27 April 2014

Weekend List!

Sarah's List:

Women: Stop what you're doing and read this article, The Confidence Gap. If life were one long grade school, we'd be winning. But it's not and the boys are kicking our butts.

We Can Edit
By J. Howard Miller, artist employed by Westinghouse, poster used by the War Production Co-ordinating Committeemodified 
by Tom Morris [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Jill and I read this birth story a collective 30 times this week. Then we read it to our husbands who didn't really care. It's an excerpt from this book of birth stories from women writers. I think birth can be best summed up by this:

"Every time I had a contraction I thought, you have got to be fucking kidding me! 
It seemed preposterous that this was the way birth got done. 
I felt solidly and profoundly connected to all the female mammals of the world. 
Not just the women who’d birthed, but the cats and the bears and the lemurs too."

Has your life been taken over by Frozen? Even in Congo we are not immune. Nor is the rest of the world. Now you can get Let It Go in 50 different languages. Libérée, Délivrée, anyone?

Mac keyboard tricks. I'm an, Edit, copy. Edit, paste girl myself, but if you're into taking shortcuts...

An interview with the real Alex of Orange is the New Black

Mama Youyou's recipe for nyanpul has been published! Every order of the cookbook Giving supports Women for Women International. Follow the instructions here to get your copy. Or if you're in the greater Harrisonburg area, let me know and I'll place a bulk order.

This week I subtly came clean about my love for Celine Dion. (Don't judge. I have my reasons.) Did you know there was a whole, serious book that studies the hatred of her? And it's just been reissued with new analytical essays. Sorry, Celine.

Jill's List:

We got to see/hear this guy last night:

I can vouch for the awesomeness of medical tourism.  My five-day South African hospitalization (complete with nightly rooibos tea and complimentary handsome window washer) cost less than a ride in an American ambulance.   Try these winners if you're interested.

Tea and rusks.

I'm in that pre-move limbo land where it's too soon to do very much except for worry about what there is to do. So, I'm studying this site and taking mental notes about how to live elegantly in impossibly small spaces (i.e. buy beautiful cleaning supplies).  Unfortunately, these instructions do not dial in the "child variable." Sigh.

Chaos by children.

The maybe reality of 40K::
 "Although most New Yorkers probably feel that housing in the city is too expensive, it is primarily those earning under $40,000 who literally may not be able to find an apartment they can afford."
"Here are some rich people whining about feeling poor."

Being poor, a child, and invisible.

Being poor, an immigrant, and living in 65 sq feet.

Important stories about being poor in America.

Proud to be separated by only two degrees from these beautiful garments.

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Cistanthe gorgeousness in global fabrics.

Thanks to Bailey at Cistanthe for turning our attention to Alyssa at Pokuasi.  Community support in Ghana through small batch jewelry creation. Brass and glass beauty. (The website is currently under construction, but check back soon!)

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My own glass beads, procured from Ghana.  Go here to see some incredible pieces by Pokuasi and community.

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Stocking up at Lambada on Rue de Commerce. (Bonus: The story of Vlisco in Kinshasa + a great list of places to shop in Kinshasa).

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Image and caption from i fucking love science's Facebook page.

23 April 2014

Kinshasa FAQs: Grocery Shopping

There is an art to grocery shopping in Kinshasa. It is learned through trial and tribulation and accidentally paying $20 for a melon. Most grocery runs are actually marathons because it is nearly impossible to go to one store and get everything you need - on a budget. Our families dispatch the most willing shoppers, the men of the house. Mostly because Jill and I can go longer than them without eating. On a good day, a trip takes 3-4 hours and only leaves us several hundred dollars poorer.

Groceries in Kinshasa are expensive. There's no way around it. We've learned to deny ourselves many items, and celebrate in the adrenaline rush of a $5 box of expired cereal. But be careful with produce and check your receipts. Everyone has fallen victim to this scenario at one point or another:

Mandarins: $23

Mandarins: $3 (neighboring store)

Here's a rundown of our favorite stores. Of course there are many, many others. A comprehensive shopping trip will take me (read: Adam) to at least 4 of the following places:

City Market: Avenue de L'Equateur

Pros: City Market is a possible one-stop grocery store. Most everything you need can be found here. Pets, groceries, sporting equipment, school supplies, and hookahs galore! Tip: Head for the promotion section first. Our favorite finds there have been Craisins, pickled peppers and Fruit Roll-ups. So good.

Cons: Most items are imported and thus prohibitively expensive. Sometimes crazy expensive. Therefore, City Market is more of a one-stop shop for the single guy UN worker. Not so much for the teacher's family.

A word about pricing in grocery stores. Most of the time they're found on charts scattered throughout the store. Each item has a number and letter code. Then you have the task of matching the code with the price on the nearest chart. Like this...

Example: This Turbo-Jet Steam Iron is E08. According to the chart, E08 costs 19,521 FC. Simple as that. There are many theories as to why this ridiculous system exists. Feel free to weigh in below.

Back to the rundown.

GG Mart: Avenue Tombalbaye

Pros: This Indian-owned grocery store is relatively new on the scene, but if I had to pick a one-stop place, GG's my choice. Their prices are good on just about everything and they have a large selection. Tip: If you have a TASOK ID, you get a discount!

Cons: There are several enticing promotion tables, but steer clear. We've ended up with too many bug-filled boxes of cereal and pasta. And moldy veggie burgers.

