Samoutou Family Blog
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About This Blog...

Family of 5 
from Gabon, Hong Kong and the UK   

Living in Impfondo,   
Republic of Congo   
Since April 2012 

Blog by Joyce the mum, 
Homeschooling novice, 
Eye Charity founding doctor / director. 
Reluctant domestic goddess 

Passionate about sashimi, 
helping people see 
physically and spiritually,   
and Jesus   


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Brazzaville and home
September 10, 2015

I felt sad to be leaving, as if I had only just begun to settle. The Samoutou family has been amazing to me, as has everyone else I have had the pleasure of meeting here. Luckily, the journey to Brazzaville got me looking forward to civilization and a hot shower. The flight was an hour late for departure but, in the grand scheme of things, this is very efficient; often the plane is delayed until the next day and sometimes it just doesn’t fly at all. Just before I boarded, a woman pushed a massive plastic bag full of caterpillars in my face and asked me to bring it on the plane with me. I was reassured that someone would pick it up at the other end so I agreed. Of course, no sooner had I passed through customs than a man checking tickets told me to leave the bag on the airstrip floor. I tried to explain what it was but he just repeated his command, before jokingly pretending to be scared and telling me that the bag was in fact a bomb. I wondered what the UK customs would have to say about all of these preposterous shenanigans. I walked across the baking airstrip and climbed up into the plane where the reclining function of my seat had long broken, leaving the backrest swinging obediently with every move I made. I looked through the slightly cracked window to my right and took my last glimpse of the jungle, its array of greens and browns tangled together in an impenetrable, chaotic web, before pulling down my cap and resting my head back on my wobbly seat. Bon voyage Impfondo.

With the African games in progress, Brazzaville is swollen with crowds of people. The population seems to have tripled since I was here last, though perhaps that is because I have come from the comparatively quiet Impfondo. It is the end of the dry season and, though the temperature is pleasantly cool, the streets are covered in a carpet of dust. Honore, an employee of Hotel Bravo, picked me up from the airport along with two Americans who had flown in from Ethiopia. They were here to work at the games, so I got a chance to see the various stadiums when we dropped by to pick up their access cards. From outside I could hear the roars of the crowd, while up on the ramparts I could see people stood precariously close to the edge. People were flooding in, with young girls carrying buckets of cold drinks to sell, and rowdy, half-naked fans annoying the stern looking police. The traffic was textbook developing country stuff across the whole city. A mass of semi-functional taxis, cars, motorbikes and construction trucks, all overcrowded and with people clinging to roof racks, jolted around the streets like a million pin balls. I couldn’t wait to go to the games the following day.

That night (Monday) I asked Reol to take me somewhere which serves beers and good food. We hopped in a bus-taxi with about 7 other random people and made our way into the buzz of Brazzaville. It was 7 o’clock, but the sun had long disappeared and now the streets were lit only by head-lights and the light from various bars and restaurants dotted along the streets. We arrived at our destination, a large area of outdoor seating playing Congolese music, where a barbecue was in full swing. The place was rammed and the food was incredible. As we sat and ate our B.B.Q chicken, sipping on a cold beer, I looked around, soaking up this intense and unpredictable atmosphere for one of the last times. I congratulated myself on my ability to hold something of an interesting conversation with Reol. Suddenly, I heard the stomp of feet. Turning my head I saw three Sapeurs strutting their stuff, all dressed elegantly in colourful three piece suits, complete with aviator sunglasses and snakeskin shoes. This is no extraordinary occasion, the Sapeurs are everywhere in Brazzaville. Their slick, impeccable dress code stands out against the brown-grey cityscape, like parrots and peacocks posed against a concrete wall.


Tuesday was my last full day in Congo and I didn’t let it go amiss. I got up early and took a taxi down to see the Cataracts (rapids) of the Congo River. Standing on a sand bank I looked out across the water as it flowed against the backdrop of Kinshasa, the capital of the D.R.C. Never in my life have I seen Mother Nature as full of rage and power as this mass of water from one of the world’s largest rivers. It galloped past, crashing into the rocks and roaring so loud you had to raise your voice to hear. A boy was getting his hair cut right next to it, and I tried to capture the event in a picture. I can only wait until my film has been developed to see what it looks like.

In the afternoon I went with Reol and Jeannichelle to the African Games. The main stadium, built by the Chinese, is quite a way out of the city centre, and we took what felt like a 30 minute taxi ride through the grid-locked streets to get there. I could not stop grinning and laughing as our driver seemed to beep his horn at everything, shouting light-hearted abuse out of his window at anyone who got in his way. The sound of the city is 70% horn beeps, 20% shouting, 9.9% animal noises, and 0.1% quiet. We arrived at the games, which cost approximately one pound per ticket, were patted down by the police, and then entered. The three stadiums are all coloured a dull gold, the sky was grey and hazy, and the surrounding hills outside of Brazzaville were brown with dried grass and dust. Inside, the arenas themselves were air conditioned and coloured brightly with green, yellow, red and blue. We managed to see some swimming events, which South Africa essentially dominated, and then went to watch the Karate finals, of which the Congolese male competitor was the winner. With all the intensity of the Congolese people, it was no surprise that the crowd went absolutely mad when their own man won. It was quite an experience, and I was happy to pretend I was Congolese as we shouted and cheered as loud as we could. Suffice to say I went home content that day, but not before heading back to the previous night’s restaurant for some more spicy chicken wings and a blabber with Reol and Jeannichelle, who really have gone out of their way to help me enjoy Brazzaville to the full.

Yesterday, as I sat in the completely deserted airport with a cold Heineken, I felt all sorts of emotion about the trip, mainly an almost euphoric feeling of contentedness and appreciation for the extraordinary nature of humans and the world we live in. If the Congo, with its wildly natural and unpredictable pace of life, is not the real African deal, then I don’t know what is. Oh dear, I thought, my house mates are never going to hear the end of it!


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