Everyday life

Good Bye Pointe-Noire…

This post won’t have illustrations. They’re not required.

We’re leaving Congo in a few hours, and I have to confess it’s pretty sad – Rémy and I had really become accustomed to this country. We definitely had a great time here in Africa.

I was about to describe what happened during the last days, which were truly awesome, but it’s somehow meaningless to mention it today.

I met very nice people here, and I hope to see them again soon. At work, the team in which I was working was very nice. Outside of work, I lately met truly cool people.

So, especially for the party last night in the Congolese nightclub at the “Cité” (the popular part of the town), I’m willing to wholeheartedly thank Rémy, Bob, Romain, Pauline, Pierrick, Thibaut & Ellyn, Blandine, Sophie & Nicolas, Thibaut #2 (a Therion listener)… and all of those whose name I forgot.

Good Bye everyone, Good Bye Pointe-Noire. I hope I’ll come back soon !

Adrien.

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I need a cab

1/640 – 84mm – f/640 – ISO-200
Many cabs in the streets…

I believe I have already mentioned it in some previous article that they are plenty of cabs in Pointe-Noire, but I’m sure you have no idea of how true this fact is. Just please take a look at the photograph above : you can at least spot four or five white-and-blue Toyota cars.

Now do you believe me ?

It’s very common to use cabs here. During the day, for short distances, they only cost 700 XAF (~1€). At night, it’s only 1000 XAF, so it may be pretty useful and rather inexpensive if you’re going out. Most expats own their own vehicles of course, but for trainees like us these taxis were truly useful !

There’s also another type of cab, called the “100/100”, because they used to cost only 100 XAF (now it’s 150 XAF, as far as I know). They are like small buses (see picture below) always going at the same places (usually, they drive people from “la Cité”, where most people live, to the town center).

I’ve also seen a few buses, but I have no idea where they were going…

A cab called “100/100”

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Wanna eat some exotic food ?

After Tania’s request, I thought I’d post this picture that dates back from my first month in Congo.

Following Tania’s suggestion (once again…  – she’s the first girl on the right), we went to some restaurant in order to eat some exotic food, which is here called “viande de brousse”. Read : crocodile, snake, porcupine, antelope, etc…

When we came in, there was a very weird smell in the air, but we decided to forget about it and get some food, as we were all hungry and curious about how tasty all of these meats were.

Unfortunately, we quickly noticed a mouse in the bread, which immediately disgusted us. We stayed in the restaurant, but we were all feeling.. hmm… fuzzy/dizzy and ill-at-ease because of this stupid mouse. As a consequence, we barely tasted the various meals, although we had paid 10000 XAF !

So I had the opportunity to taste very small pieces of snake (boa) and crocodile. I clearly prefer the latter, it was very good and actually tasted like chicken. Some of the species that were cooked in this restaurant are said to be protected, so I wonder whether I’ll ever do this again – just a matter of personal choice, I guess.

It’s definitely an experience one may try, but I assume we didn’t get in the right restaurant…

After all, that’s a kind of funny and memorable experience (thanks Tania!) that we all share. After all, it was somehow cool !

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What you think you need but don’t need to bring in Congo

Warning : This article only reflects my personal point of view after my stay in Pointe-Noire from January to July. I have no idea about the climate during the rest of the year (including the presence of Mosquitoes). Moreover, I have no medical skills, so this is in no way a medical advice : ask your doctor in any case !

Before leaving France, I have been told various stuffs about Congo, and in particular about what I should bring to protect myself from tropical diseases. Well, none of these advises were really useful. That’s why I thought I’d write an article about what you don’t need in Congo.

1. Meds against Malaria

I’ve heard various stories about Malaria in Congo. Some people say it’s easier to get sick because of it when going in the countryside, others say it’s easier to get sick when in the city, since mosquitoes may have bitten someone just a few hours ago. Unless you’re only travelling for a few days, I believe it’s not useful to take meds. I stopped taking them after two weeks, as most people working here do (I’m talking about expats). These meds are curative treatments, not preventing ones. I’ve heard they’re kinda aggressive towards your liver (Malarone). Also, they have quite a lot of side effects (apparently you can even have hallucinations because of them !). Of course there are various brands and types of treatments, so the best thing you can do is talk with your doctor.

2. Stuffs to protect from mosquitoes

There aren’t that many mosquitoes in Pointe-Noire. In my honest opinion, the probability that you get bitten by a malaria-bearing mosquito is very low. As I told earlier, I’m never taking meds nor using protections, and I haven’t been sick because of this disease in 6 months. You can open your windows (better close them before the sunset though, because mosquitoes are more present during the night) without any fear. Note that “sick mosquitoes” are supposed to be those living at night. Edit : Obviously there are some mosquitoes at night. The purpose of this article is only to curb the general alarmist comments you could find online. There’s definitely no reason to be afraid.

Obviously, you don’t really need a mosquito net either.

