12 September 2013


The other day, we were bribing treating our children to some ice cream during a particularly long Saturday of grocery shopping.

Food selection is really not bad at all here.  I eat higher quality cheese and charcuterie in Kinshasa than I ever did in the U.S.  There are the exotic fruits which I buy in bulk and at prices Brooklyners only can dream of paying.  And, there is ice cream.  If you want Ben & Jerry's, you'll have to fork over $30 for a pint and settle for frostbitten cookie dough.  If you can stand to forgo the refrozen taste of America, there is N'ice Cream. (Please don't forget the apostrophe.)

Image from here.

N'ice Cream ice cream is really, truly great.  And not in a "great...for Kinshasa" sort of way.  The two locations in town are modeled after the quintessential European gelato bar, complete with man-sized plaster cone out front. Droves of teens who can afford the luxury, sit at tall tables, licking away.

Back to our family outing.

After surveying the glass case, Elias exclaimed loudly that today, he wanted "Obama" instead of his regular vanilla.  I laughed nervously.  But, there it was:  Obama.

The Obama flavor turned out to be chocolate chocolate chunk or some variation on that theme. We asked for it to be added to the styrofoam take-home box next to the vanilla and strawberry already selected, making a sort of Obamapolitan blend.  I tried asking "Why 'Obama'?", in an I'm-friendly-and-curious sort of way.  The woman shrugged and said, "It's just a flavor."


Sarah later (gently) informed me that I'm an idiot.  The Obama flavor been there every time I have gone to N'ice Cream for the last two years.  According to Sensamaust lore, N'ice Cream opened during the 2008 election and the Obama flavor arrived soon thereafter.  Sarah remembers wondering what they were going to do if he lost.

Six years on, Obama's presence floats around this city, popping up here and there: his face printed on grocery store plastic sacks, a random image peaking out from a pagne skirt, an ice cream flavor.  For our kids, it's really the only way they have experienced the American president.

One of Elias' favorite stories is about when he once made the paper for attending an Obama rally in Virginia as a two year old, high up on Johan's shoulders.

Little Eli at the Obama Rally.  2008.

It's a terribly exotic and unbelievable story for him.  Much more normal is his current reality, which involves sitting caked in the dry season dust of a Kinshasa evening, licking Obama flavored ice cream drops from a N'ice Cream treat.

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