Autumn is my favorite season too
Last May, I visited my parent’s native country, Congo-Kinshasa, for the very first time. And yes, it was also my first trip to Africa. It’s been more than a month since I got back and not a day goes by without me thinking about Kin.
My parents settled in France in the early 1980’s for studies and work with the idea of going back to Kinshasa but more than 30 years later, they’re still here in their country of adoption. Although worried because they weren’t able to make this trip with us (I travelled with my big sister), they were also proud that we decided on our own to go visit.
I’ve always been kindly teased by fellow immigrants children for never having been back to my roots. “You never been to Africa ? What kind of African are you ?”
Knowing how to speak lingala and being fond of madesu and mikaté clearly wasn’t enough to make me a worthy member of the diaspora.
Just like my parents, some friends and other family members living in France were really not confortable with the idea of two young women travelling alone to Kinshasa. My sister herself was telling me that I should expect our trip to be less fun than I’ve anticipated.
Well, I didn’t really have any expectations but Kinshasa being the capital of the DRC and not a village, I knew we wouldn’t be that lost. And we weren’t. It felt like a homecoming. Kinshasans are really welcoming people, we witnessed so many acts of kindness from them. People there live in awful conditions and it might sound cliché to say that but they also have so much joy. Every night, you could hear people partying in almost every neighborhoods.
Before my departure, a friend of mine told me : “When you arrive, first thing you have to do is smell Africa!" Not feel but smell it. I did. Kinshasa smells of pollution, gaz, barbecue, and burnt plastic. A particular mix of odors that you get used to after a while. Fortunately, Kin is a really big city and in some areas people live among dense forests and vegetation.
This trip was emotionally challenging as I got to meet family I heard of all my life for the very first time. Finally, I’ve been able to put faces on those familiar names, sure I’ve seen pictures but time goes by and I realize they’re now very old pictures.
I’ve also discovered places such as the home my mom grew up in, my father’s old school, the neighbourhoods where my parents spent their childhood and where my grandfather used to work and where my grandparents got married and so on…. All of this means a lot because as a child of immigrants you naturally have different cultural landmarks from those that your parents have.
And this is probably, the biggest thing that this trip brought to me : the ability to understand my parents better and just for that I wish I had made this trip earlier.
Kinshasa is not touristy at all but if you learn a little about the history of the Congo, you’ll be interested to visit.
As for me, I’m already planning my next trip to Africa because the “Black experience” is on a whole other level on the continent…
And to Kinshasa, I only have one thing to say : I came, I saw and I’ll surely come back to conquer !