lundi, août 28, 2006

Reflections on arrival in Congo of an Australian ESL volunteer

Reflections on arrival, strange tongues, and delirium…………………

It has been almost a month now since I stepped off the plane at Brazzaville airport. The 23 hours in flight and a few too many lengthy waits in transit had left me delirious, delusional and hard of hearing, preparing me perfectly for the man at the airport ‘kindly’ offering me assistance. ‘Ms please give me your passport and your entrance card, I will help you.’ ‘Pardon,’ ‘Je ne comprends pas,’ ‘Je ne parle pas le Français.’ I manage to spit out that I am waiting for someone to meet me. Trying to buy some time, I shuffle through my bag to find a pen, and SLOWLY begin to fill in the entrance card.

The man is still by my side. I manage to spit out another sentence….’Do you work here?’ ‘Yes, yes bien sure.’ I look around, they can’t have too much trouble finding me in the crowd, I’m the only young white woman around. I start to scan my memory through all my e-mail contacts with Sylvie Niombo. Did I tell her my age? Did I specify that I was female? Maybe they are searching for a middle age French man, it wouldn’t be the first time with a name like Rene. I’ve bought as much time as I can, the man is still by my side assuring me of his validity, the combination of a strange tongue, blocked ears, humidity, and delirium have taken its toll. I give in.

Reflections on meeting AZUR folks……………………

Two minutes after my passport and entry card have left my possession I meet Jourdan. He is speaking to me, I still don’t understand as I’m still madly trying to unblock my ears, while keeping an eye on the man with my passport, but I recognize it as English, and I recognize him as a member of AZUR. All is OK. We spend the next hour or so trying to get a visa. There is much negotiation with the man who had offered his ‘kind’ assistance, who is asking for money for his hard work. We leave without passport or visa.

I meet Lydie outside, strange tongue again, I catch about 10 of the 100 balls being hurtled at me. Over the next few days I meet the rest of the AZUR mob. They are all so kind, and they spoil me. As for me, my lack of French has got me feeling like a stubborn tourist that will not bend their ways. I am relying on other peoples English, and this fills me with guilt.

I am trying my hardest to catch more balls, but they are hurtled at me with an incredible speed, and so I am a small dependant child. This, coupled with the many calls of MONDELE whenever I walk out on the street reminds me that I am a stranger in a strange land. I start to understand friends in Australia, when they are the only black people in a sea of white.

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