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You, me and the SUV

November 14, 2010

Lack of transportation has been our biggest (wait for it… ) roadblock so far while settling in to life in Kinshasa (ha ha, get it?).  The dilemma is as follows: according to security folks, it is strongly advised not to take local taxis or buses anywhere, ever (“it’s like wearing a sign on your forehead that says ‘Rob Me,'” or so they say).  It is also strongly advised not to walk anywhere, ever.

So… since Jamie and I have not yet learned to fly… we’ve had to search for other options.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.  We do take local taxis occasionally with our friend David.  The local taxis are more like little cars pretending to be buses, with a bus route and bus stops.  The most important thing with the taxis is to know where they pick up, drop off, the designated hand signal to hail the correct one, and to never take them at night.  We do also walk around our neighborhood during the day, which is pretty calm since we’re outside the busy downtown area.

But even so, it’s still pretty difficult to get around in general, and nearly impossible to get around at night.  Plenty of people recommended buying a car, but we held on to the hope for a while that we would discover some ingenious method to get around town easily without one.  However, after some valiant but unsuccessful brainstorming efforts on how to avoid buying a car while still maintaining some sort of social life, we caved.

And so, we’re glad to introduce to you all our new car…

Our Nissan Terrano (aka Pathfinder)

It is a 1994 Nissan Terrano (aka Pathfinder), with a good engine and a no-nonsense, paved-roads-are-for-wimps attitude.  Even though it cost us about 2.5x its Kelly Blue Book value (cars are expensive here!), we actually got a pretty good deal for DRC standards.  Hopefully it will retain its value pretty well, so we can sell it when we leave.

Based on my general attitude toward SUVs, it’s pretty ironic (maybe hypocritical? you decide…) that this car- the first I’ve ever bought for myself (mom and dad have provided until now, thank you!)- is a massively heavy, engine-roaring SUV.

For example, I have definitely flipped off Hummers on the road before, just for existing.  And my opinion of SUVs usually falls somewhere around here:

Small World by Tom Briscoe from

Tom the Dancing Bug by Ruben Bolling

Oh, SUVs.

Of course, they do have their uses, I can recognize that.  For example, driving up to Tahoe in the snow: SUV=great idea.

Or, SUVs are very useful when driving in downtown Kinshasa, and the relatively well-maintained paved roads looks like this (just wait til I post some photos of the unpaved roads…):

Bad Roads on the way to work

More bad roads on the way to work

And having a SUV is even more useful when driving on streets that look like the photos above, but there was just a torrential downpour because it is the rainy season, so now they are flowing with about 2.5 feet of muddy water and all of the little cars have to turn around or wait until the flooding recedes.

These are times when it is ok to drive an SUV in my opinion.  And although we won’t be driving to the snow anytime soon, the other two examples describe our daily driving situation.

So, hypocrite or not, SUV it is.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Aunt Melodee permalink
    November 15, 2010 1:20 am

    Ok, hypocrisy ends where reality and being realistic begins. At least that’s what I tell myself!


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