They say you haven't really been initiated into the Congo until you've been pulled over by the traffic police here. It took me 3 and a half months but I am finally apart of the club!
The traffic police here in Lubumbashi can be very humorous and very annoying at the same time. It is not what you think if you come from the US. There are no police cars that pull you over with lights and sirens. No. The traffic police here stand in groups of 2-4 on the side of the road in their bright yellow uniforms and whistles (no guns, just whistles). They often will walk into the road and block the path of oncoming cars so they can do an inspection of documents and vehicle safety. It seems like we get pulled over by about once a week in our work van. Luckily I am never driving so I don't have to deal with these individuals. That was up until a couple weeks ago.
I have helping every once in awhile on a project my roommate is working on. They are working on taking homeless/abandoned kids off the street and giving them shelter and education. They are some building projects that are going for the project and this day I was driving a out to the project to do some painting. As we're driving out there a team of traffic police step in the road to pull us over. I recognize the main police guy because he has pulled our work van over several times. After giving me a good stare down for about 15 seconds he asks for my drivers license. That is good so he has nothing on me there. Then he asks for all the paperwork for the car. That is all in order so he has got nothing on me there. He then asks for something which I couldn't understand because it was I word I didn't know in french. He then proceeds to try and pull over another car so he can show me what it is. I finally figure out he is looking for our fire extinguisher (which is required in every vehicle). We have that so no infraction there. He then finds that one of the side mirror is cracked and that I am not wearing a seat belt because it is broken. Well now he has got something on me. $50 infraction and trip to the police station he says. Going to the police station is never a good thing so I try talking more with him. He doesn't seem very satisfied with my french and then begins talking with my boss' daughter, who speaks a little Lingala (language spoken mostly in another part of DRC) and he can communicate better with her. We finally get bailed out by a friend who comes to our rescue and is able to work out the problem by paying an $11 fine. That was a waste of an hour and again the officer says something insulting, which I didn't quite understand as I leave. I'm doing a great job of insulting all the authorities here. Haha.
These are some of the people here that it is hard to love sometimes. These men that are born into a system of greed and corruption who stop me because I look like an easy target to get money out of. I don't really know anything about these guys, whether they are just doing what they have to help their family survive or what. And even though it is hard to do the work I came here to do with distractions and headaches like these, these situations remind me of the reality of the country and there is need here and plenty of opportunities to show people love.