24 August 2011

Weekly Wrap: August 15-21

  • My last week in the Congo was pretty busy. This included a full flight schedule, many visits to the bank, and trying to organize my belongings for the trip home. My last day turned out to be quite annoying, although it didn't bother me too much because I knew I would be leaving the next morning. Although it consisted of 2 flights on the schedule, 2 trips to the bank to sort out account issues and annoying charges that come out of nowhere, being pulled over by the traffic police, airport officials trying to shut down our operations for various reasons, and so much more. Good memories I will take home from the Congo.
  • I also had to say goodbye to friends I will be leaving behind. It is one thing to say goodbye to someone when you are moving to a neighboring state or when you know you'll be back, but definitely different saying goodbye to people on the other side of the planet you are not sure if you'll ever see again.
  • I was a little hesitant to announce my departure date to some of the local workers because I knew they would be asking for expensive gifts before I left. When I told one of my night guards I was leaving at the end of the week he approached me and said he would like me to give him something. I was thinking the worst and then he asked me if I had a picture of myself that I could give him so he could remember me. I was totally caught off guard. He took a chink out of my cynicism that I had been building up in the Congo the past year.
  • On one of my trips to the bank I stepped inside with the bank alarm going off. Piercing sirens and flashing lights. I looked around the crowded bank and no one seemed phased a bit. It had probably been going off all morning.
  • As my bags were getting checked by airport security in Lubumbashi a large religious man came and stood next to me. I have no idea what faith this man belonged to but he was large man with a beard wearing a black robe and big shiny cross necklace and some funny shaped religious hat on his head. As he stood next to me he leaned in towards the security guard checking the luggage and with one hand showed him his passport and with the other hand handed the guard a large wad of cash. As he did this he explained to him that he had a special passport and that his luggage did not need to be checked. These jedi mind tricks did not work on the guard as he pocketed the many and began to search the luggage, to which the religious man began to throw a fit. I never found out what was in the luggage that he did not want to be found.
  • My flight out of Lubumbashi left an hour and a half early without any warning. Luckily I was at the airport 4 hours early.
  • When I made it to Dubai at 1:30am I was almost through all of the security when I got pulled over for a one last random security check. They scanned my bags and then asked me if I had any ammunition in bags. I then realized that the empty bullet shell casing I was bring back as a souvenir was what they were talking about. Apparently that was a no-no and I spent the next hour and a half talking to various customs and police officials. After no explanation or hint as to whether I was in trouble or arrested or anything, they let me go with a warning. I made it to my friends house in Dubai at 4am.
  • The weather on Sunday in Dubai was a high of 110 and a low of 95.

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