Fooled again by that promotion table!

Hasson et Frère: Avenue des Aviateurs, across from the U.S. Embassy

Pros: Another one-stop option. Hasson et Frère's website (!) claims they're the largest department store in Central Africa. I might add quotes around "largest" and "department store." But they do have lots of things at Kinshasa-reasonable prices. Including cheap liquor and mini shopping carts for the kids. What more can you ask for? Plus the only grocery store bathroom (it's upstairs...for 200FC).

Cons: You have to pay for produce, meat and cheese at a separate cash register at the back of the store. They won't tell you this until you're at the front checking out the rest of your items. Closed on Saturdays. Constantly rearranging. What's the deal, Hasson?

Kin Marche: Avenue Mpolo Maurice, across from Kin Mart

Pros: I quite like Kin Marche. It's dumpy, the AC is rarely working, and it's located across from the higher priced Kin Mart, so I feel like they've gotta have good deals. We get juice, canned foods and flat bread here. As long as we've lived in Kin, an extremely attractive security guard with a million dollar smile has worked outside. Hypnotized by this smile, Adam buys him a Snickers every time we're there. Over six years, that's a lot of Snickers. Totally worth that smile.

Cons: Not really your best option for one-stop shopping. Parking can be impossible. But this is when the Snickers relationship comes in handy.

Extra Plus: Avenue de L'Equateur, on the opposite side of 30 Juin from City Market

Pros: Extra Plus is a good size, never crowded grocery store. It's Portuguese-owned, so there's quite a selection of nice European sundries. Oh and their rolls are incredible. This is our stop for meat, cheese, bread, and milk. We spend a good fraction of our salary on our girls' milk drinking habits, so we get our milk here. By the flat. They also have a nice local and imported produce section. Tip: They'll give you a discount (remise) on your total of $50 or more. But you might have to remind them. Oh! And my favorite feature of Extra Plus - they blast Celine Dion.

Cons: Expensive cleaning supplies, paper products, canned foods and pretty much everything else I didn't mention above. Sometimes they give you your change in candy. Good for the kids, weird for the adults. Also, they blast Celine Dion.

SIECO (aka the Portuguese Store):  Avenue Lokonga

Pros: Small, but Kinshasa-great prices on most everything. When we first moved to Kin, SIECO was the only store with prices posted in USD and they didn't use the chart system. Alas, I think they got in trouble with the government for making the shopping experience too easy, so they had to switch to scavenger hunt style pricing.

Cons: Located at the end of 30 Juin in a hard-to-find corner of the city. (Take the right at the end of the boulevard and then the first left. Go until the road ends. Voila, SIECO.) Closed on Sundays.

Iyafu (aka the Indian Store): Avenue de Marche, around the corner from the original N'ice Cream

Pros: Bulk dry goods. Raisins, dry coconut, spices and tons of dry legumes. Also, Gripe Water! Rumor has it a Dr. Pepper or two have been spotted there.

Cons: Small selection of other items.  

Shoprite: Avenue de l'OUA

Our initial excitement for Shoprite has waned.

Pros: When Shoprite first opened, we got a little excited (see photo from our original post about its opening above). It was the first chain grocery store and it was kind of a life-changer. But like many grocery stores in Kinshasa, it opened with excellent prices, then joined everyone else in the trend of high prices for some items, low prices for others.

Cons: Watch out for their "promotions." Take note of the price for these items as they ring up at the cash register; sometimes you don't get the posted promotion price. I'm told by my African auditor friends this is a common scheme in stores like this.

Tip: Put your promo items through the checkout first. Then you can catch any "errors" before they've totaled your bill.

All in all, grocery shopping in Kinshasa is getting cheaper and easier. I think. Or I might have lost perspective. Kinshasa shoppers, what do you think? And are there stores I've left out that you like? How about Regal, Peloustore, Kin Mart, Netty's, etc...

And if you're moving to Kinshasa and you like to hyper-analyze photos (like me), you might want to see what you can get at grocery stores. Here are a few images from various places.

Baby gear.

A variety of appliances. 

Cheese counter.

Goma Cheese. (About $11 a wheel these days.)


Cereal, for that special occasion.

Baking equipment.

Laundry detergent.

Charts. And more charts.

Lastly, let us pause to reflect on $25 strawberries. They're going like hot cakes.

Previous Kinshasa FAQs: The Airport.

16 April 2014

Don't Forget These Things

It's sobering to realize that I'll forget 98% of the past three years.

I'll fill my brain with other moments and my hours in Africa will be crowded out.  It makes me feel sick and a little relieved.  Give me three weeks out of this country and all the things that matter so much at 7:44pm on a Tuesday night in April will just slip away.

So, I'm taking notes like a patient preparing for amnesia.  Don't forget these things:

Sulky boys on porches.  Little red sandals.

Dress up in the rainforest.

Dewy morning school prep.

Nounou's samosas.

Fresh baby fists at the maternity centers.

First birthdays and rare raspberries.

Sleepy reads. (Lord of the Rings this week).

Impromptu concert after an important purchase.

Photos in the bathroom mirror.

French lessons at this table.

Rain like never before.

Mosquito net movies.

Locker art.

Games on the field.


Steamy days.

Soccer field mushroom harvest.

Nontraditional celebrations and sink sitting.

This. This. This.  Don't forget this.
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