Travel to Congo

For a Russian man, this small country of Equatorial Africa like another planet – far and incomprehensible. Although another 20 years ago, the volume of our Congo’s help was calculated by hundreds of millions of rubles, and many Soviet specialists worked there under the contract. At the Embassy of the Republic of Congo (RK) in Moscow, I was told that over the past 10 years I am the first Russian journalist who is officially accredited by the MFA RK.

Republic of the Congo – a state located in the western part of Equatorial Africa. From the end of the XIX in. And before independence, August 15, 1960. – Colony of France. Until now, French is the official language, although local languages ​​are widely distributed – Lingala in the north of the country, Monocounet – in the south.

Congo – Country of Paradoxes. There are actively used by the Internet and. Worship sorcerer. In small eaters, the God of forgotten provincial towns can also buy a bottle "Coca-Cola", And dried monkey meat. It is in this country that the tribes of the most low-spirited people on the planet – Pygmeyev live. Although with difficulty, but they can still be found in the north, northeast and northwest of the country.

Attempting to find any Russian tour operators capable of organizing a trip to this far corner of the African continent, was not crowned with success. The Russian Embassy in Brazavil helped with the receipt of a visa and registration of the invitation. Russian airlines do not fly to this country, you can only get there by the airline "Er Franc".

. It was already dark (he darkens at the equator early), when our plane touched the bands of Brazzaville International Airport "Maya-Maya". On the dash in the face hit the hot, wet air of a rain evening. The officer carefully studied the passport and a visa, asking him in French about the purpose of the visit. I tried to answer in English, then risked and in Russian said that I am from Russia. He wasleed, quickly put a mark in the passport and added: "Hello, comrade friend". Now I was already shaken and I. It turns out that many employees older than 40 years know Russian language here. The next Passenger Control Point – Sanitary. It is necessary to present an international certificate of vaccinations against yellow fever.

Finally, all formalities are passed. I am meeting an employee of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Congo, Georgy Chepik and a representative of Roszarubezhtsentr in the Republic of Kazakhstan, Director of the Russian Center for Science and Culture (RCSC) Vasily Chechin.

– We need to hurry, with hotels there may be tens, – says Vasily. – Soon the regional summit on the conservation and rational use of forests of the Congo basin with the participation and president of France begins in Brazzavil.Shirac. With places in hotels can be tight.

Go beyond the airport. Please note that the city is not covered.

– With electricity here problems, – explains George. -Often turn off. Therefore, in hotels, restaurants and government agencies have their diesel generators. If you really need a connection, I advise you to purchase a SIM card of a local telephone company. And so, a minute of conversation with Moscow costs 3 dollars. Especially do not speak.

It turned out to be near: Airport within the city.

– Yes, and with water, too, there are problems, – my interlocutor continues. – The head is small. From under the tap do not drink. After you bring your teeth, you must rinse the mouth with drinking water from the bottle. Now we are going to the hotel, yesterday booked a room with a shower for 20 thousand. francs (about $ 40.) per day is cheap.

In full dark approach to a two-story building with irradiated walls. Rose to the second floor. Candle Candles Lights Long Narrow and Dark Corridor. Two Africans appeared from Niche, like ghosts. After a short dialogue go down to the car.

– No places, everything is already sold.
– So you booked?
– This is Africa to which you need to get used to. Let’s go to another hotel.

While we are looking for another hotel, George tells about the country.

– In total, about three and a half million people live here, more than 60% – in cities. Only in Brazaville – 950 thousand. Man in Pointe Nuare about 530 thousand. Most urban population of the country concentrates in these two cities. In the north, on the territory of the rainforest, the population density is less than 0, 5 people per 1 kV. KM. In the Congo, there are a lot of immigrants from West African countries. There are more than 80 tribes and national groups in the country. The nation of the ethnic group of the Bantu – the tribes of the Congo, Baytec and MBShi prevail. Famous pigments make up no more than 1% of the population. Now finding pygmeys that would not have come back with civilization, difficult. It is not easy, but a fast fast pace is the process of assimilation of pygmeys with a bow. In that "merit" Forest companies that actively cut down the forest. Decks game, and Pygmeni are forced to leave the jungle in the village and villages. The same companies create jobs for pigments that pushes them to abandon their usual lifestyle. The government is also implemented by the Program for the Acquisition of Pygmeys to a civilized life, many of them even serve in the Congolese army.

Brazzaville hotels turned out to be many. After the hours of searching in a small hotel, there was a clean room with air conditioning and even hot water. An hour for arrangement – and the conversation continues for dinner in the Chinese restaurant.

– By the way, such restaurants, as well as shops and shopping benches, which sell cheap and not always high-quality Chinese goods, in Brazaville, "says Vasily. – But the supermarket during a recent civil war survived only one. Manages Livanets. In this store you can buy good quality products, mostly French. In general, French influence here is very great. The biggest embassy in Brazzaville and the Cultural Center -Found, French.

On the market I surprised high prices. For example, a two-liter bottle of drinking water costs about a dollar, as much – a bunch of carrot or one pineapple.

