The Same, but Different

Posted by Owen Fuller on September 29, 2010 in culture |

We get our meat from a butcher in a small shack on the side of the road…you point to what part of the dead, hanging cow you want, he takes a machete bats away the flies, and hacks off your choice

This post is from a Facebook note by Chris Konop, an MAF Pilot/Mechanic in East DRC.  The Konop Family recently arrived in DRC and they have been a good source of some “newbie” information.  This note is a great look at the cultural difference that await us in Africa.  Enjoy!

The Same, but Different

by Chris Konop on Sunday, September 26, 2010 at 10:05am

After being here a few weeks, I’ve started to process the many differences in culture and life here, but I’ve also noticed things that remind me of “home.”  Here are some of those things.

Home Life:

Our house is western “style”

Our house is NOT western “standard”

We have a living room, dining room, kitchen, 3 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms

We have electricity

We have running water

Never take either one for granted, they are sometimes difficult to manage and conserve

The telephone pole outside our house consists of two truck axles welded together with a stick placed horizontally across the top, where bare copper wires are wound around a conductor.

We cook with a match-light gas stove and oven

We have an electric fridge

We have internet

Instead of a home phone, we have a VHF radio to communicate with other families and friends

We have 24 hour “guards”

We burn our trash

We go to the market for groceries

We get our meat from a butcher in a small shack on the side of the road…you point to what part of the dead, hanging cow you want, he takes a machete bats away the flies, and hacks off your choice

All prices are negotiable

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

The weather is much like where I grew up, 80’s and humid, when it rains, it pours

We do not have A/C

Grass looks like a weed, tastes like a weed, and is treated like a weed

We have two satellite dishes

The sun rises at 6am and sets at 6pm, 7 minutes is the greatest variance because we are so close to the equator

When the sun does set, it gets dark…quick, revealing the most stars you have ever seen in your life, and will ever again see this side of heaven

Our lawn mower is a guard wielding a machete

We are mzungu (white people) here, which is a novelty.  We are under constant scrutiny wherever we go

In Church:

Everything is done in Swahili or French

We sing songs, collect an offering, and pray during the service

There are so many people that many have to stand outside the church and listen in the hot sun

There is usually a bulletin of sorts, but it is rarely followed

The preacher is usually long-winded

The service this morning lasted for two and a half hours

Louder is always better

Around Town:

Missions, NGO’s (humanitarian organizations), and the UN account for most of the cars seen on the road

There are no paved roads here, in fact, some of the roads would rival my off-roading days in college, 4 wheel drive is not a luxury option, it is a necessity

Any vehicle newer than 1990 would not last a month

Pedestrians are on the low end of the totem pole.  Cars and trucks have the right of way over motorcycles, which have the right of way over bicycles, and they have the right of way over people.  Water buffalo trumps all.

It is not OK to take pictures or video

There are a few restaurants in town, and they’re actually pretty good

It is not uncommon to see 4, 5, or 6 people on a motorcycle…all at the same time

We drive on the right side of the road, from the right side of the car

If you get in an accident, it is automatically your fault.  It doesn’t matter who hit who, who had the right of way, or who was trying to pass who…you are white, you obviously have the money to pay for it

The person coming IN to the roundabout has the right of way



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