The Police crack-down
Every few months, for some unknown reason, the police become unusually aggressive. One always has confrontations with the police now and then, as they try to intimidate you into giving them money—they stop your car for no reason, and then harass you until you give them money. They will try to use some kind of an excuse of your paperwork not being in order, or you broke some traffic law (what laws?), but in the end just want some money. Some will actually just cut to the chase and ask for money (or, in the parlance of the Congo: ask for water).
As I have discussed in previous posts, I learned from a local, Emanuel, how to avoid and evade the police in most cases—but sometimes you are just unlucky.
Now that the Atkinson’s are in Lubumbashi I have been taking Elder Atkinson to see the apartments and to try to get him oriented with the city. On one recent occasion President McMullin was following me and Elder Atkinson to a new apartment (we have a new apartment for the Lubumbashi sisters that have many beds for when they have sister’s conferences, etc.). On the way we had to pass through the city and as luck (or bad luck) would have it, there was a major police stop—five police were stationed at the side of the road to stop unlucky vehicles. I was using one of the tricks of the trade, following a transport truck, to evade being stopped…but just before the police, the truck turned right, and I was in the lead with nothing between me and the five police!
They immediately stepped out into the road to stop me. But I was still a few yards away, so I stopped…and waited for another transport to come along (I knew it was just a matter of time—the transport drivers are not patient, and after a few moment of just sitting there, a transport pulled out of line and came around me). As soon as the transport was in front of me, I started off again, trying to stay as close to his bumper as I could, without running into him.
Sure enough, all five police jumped out in front of both vehicles, and we both came to a stop. But, because I was so close to the back of the transport in front of me, they could not actually get in front of the car—just to the side. Since they were after me (they figured I had more money than the poor transport driver), they let the transport go—and I, of course, followed right after! As they yelled at me and pounded on the side of my car, they ran up to try to get the transport to stop again…but it was too late! The transport did not stop, and as long as he was moving, I was able to move ahead also.
And since they had concentrated so much on my vehicle, they let the President’s car go through as well.
It is a frustrating and trying experience, and even when you are successful in escaping, it does not leave you feeling anything but frustrated. But it is still better than having to sit for 15-45 minutes as they try to look at all your papers, yell at you for some error in paperwork, and try to ‘fine’ you $50 or whatever they can get out of you. Whether you try to work with the police, or try to evade them, the experience is the same: one of disappointment and frustration at the experience.
A couple of days later Elder Atkinson and I traveled to Kasumbalesa (a city on the Zambia border about an hour and a half away) to bring a new bed and some water pumps to the missionaries working there. It was a bad time to travel! It is a holiday weekend here, and they were doing roadwork as we headed out of town. As the road was completely blocked, we turned to go off-roading, hoping to follow a transport or someone to get us around the blocked road, only to hit a dead-end (there was a large ditch where there wasn’t supposed to be, according to our map…), and we ended up back were we started. So then we tried the other direction, towards Kipushi and the new stake center, hoping to find another road that would take us around the road work.
Since we were in that direction, we stopped to see the new stake center (NOT open yet… don’t get me started…it was supposed to be opened the first of the year, then in April, then in May, then in June, etc…). It looked great! Looked ready to open…but? Who knows? We are hoping it opens before we go home so that we can participate in the Open House!
We then took one road that ended up in another dead end, and had simply giving up about getting to Kasumbalesa today, but saw one more road, and a transport on it, so tried it. We finally got lucky! It brought us back to the main road to Kasumbalesa and was just before we entered the pay toll road.
As we got near to Kasumbalesa the police were out again in force to stop people and attempt to get money from them. There were 4 or 5 locations that were stopping people, but all of them were on the other side of the road, stopping people leaving—so we noted their location and prepared to try and avoid them on the way back.
We got to the missionary apartment and dropped off the new bed and water pumps. The owner was working on the apartment—fixing doors and putting in a new bathroom—lots of work that we were not aware of! When they are done it should be quite good, but it is a pain for the missionaries while they are working. I showed Elder Atkinson the dry well, and to our surprise, there was water in the well! We used the rope and bucket to check the water, and it was very clear. The water was at least 50 feet deep, but there seemed to be a lot of it.
Work being done at the Kasumbalesa apartment
The ‘dry’ well at Kasumbalesa that is now wet!
We also drove down the road to find out where the local LDS Church building was located. Next week we are assigned to take the new mission president there to church. It is just a small house on the side of the road with a small sign telling people the name of the church. It should be an interesting visit.
After all of our chores were done, we headed back to Lubumbashi. I parked on the side of the road for a while until a row of cars and transports passed, so I could travel with them in a convoy (it is much more difficult for the police to stop you if you are in a crowd). We were fortunate to get around all the police stops by simply staying behind a transport: as the transport was stopped in front of us, we would pull around them and the police before they could react.
As we got back to Lubumbashi we found ourselves right back in the big traffic mess—it was just much bigger now. But by driving in the dirt on the side of the road, and eventually taking the side road we had found that morning, we were able to get through the mess again and get home before dark. It was a successful trip without too much aggravation between the traffic and the police.
Tonight we go out to dinner as a group with President and Sister McMullin to our favorite Indian restaurant, to celebrate the successful completion of their mission here in the Congo (they go home on Tuesday).
The Congo was not about to let them go with one last problem to throw at them! There are two airlines that fly out of the Congo we use: CAA and Korongo. CAA is the worst, charge exorbitant fees, and are dishonest. Korongo is better, but only has ONE plane—and when it goes down, you are out of luck. The tickets for the McMullins had been purchased for weeks, and they had hard copies in their hands, ready to leave. But we learned that Korongo and CAA had been changing their flight times and days, so Terri was checking to see how that would affect the upcoming road trips with the new president…
To her surprise, she learned that Korongo had cancelled the McMullin’s flight on Tuesday! There had been no notification of this! No email, no phone call, nothing! The problem was that they are on a tight schedule: they have one day with the new president (who comes in on Monday), a large catered party in Kinshasa on Tuesday night, another on Wednesday, and fly to Paris on Thursday…
If they had gone to the airport on Tuesday morning, as planned, tickets in hand…only to find the flight had been canceled…
Well, they had no options: there is a flight going out on Monday—the same day the new mission president comes in! They will have a few hours in the airport to meet and talk. After that, they go home and the new president begins his reign…
We have a couple of quiet days this weekend, to wash, get haircuts, and prep for the coming week, and then the hurricane starts as the new president comes in and does his best to grapple with all the problems, concerns, and work associated with running a mission and 200 missionaries. We are geared up to help him in any way we can, but in the end, it is all on him and his wife. No one in their right mind would ask to be a Mission President!
Wish us all luck, and send some prayers our way, I think we will need them!
Luano chapel being built using local materials
The roof is attached to the metal joists using J wires
Man-made bricks to be used as paving stones at the new Luano chapel
Luano children’s choir
What a mess at the local Catholic Church after a special mass…