15 April 2011
The morning began with a sob story from the T-Shirt guy. My friend who was showing us around Kisangani has a guy who makes custom t-shirts with whatever my friend wants written on them for $15 each. Last night the T-Shirt guy delivered the t-shirts and had a friend along with him who sold a couple masks and other trinkets. Turns out the friend took all the money from the shirts after they left and the following morning the T-Shirt guy was back demanding to be paid again.
Next up demanding money was the car rental guy who asked for an extra days car rental since he was driving us to the airport, plus $100 for gas money, even though the truck was delivered on empty. The demands for extra money began as it was time to leave for the airport and they refused to move until we paid, making us late for our flight.
Once we were done negotiating we started on our way to the airport and ran into a local military friend who went to the soccer game with us the previous day. He offered to come with us in case we ran into any problems, and he was key in getting us onto the UN airport for our flight home. A roadblock was set up outside the airport and security was refusing to allow entry without payment and cars were backed up at least a quarter mile. The private security and then heavily armed military guarding the base and pushing mob yelling in Swahili and Lingala at the gate reminded me of movies I had seen of people cut off just out of the reach of safety. I was very glad when our new friend parted the intense crowd for us and got us on the base.
It was great to get another free UN flight, but this time instead of a Spanish flown 737-200 we got the chance to fly on an old Russian Antonov-24 twin turboprop airplane. The Antonov-24 was first introduced in 1959 and this plane looked like it had passed through many years of hard service. I was relieved when the cramped rusty old plane rolled to a stop in Kinshasa four hours later, especially when I saw the bald tires had worn through a layer of strings. At least the flight was free.