Sunday, March 30, 2008

HOW THINGS ARE SOLD -- MORE THINGS TO COME

This is an "incomplete post" -- there are many more things to add to it. But here's what we have for right now.

Wanna buy a used car? There aren't more than 4 or 5 car dealerships in Kinshasa, and not one of these has a used car department of any consequence. Most used cars are sold off of "used car lots" along the side of the road. Here's a used car dealership alongside Mulumba Blvd. -- each morning about 50 or 60 cars appear alongside the road -- there are occasional lookers and buyers, and then at night all the cars get driven somewhere to be stored overnight. Almost all the used cars here come from Europe, and still have their identifying European country sticker on them -- "B" for Belgium; "F" for France; "CH" for Switzerland; "D" for Denmark, etc. Someone buys them in Europe and ships them down here. The process of licensing, registering, reporting sales to the government, sales tax -- no clue what happens. But the inventory always changes and cars are being sold from under the trees.

There are gas stations, although probably not more than 100 for the 8 plus million people in Kinshasa. All the petroleum products are distributed by a government entity called "SEP" -- you see their big tank trucks. I guess the major oil companies have their additives blended in at the SEP tank farms. Diesel is by far the prevelent fuel -- at about $ 6.50 - 7.00 a gallon, government price controlled. Our SUV takes about 200 litres, or about $ 250 a fill-up.

Far more interesting are the street-side vendors who sell diesel by far smaller quantities, as people can't afford a $ 250 fillup. They fill containers and put them on these racks by the side of the road. Here you see everything from 4 litre containers -- the large blue containers in the top right, to litre sized plastic containers, to used Coke bottles, which hold about .3 litres. A guy with a moto may wheel in for a Coke bottle (about 50 cents) or a plastic one litre bottle (about $ 1.30). The bigger 4 litre fillup ($ 5) would be took big for his tank -- those are reserved for cars or combies that need to go another 20 miles. There are similar sized containers of oil -- very handy since most vehicles here belch enormous quantities of blue smoke. For some of them, I think the consumption of oil equals or exceeds the consumption of diesel fuel.
Here's your "one stop" shop for athletic equipment -- soccer balls, an exercise bike, etc. But if you injure yourself by exercising too vigorously, we have crutches, canes, etc. If you really overdo it, we can sell you a wheelchair. All out in the open, under a tree. Each night the inventory disappears to somewhere, to be carefully restocked in the morning when the store opens for business.

If you get thirsty during the day, particularly as you ride in a non-air conditionned combie, there is the "O - P" man ready to slake your thirst. On top of this vendor's head is a plastic sack about 3 feet tall (when it is full) and 1 1/2 feet in diameter. Filled to the brim with plastic bags of "eau pure" -- French for pure water. (Except that most eau pure comes from taps and non-filtered sources -- we would never dare drip out of an eau pure sack.) It's a lot easier to just shout "O - P", or as they do it, "O-P, O-P, O-P". A bag of about 300 mililitres costs 50 francs or 10 cents.

They run along the street next to the combies, shouting "O-P, O-P". A hand thrusts a 50 franc note out the window and the transaction is consummated. Unfortunately about 1 minute later, the empty bag will fly out of the window to settle on the roadside somewhere. Trash is a major problem here, particularly the millions of O-P bags that will never decompose. So they get burned, leaving an oily black plume of smoke boiling up into the air.
A very large bakery called "Pain Victoire" sells bagettes to mamas, who carry these large plastic basins of bread on the their head as they walk down the side of the road to where they will set up and vend them. Right next to Pain Victoire, the vendors sell plastic sacks of 5 or 10 bagettes at a price of 100 francs per bagette (about 18 cents for a bagette about 18 inches long). They are baked continuously during the day so they are fresh and warm, and very tasty (particularly if you slather them with butter). These ladies are selling bread (in the two large plastic basins) and hard boiled eggs -- sitting on the black plastic milk milk crate.
I'm not sure which furniture store "by the side of the road" sold this gorgeous sofa and chair set, but you can see the "pouse-pouse" delivery truck that is delivering it. Off to the side of the road, you can see some bunk beds which are being sold.
Here's something else that sadly is being sold. In the interior of the Congo, there are huge trees being harvested for their gorgeous mahogany and other hardwoods, and sent to places like China where it will be made into furniture. The logs are floated down the Congo River to Kinshasa, and loaded onto these big trucks for the 110 mile truck to the coast. Unfortunately the rapids in the river just downstream from Kinshasa prohibit floating them the rest of the way to the coast. Each log is about 50 feet long, and three of them make a truckload.

And that's how things are sold -- with the exception that we will add some more in a couple of days.

Love to all - Don and Marsha

32 comments:

Louise Brown said...

What a treat to see several new postings since I last looked - which was while we were at Darcie and Kevin's last week. It is so amazing to see the conditions there and the happy, happy faces in all the photos - of you, of your missionaries, and of the members. It is very inspirational. What a treasure of an experience for you, although I know it is not easy, by any means. The physical challenges are compensated for by the experiences with the elders, sisters and members. What a lot of faith they have to make the sacrifices that you speak of. Our prayers are with you!! It was great to listen to Darcie and Kevin's family prayers and each of the grandchildren's personal prayers where they always asked for "Uncle Don and Aunt Marsha to be safe on their mission" - never a miss!!

Love you
Louise

Keller Family said...

We always love getting your posts. Thanks for sharing the unique part of living in the Congo - hope all is well.

Fred said...

Great post! O-P is in fact a Kinois rendition of 'eau pure'. For some reasons, 'u' always sounds like 'i', as in 'MONIC!'

Mimi and Papa in Provo said...

Well, I bet Larry Miller could organize these car lots into something a little more spectacular. Ha! Very interestng stuff. Keep writing. Linda Rich

Mimi and Papa in Provo said...

LIVINGSTONES: John Knab's wife Julie passed away this week. I miss seeing something on your blog. Are you busy or something? Love ya, Linda

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