– Why is everything so expensive? -I ask Ya. – In Africa, in my opinion, pineapples should be just a gift.

– Brazaville, – explains George, – is experiencing great difficulties with supply. The economy of the country during the civil war was huge damage.

The recovery process is slow. Above the economy takes a huge external debt, which at the beginning of 2005. amounted to about 9 billion. Doll. USA (222% of GDP). Congo economy has a pronounced raw materials. In the continental shelf, oil is mined, which gives up to 95% of export and half of budget revenues. Another national wealth of the country – Forest. Wood brings 2% of the total export income.

Work on post-war rehabilitation brazavil is mainly completed. However, in the capital still come across burnt, with traces of bullets, shells and fires at home. Next to the renovated buildings of government agencies and banks, diplomatic missions and insurance companies, the ruins are prayer – the results of brutal battles. Against this background, huge parabolic television plates of wealthy Congolese – the picture is almost in the spirit of surrealism.

– Goods and products, – continues Georgii, are delivered to the capital from Pointe Noura by aircraft or railway passing through areas where excitements have not yet understood. Trains are often subjected to robbery "illegal armed formations".

The auto, which once tied the Brazzaville and Pointe-Noir, during the war was destroyed. From here – and high cost for all imported goods. According to official data, more than 70% of the population of the Congo lives on funds that do not exceed 1 dollar a day. The main food product in the country – maniacs and bananas.

Commodity agriculture is developed in the Congo weak. Export cultures are grown on a few plantations – sugar cane, oil palm, tobacco, peanuts, coffee and cocoa. Livestock is not at all developed, the meat is mostly imported. Even in the Brazzaville area, not to mention the outback, people are hunting for gazelles, crocodiles, monkeys and other local game, are engaged in fishing.

One Congolese told me a funny case. Once in the USSR, 400 tribal burenoks were selected and sent to the Congo for "Lifting" animal husbandry. Sent specialists who built the cowshes, were outset pastures. However, in a couple of years, the film crew of the Soviet television came to the Congo to relieve a report on how Congolese develops livestock, several skinny cows remained from the tribal herd. Congolese met the film crew with smiles. On the question, and where is the tribal flock, "Local animals" Divorced hands. Cows simply ate: Congolese was sure that the Russians will bring them more cows. In the Soviet departments, they did not take part that the traditions of animal husbandry in the Congo are completely absent.

Times have changed, and free Soviet help has sunk in the fly. But the Congolese still remembers the Soviet Sair, stew and condensed milk, and also often recall the time when the USSR sent specialists, equipment and equipment, cars, building materials and weapons. Today, Russian companies could sell in the Congo many products, ranging from nails and aluminum pots to machines and cars. However, the Russian business interests in Africa seemed to have awakened.

. The coming night did not bring coolness. From the window of the hotel, the outlines of the dilapidated building were visible, in the wall of which gaped a huge hole from the projectile, once thoroughly pierced him through. I turn on the TV: surprises the abundance of television channels – a few French, European news channel, another 10-15 – African, mostly from DRC. On most of them, endless interviews with local political leaders and African music "non-stop". There are religious channels where preachers carry "Good and eternal" in folk masses.

The next morning to the room knocked. Looked at the watch: 9 am. In the doorway stood an African years of forty-five, and in his pure Russian said: "Good morning, Andrey. My name is Roger. I work with Monsieur Vasily. The car is already waiting for you. In half an hour we must be in the RCSNA. Have time to get together? "

During the Civil War, the RCSNA was almost completely looted and destroyed. Today almost everything restored. Fortunately, a good library of Russian books has been preserved. Any events are constantly held here: days of Russia, exhibitions, seminars and t.D. Part of the premises are leased under school for Congolese children.

– Survive how we can, – says in. Chechin. – And still we send young conglaresses to study in Russia. And since the training is paid, then in this way we bring real money to our country.

There are many of our former compatriots in Brazavil. These are specialists who came to work here under contracts: Ukrainians, Armenians, Belarusians. In addition, about 100 Russian women constantly live here, most of whom still in Soviet times married Congolese. Some of them are their business. As a rule, these are restaurants and cafes. Therefore, most are relatively well arranged. Twice a year, almost all of our compatriots are going together in the RCSNA: for the New Year and March 8.

The next day was scheduled for moments. In the morning a sightseeing tour of the city with a visit to the central market "Poto-Potoney". Then visit the RCSNA and several meetings. And in the day, departure to the city of the weight center of the largest refinery province of the Congo.

I was told that "Poto-Potoney" I will see a real city life without embellishment and can make good photos, but I was warned that during a walk through the city it is categorically impossible to shoot military units, soldiers and police, as well as government agencies.

Travel to Congo

– And if the ban is accidentally? – I asked I.
– I do not advise. Can and palp on, if they do not like. Or chamber will disach. The milder option – the illumination of the film. So do not look for adventures on your head.

