Up a River in Congo

I ordered some books about Africa from Amazon and am deep into Jeffrey Tayler’s new book ‘Facing the Congo.’ In the book a mild-mannered American who is living in Russia gets the urge to go deep into Africa…he boards a barge and goes up the Congo River to the remote village of Kisangani, then returns downriver in a pirogue, or dug out canoe. All of the Zaireians he meets says he will die, that he is crazy, and most of them demand that he give them food, buy them beers and generally look at him as a rich “mondele” (white) who must share at all times with them. They fear most the soldiers who, drunk at checkpoints, demand bribes at gunpoint.

The boat journey has taken 10 days so far, packed to the gills with vendors, soldiers, and travelers, the equatorial sun is beating down, and nothing moves in the stifling heat. Later that night he returns to his cabin.

“A sting, a spark. Something slimy and stinging swatted my calf. I jumped up, nearly braining myself on the upper bunk. Bopembe opened the door and the deck light fell on a yard-long electric catfish squirming under my bunk. “I bought that nina today,” he said, “please be careful not to get electrocuted.”