3. Stuffs to disinfect the vegetables and fruits

A big laugh at this. Com’on, maybe 90% of the fruits need to be peeled. The rest are either cooked or can be simply washed with clear water. I believe it’s efficient enough. I’m sure you’ve got more risk to get sick when travelling by train or subway at NYC or Paris than when eating one of these tomatoes you buy on the market.

Just make sure you’re cooking your meat enough if you buy it at the market, because obviously it’s not like in a French supermarket. However, you don’t need to be afraid of stuffs in general.

4. Long-sleeves clothes

What the hell ? Of course, if you’re planning to live next to a swamp it may be useful. And of course it may be better if you’re going into the jungle. Usual security. But you don’t need this in the streets. Even at night, unless you’re afraid/allergic/terrorized of/to/by mosquitoes

Edit : a note about malaria. I’ve been discussing with a doctor at the hospital here in Pointe-Noire, who had been doing a thesis about this disease. I’ve been explained that there are several types of malaria, and that the one present @ 99% in Pointe-Noire is the less dangerous one. You cannot get sick again and again, a few years later, if you’ve been infected once. I assume this should be confirmed, but I want to avoid situations like this : during the trip between the airport and the hotel, on my arrival, there was a mosquito in the car and I really got afraid of it. In other words : no need to be overly scared of these insects.

Categories: Everyday life | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

It already tastes like the End

250mm – 1/160 – f/7.1 – ISO-100

Dear relatives, friends, pals and people I don’t know who are regularly reading this blog,

I’ll be leaving this marvellous Country called the Congo on July 15th, 2012. Read : in barely more than two weeks.

And yeah, I have to say it already tastes like the End. I’m a bit swamped by my work on the report I need to write for the firm. Also, I am much busy with monitoring various musical projects. I’d like to write more, but as I am trying to always illustrate the posts with life-colored pictures, but I don’t really have new ones.

It doesn’t mean this is the End of this blog though !!!

Indeed :

  • I am still going to post new stuffs in the upcoming days, until the very last day !
  • I will try to post a few articles afterwards, too. Because there are some stuffs I need to tell you about this country. For instance, I’m planning to write an article about what you need to bring – and what seems useless to me.
  • Nothing sure yet, but I might be coming back in January. I’ll have an interview about it the day after my return. If this is to happen, as I am deeply interested in both my work and the country, I’d be more than happy to keep writing for this blog !

Keep in touch, all of you !

Adrien

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[D+147] – Working on a Sunday Afternoon with Coke

As I said in my post yesterday, I have recently started working on my internship report, which represents a good amount of work, although it is not so hard.

I bought some Coke earlier in the afternoon, and as you can see normal-sized Coke bottles are 65 cl ones (~22 oz), which is huuuge for us, Frenchies. I don’t know if the size in the USA is similar, so I hope some of you will share their knowledge about Coke bottle sizes by leaving a comment on this post !!

I have to say that, apart from the Casino, you can’t buy bottles in Poite-Noire. Well, I assume some places do sell them, but it’s rare. Actually, bottles are recycled. For instance, I brought 4 empty bottles to a restaurant I know and they gave me 4 Coke bottles bottles instead, for 2400 XAF. Bottles are interchangeable, which means that you can give some beer bottles and buy Coke.

As the bottles are recycled, you often find bottles which seem to be kind of old, often with oldish worn labels. One may think he’s drinking Nuka Cola, hopefully not the Quantum one… (I know this is a video-game reference but I know some people know what I’m talking about).

Keep in touch for more news soon, and don’t forget to leave a comment to tell the price and the size of Coke bottles in your country… !

Categories: Everyday life | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

And I bought Fufu !

Under this enigmatic title hides another one of my Saturday market experiences, but also much more !

So yeah, I’ve just came back from the town market with heavy bags filled with bananas, papayas, sweet potatoes, chicken legs (i bought nine of them, because I don’t always have the time to go there), aubergines, plantains… and FUFU !

That’s a little discovery of mine. I had already heard about it, but I had never related it to the large bowls of what I thought to be flour. Actually, it’s a kind of tuber flour, I was explained. As far as I understood, it’s supposed to be cooked like semolina, i.e. with a bit of boiling water. Then it should look like the thing on the right of this picture (source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fufu) :

So yeah, I don’t have much free time because I’m currently writing my report for the firm – and for the school as I am doing an internship. Both reports should be rather similar, which is a good point ; however I don’t have much free time for further exotic expeditions in the countryside (this is a shame I know).

Oh, now an incredible news : I most probably will be working on an offshore oil rig from next Friday until Sunday or Monday !! I’m excited about this, because I haven’t had the opportunity to see any of them yet. I doubt I can take pictures over there, but I’ll ask my boss about it.

Keep in touch !

EDIT : I promise I will be posting pictures of my fufu experiments

Categories: Everyday life | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

[D+132] – More news from the Market

Bananas, sweet potatoes (and regular potatoes underneath)

More news from the Market. I’ve just came back from some new shopping adventures. I’m not going to extensively talk about prices, but here’s what I got for 5300 XAF (EUR 8.00 ; USD 10.00; or for José 140.5 pesos). I slightly haggled over the prices, but not so much :

I was about to mention I had paid 2000 XAF for the cab, and that it was half the price of my food, but I realized I am not sharing enough information on the town itself. I mean, did you know there were plenty of cabs in the streets, and that it’s common to use them ? Did I ever tell you where the market is ?