Market "Poto-Potoney" It turned out to be a network of direct and unconfalted streets with rows of benches and one-story houses. Trading here went on every corner. Clothes, fruits, food, baubles, coal – everything is bizarrely mixed here.

The appearance of a white man with a camera caused a slight revival. Someone hid her faces, not wanting to be photographed, someone, on the contrary, tried to pose, put into the course of the sophisticated arsenal gestures. There was a drinking water trader, which is sold here in cellophane packages. Having bought such a package, you just touch the little hole in it and suck water – everything is simple and without. Roger bought me a local tropical fruit, the size of an apple, with a dense rigid casing of eggplant. Inside – white slices, similar to garlic head, juicy and sweet. Roger said the fruit is called "Mangoustin" and grows only in the Congo.

A group of young girls shouts to me, actively gesticulating. Roger translates: "Hey, French, Take us to Paris!"

Photographing a little girl with a lot of intricate braids. She for some reason does not smile, but at the last moment it stands out its white-white teeth.

In the ranks of souvenirs, the choice is traditional: wooden masks, figurines of African apricots, animals, birds, still lifes of wooden fruits, ivory products. You can bargain and boldly reset at once half the stated price. There are, however, very high-quality crafts from valuable trees growing only in Congo. Products from ivory stand, naturally, expensive. For a statuette of 25-30 cm high request 500-600 dollars. Politely refuse, but we make several pictures. I was warned that it was better to refrain from such purchases at all, since the trade of ivory is prohibited by the International Convention, and for its transportation the owner of the trinket may not be separated only by a fine.

I catch myself on unexpected thought. Once white colonizers for cheap beads, the mirror and baubles bought slaves and land. Today, the situation is different. Now rich white people pay Africans for pieces of treated tree, bring them home and proudly show friends almost like expensive trophies. Now is prestigious and fashionable, and because it is expensive.

I visited and at the Russian Embassy in Brazzaville. This, by the way, the first one of the once erected three-storey stone buildings in the city. Built in 1888. Masons. From colonial times on one of the buildings, the date of construction and the mark of the Masonic lodge are preserved – three stars. Apparently, due to the coincidence of symbols, they persist in the Soviet period.

It is interesting to take a look at the thresholds of the Congo River, which is on the southern outskirts of Brazzaville. They represent the first stage of the cascade of famous Livingstone waterfalls. In them, you see all the power of the Congo River, her indomitable temper.

The next morning we fly to the north of the country in the Sanga Department, the city of weight. At the airport to us joins Justsen Kimpleu – Head of the Department of Conservation and Local Locals from the Ministry of Culture, Art and Tourism of the Republic of Congo, the former student.Monsieur Kimmalu speaks Russian perfectly, in French and on the lingala. And in the weight we already waited for the prefect, also a former student of Moscow State University – "Countrymen".

– You will be waiting for another surprise, – says George. – Now you see.

We go to the flight field and go. To our plane "An-24". Near the ladder hearing Russian speech. Wrap. It turned out that almost all internal air transportations are carried out by Russian crews and on aircraft still Soviet production. See you. Pilots are interested in how this I was lit up to climb such wilderness. Take off and quickly gain a height.

– Well, like you, everything is fine? – asks, coming into the salon, ship commander. We are informed. Our conversation continues.
– How long do you work here? – I ask Ya.
– Personally, I am the fourth month. In general, the guys work for eight or ten months, then a short vacation home, – answers the commander.
– And what, in Russia, the pilots are not needed?
– Russia, in my opinion, no one is needed, – without hiding his disappointment, the pilot is responsible. – We are not here from a good life. Although earn not bad. We live all the crew on a separate villa, with all the amenities. True, two have already managed to pass with malaria.

Suddenly, a runway of the airfield appears between the trees. We are safely landing. Weather is a village with a rows of single-storey houses located on both sides of the central unconfalted street.

The planned conversation with the Prefect of the Sanga Department – Nguble Nicolas lasted for a short time, about 40 minutes. The prefect spoke about the city, on the activities of forest companies.It turned out that in the days of the USSR, teachers of the Russian language, literature, history, physicists came to the weight and trained the local population. Surprisingly, our experts from the grain of enlightenment. However, it was "Big politics".

In the local market there is a browse trade in any African love – antilopes, crocodiles, rhundants and fish birds. Next to sell banners and sugar cane. It is curious that the maniacs are traditionally the basis of the food diet of the Congolese. Even a child, eating a piece of manica, always says what is fed. Opposite the market, on an improvised field, children played football. On the way, a lonely motorcycle was rushed with a strange plate "Moto-taxi", dissolved in the cloud of dust. Here she is, African province. Life here flows slowly and sleepy. The time as if stopped.

After weight, Brazzaville seemed to the center of civilization. The business trip ended. At your last evening in the capital, sitting in a semi-empty restaurant, which belonged to our compatriot Lyudmila, we went through various episodes of stay in this amazing country. Catch myself thinking that you used to climate. Domestic inconveniences moved to the background. Only vivid impressions of this interesting and such an incomprehensible country with its paradoxes, customs and distinctive culture remained.

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