It’s just after 7:00 PM and night has fallen here in Kisangani. I’ve got my little radio tuned in to “Okapi”, the Congolese station that’s sponsored by the United Nations. It’s the only station that’s not funded by any particular political party so that’s where people go for the straightest scoop. The evening newscast just ended and Okapi is pumping out some catchy tunes. It’s an American gospel singer and she’s got a funky riff.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is getting ready to celebrate its independence from Belgian colonizers. The Congolese like to party with the best of them and Friday the 30th of June will be one of the biggest parties of the year. I’m told there will be a huge parade that will start in front of the building. I’ll have a bird’s eye view of the colorful fete of organized chaos. Most expatriates will keep their distance in their homes or their offices, but I will watch it from above since that’s where I live.
For many of you, the 4th of July is the day to celebrate independence from colonizers. Here it’s just another Tuesday at work, of course. It’s my understanding that American expatriates around the world usually gather at the local embassy or consulate on the 4th to roast some weenies and talk baseball. (Detroit Tigers, who’d have thunk that one? How about the Padres battling for the lead in the NL West and playing better than 500 ball into July?) They also get together on Thanksgiving and eat turkeys. But where I am there might be about two or three of us American citizens and we don’t hang out. I’ve never met the others in fact so I can’t prove they exist. The embassy in Kinshasa said that they’d be coming out here for a visit, which I understand includes a free meal out at one of our few restaurants. It’s just a pleasant little gift from the USA to slightly augment my nonexistent tax refunds of late. The embassy hasn’t made good on the visit yet in the three months since I showed up.