Oh boy! I am a bad blog writer !

I promise I will post very soon an article detailing how the life is organized here in Pointe-Noire. You will know everything !

Anyways, let’s get back to the Market. I’m not going to post great pictures from it : I had brought my camera with me and people were feeling very uncomfortable, which is totally understandable. It’s like you’re coming here for holidays, and ohhhhhhhh look! there is a market let’s take pictures of this attraction. That’s not what I’m thinking when taking pictures, but that’s how many people feel it.

However, during this first “visit” to one of the most active place in Pointe-Noire, I had taken a few pictures and I had shot a stolen video, from which I extracted some low-quality images. Sorry for the bad quality.

Oh and some people are eating caterpillars. It freaks me out but I think I will give them a try if they’re well-roasted…

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That Glass Of Milk

That Glass Of Milk…

Oh boy ! That glass of milk !

I haven’t been getting any Calcium intake for four months. Except a little piece of cheese, twice. Oh man, when I realized this yesterday I immediately felt the lack of Calcium in my body, in my bones.

Cheese is too expensive – let’s drink MILK ! 990 XAF (a bit more than 1€) per milk carton : the price is good. I usually hate milk alone, but this glass was so tasty and invigorating. You have no idea.

“Bref, j’ai bu un verre de lait” (pun at the attention of my French ‘fellowers’).

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[D+118] – Of the Price of Things (or : The Fish Story)

I went to the market this morning, for the third time since I have arrived in Congo. The more I buy stuffs over there, the more I realize how overpriced stuffs are in “expat shops”. I had decided to wait a bit before talking about money topics, but I’ve been living here for four months now and I think I have a decent overview of the price of Food. Here you go.

First, since I am lazy to convert each price in this article to their equivalent in Euros/US Dollars/Canadian Dollars/Yens/Whatever here is a little table giving you an idea of the rate between the “Francs CFA” (XAF – the Congolese Money), the Euros and the US Dollars (EUR 1 = USD 1.29).

XAF 50 100 655 1000 2000 5000 10000 20000
EUR 0,08 0,15 1,00 1,52 3,05 7,62 15,24 30,49
USD 0,10 0,20 1,29 1,97 3,93 9,83 19,67 39,33

There are many little shops in the town, but there are three main possibilities if you want to buy some food for your lunch :

  • Casino, which is a French supermarket brand ;
  • Park’n Shop, which is a bit similar to Casino but with a lower quality and higher prices (seriously, everyone tells you that Park’n Shop is cheaper but that’s definitely wrong) ;
  • The local market, where prices are much cheaper but where all the aliments are on wooden tables or even put on a cloth on the ground.

One may think : ” well let’s go the French supermarket !”

Good and bad idea. Good, because the quality is supposedly okay (I’m saying supposedly because it’s not always true). Bad, because everything is overpriced at a point you can’t imagine. People are buying Grapes at 10€ per kilogram (~$13) !! The worse quality products in the shop exceed the price of similar average-quality products in France. It’s pure non-sense, really. Of course, the petroleum industry brings a lot of money, but do I really have to buy things at a price that does not correspond to what I’m buying  ? Tomatoes at 5€ per kilo ? Or Nutella at 10€ for one jar ? Prices here do not mean anything ; the only “cheap” thing in my opinion is that you can buy a middle-sized roasted chicken for 3000 XAF (check the table above I said!).

After some time eating pasta and low-quality beef steaks, you end up going to the market. What I am usually planning to do is to buy vegetables at the market, and meat (well, steaks, because the rest is expensive) at the Casino. Indeed, seeing meat pieces on tables without any refrigerating system is rather revolting (you don’t believe me ? come check the smell around the market – that’s a fact, not a real negative feeling of course), but this time I thought I’d give it a try.

And I bought some (supposedly rather fresh) fishes…

Actually I had asked for two of them, but the price I had been told was for two “portions”. Anyways. But do you know how much I paid for these fishes ?

No ?

Okay the price at the Casino must be around 7000 XAF per kilogram for these fishes. Obviously I’ve got more than 1 kg of fish here. And I paid 400 XAF for these 9 fishes. I swear this is true. I haven’t tasted them so maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you “Bah, the fish story shall end here”, but they looked fresh especially since there was no flies around (there are PLENTY of flies in the market). By the way,

Along with that, I bought some Onions for 250 XAF, a Papaya and 13 bananas for 2000 XAF (at the Casino it would have been at least 10000 XAF I assume) and a of handful of strong red-to-green hot pepper for 50 XAF.

Total price : 2700 XAF.

On the way back, I stopped at the Casino because I still had to grab a few stuffs that I prefer buying there. I am not going to insist on the price differences, because they are obvious. Just check the prices on the picture.

What do you think ? Just leave a comment on this post to share your point of view…

Categories: Everyday life | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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