27 February 2012


Mama Vida came to me yesterday and said, "Mama (she calls me "mama" too), you need to buy some more cereal.  Elias loves to eat it for his snack and there is no more."

I explained that even by my standards, cereal is crazy expensive in the Congo, so I hadn't bought any for awhile.  She said, "How much?"

So, I told her, "Usually, about 19,000 Francs."

She clucked her tongue, disbelievingly.  19,000 Congolese Francs is about $20.77.

$20 is two really good days wages for a normal person in the DRC.  Two days wages for a box of Kellogg's Corn Flakes, imported from South Africa.

So, Elias got spaghetti for his snack.
But, this morning, I stumbled out of bed with our early-riser, Lou.  And decided to feed my children something completely decadent. because - to be honest.  i usually am not the one stumbling out of bed early in the morning.  johan does. and then, he cheerfully cooks a healthy breakfast. confession complete. I reached into the recesses of the corner cabinet and pulled out a recent prize sale purchase:

This amazing treat cost "only" about $6 from the sales rack at City Market.  The flakes were fairly stale, but enjoyed nonetheless.  My bowl was the biggest of all.

But why does this box of stale chocolate corn flakes (the weirdest creation ever) cost an honest day's work?  Is it really a bargain?

Even though she certainly didn't ask for any reasoning, I felt the need to explain myself to Mama Vida.  To assure her that I wasn't spending my money foolishly.  I mean, I buy my chocolate corn flakes on sale, right?  I don't buy the $20 boxes.  Only the $6 boxes.  HUGE difference.  Right?

She didn't really care how conscientious I was in my cereal buying.  She entertained my ramblings politely, but the whole idea that I would spend the equivalent of her week/fortnight/month's market budget on a box of cereal isn't surprising to her.  I'm sure she's been privy to much more impressive expat indulgences.

I can't quite get over it, though.  The mix of feeling naughty, guilty, happy, deprived, and successful is strange and constant.

1 comment:

  1. Kind of like buying things made from Foxconn, except you living in the village where the kids that make the iPads come from.


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