip has been a long time coming, due to the length of time it takes to get a visa for DRC (one day under two months from dropping my passport off at the Consulate to collecting it, envisanated), and in that time DRC had been built up into a Big Scary Thing in my head: enormous! Francophone! War-torn! Predatory elites! Etc. Of course it turns out – as is almost always the case – that Kinshasa is pretty great, and I have taken to it, in the way that I take to all enormous and chaotic African cities. Things in particular I like about Kinshasa include:

    • The bloody CONGO RIVER which churns its way through the centre of town, though it’s not really the centre of town because the opposite bank of the river is bloody Brazzaville, i.e. the capital of an entirely different country. WHAT. I can see another country’s capital from my hotel room window! That is not something that happens every day.

Congo river

    • My colleague J. pointed out at the weekend that DRC is a country that really embraces its own culture. It’s true that DRC feels a lot more inward-looking than many other African countries I’ve spent time in, which in many contexts would be less of a good thing, but I mean it in a positive way: DRC has so much of its own stuff going on, culturally and historically and gastronomically and creatively, that it’s understandably focused on that, rather than imports from other African countries or the West.
    • The food. Not all of it, of course, but particular highlights for me have been cossa-cossa, a particularly gigantic type of prawn (best served at the aptly named Le Roi du Cossas), a stew containing caterpillars, which weren’t nice, exactly, but certainly interesting, and a bush-fruit whose name I can’t remember, but which has a sour dark purple skin and bright green avocado-like flesh. Well played, DRC, well played.

Mystery foodstuff

Mystery bushfruit!

  • The weather, around 20% of the time. The remaining 80% is uncomfortably steamy, but that 20% involves great cracking thunderstorms that roll across from Brazzaville, lightning so bright it will wake you up from a dead sleep, and several hours of blissful cool afterwards.


Storm approaching from Brazzaville
That tower you see to the right of the centre of the photo is in Brazzaville: a whole other country’s capital city. That never ceased to please me.



Traffic directing robot, Kinshasa

  • The music, which I’d known about before coming here, but I love how ubiquitous it is, just getting into a random taxi and hearing some Congolese musical legend crackling out of the stereo.

Written by Jess

March 2, 2016 at 8:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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