Saturday, July 05, 2014

Lubumbashi, DR Congo: robocops, pizza, and skinny jeans

There is a giant robocop at the busy intersection near the Methodist building in downtown Lubumbashi. There is also an Italian-style flowing fountain and a sleek food court/shopping centre featuring South African chain restaurants (including Galitos and Pizza Inn). Every direction I look I spot young women wearing tight fitting jeans and fancy tops.  Am I tripping on malaria meds or has reality shifted?

I've been coming in and out of Lubumbashi, DR Congo since 1995. It is the first big city after crossing the border from Zambia and the capital of Katanga, so pretty much a required entry point for getting to the United Methodist conference of North Katanga. Since Lubumbashi is a transit town for me, I'm only here a handful of days each year.  This has created a surreal time-lapse photography experience as I've watched the city change.

There was a time that this city depressed me--everything was rundown like out of a post-apocalyptic movie and the vibe was a mix of paranoia, bitterness, and an exhaustion that comes from barely surviving. Later, the city stressed me out--chaos, crazy cars, corruption and cruelty. The vibe was that of those hustling to climb out of their poverty by any means available. My North Katangan friends who had moved to this sprawling city with dreams of financial success were suffering more than they suffered back home.

Today, however, as I wandered around downtown and rode out to dine at a friend's house on the other part of town (the road was now paved all the way there!), I thought to myself how alive and healthy the city seemed.  I marvelled at the building renovations, new construction and beautification efforts. Even on the radio there was an anti-littering public service announcement.

Countless new businesses catering to the emerging middle class. It occurred to me that I need to rethink my wardrobe for next time; I was clearly the least fashionably dressed woman on the street.

Today I started seriously thinking that I would enjoy living in Lubumbashi... now if I can only convince the USA government to reopen that consulate here they closed years ago so that my husband can be the first to apply for the job. ;)

1 comment:

  1. A giant robocop "with sunglasses"! I am astonished at the changes since 2009!