27 August 2013


This past weekend, we all piled into a car and went to the Foire.

What? Didn't you?

Elias announced that we were mean parents because he's never been to an amusement park, so we did the next best thing and went to the International Fair of Kinshasa (FIKIN).  Each year, this fair rolls into town and puts up camp between the statue of Lumumba and the never-to-be-completed iconic tower Mobutu built in 1966.  While it sounds like quite the location we ended up having to pull over and ask people to point us in the right direction...four times.

Original photograph: Tower of Limete in Kinshasa, Patrice Lumumba statue by Moyogo.

Once we arrived, we were ushered in by a team of heavily-armed-but-very-nice Republican Guard and parked our car in an empty lot.  Most folks arrive via public transport to the Foire, not personal SUVs.  After we unloaded our broods, clown-car style, we purchased a couple of FIKIN 2013 paper hats for 200FC (about 22 cents) each and entered the fair grounds.

See how excited the children were?

Charlotte was not impressed to be chosen for a photo op with these two small strangers.

In order to dive right in to the festivities, we had Photo Minutes taken immediately.  This is the requisite memorabilia from any Kinshasa event.  At concerts, weddings, and fairs, "photo minute" guys roam around, ready to capture your precious moments for only FC1500 or so. (Remember the slightly inappropriate one we had taken at the Koffi concert last year?)  It's actually totally awesome.  They take the photo and print out as many copies as you want to buy right there on the spot.  Like this:

Again, the kids were having FUN, I assure you.

Most excitingly, they had a closed-caption large screen that was firmly fixed on Johan the entire time.  Every time we saw the video, it was carefully following my husband's Nordic frame as he picked his way through the crowd.

But the rides were why we really came to the Foire.  Elias has gotten quite good at attempting an effective parental guilt trip with phrases such as, "All I ever wanted in my whole life was to ride one - just one - roller coaster."  So, we went to suss out the place des jouets and found this:

Totally gobsmacking.  

But, more than a little terrifying at the same time for the mother of a child really wanting to ride in it's clutches. This amazing contraption's ancient mechanical joints creaked and moaned, but then flung it's spaceships and their human contents with surprising agility into the air again and again.  Everyone seemed to be having a great time...but I played the mean mother card and only let Elias watch from the safety of the ground.

Ani and Adam tried out the tank while the bigger girls clung with terror to their parents.  They totally missed out:

Over the summer, Elias was treated to some Virginia country lane driving lessons.  So, he now completely believes that he is an awesome driver and capable of handling any vehicle that comes his way.  Which includes bumper cars, of course.  We waited in line with our FC1500 tickets for our turn on the old-school cars complete with sparking metal stick of electricity connected to a wire mesh ceiling.  Elias made me swear about ten times that I wouldn't try to touch the steering wheel.

And then, we posed for a *Fikin 2013 Wutu Land* Photo Minute.

(Note: I felt like a jerk because at one point, I noticed that my child was the only one purposefully trying to hit other cars.  So, I had to actually say - while in bumper cars - "Okay, so, maybe don't bump the other cars quite so much..."  It seemed that every other kid was simply trying to enjoy a leisurely Saturday drive sans violence.)

At this point, we were all incredibly dirty (it is still the dusty dry season) and hungry - having forgotten about lunch in our excitement.  So, we headed over to one of many impromptu outdoor - and naturally, child-friendly - beer stalls and sat down.  At which point, we were swarmed with culinary options.  Such as (Warning: stereotypical "expats eating in Africa" photos following):

Writhing larvae.  Note the toy machine gun for sale in the background.
Elias knew better than to ask me if I would buy that for him.

And...the actual, for-real, favorite of the afternoon:

Termites with hot pili peper and onions.

While the girl bashed each other with Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse balloons, Elias chowed down on bugs.

The termites really were lovely.  Crunchy, greasy, salty, and protein-ful.  What more can you ask for in a snack food to be washed down with cold beer or orange Fanta?  We also had the old standbys: peanuts, popcorn, and pili-pili eggs.  

I told Mama Vida all about our adventurous bug eating and she literally said, "Why would you do that?"  She wasn't impressed in the least and actually acted a little disgusted.  Again - expats eating in Africa...

We went to the FIKIN fairgrounds around 1pm on a Saturday.  It was full of families, kids, popcorn, and good times.  We have heard that going to FIKIN after dark isn't such a good idea for all the usual common sense reasons.  

You have about 4 more days to catch the fair before they pack up for the year.  

So, get going!


  1. Have you tried the larvae? (Shudder) And what are pili-pili eggs?

    1. Nope. I have definitely not tried that kind of larvae. There was another, slightly smaller, chewy version that I ate soon after arriving in Congo...

      The pili pili eggs are easily my favorite street snack: a hard boiled egg cut in half and sprinkled with spicy salt. Perfection. I'm sure that Guatemala could rustle up a similar version!

  2. I'll eat bugs with you, Elias, but no roller coasters! You'll need Pop for that...

  3. Few thoughts are more frightening to me than amusement park rides in Kinshasa. I picture open/sparking electrical boxes, pools of hydraulic fluid at the base of each ride, and smiling Congolese carnies requiring a cadeau to let me off each terrifying contraption.

    Of course, I've never been to the Foire. I'd totally hit up those bumper cars, though.

  4. sounds like the carnival in india! terrifying, and yet fascinating- one hardly dares to believe a person could ride on such a creaky, rickety old thing and not die, and yet people do it! i like to think it's because ordinary, day-to-day things (driving, crossing the street, grocery shopping) are so off the wall that it takes something extra over the top to spark an adrenaline rush.

  5. I would happily ride those rides if i wasn't forced to eat the larve. The termites i could probably handle, though.

    Love following your adventures!



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