Home » Visiting the DRC For the First Time in Nearly 3 Decades: Here’s What I Learned

Visiting the DRC For the First Time in Nearly 3 Decades: Here’s What I Learned

by Laura M
Marilyne and her loved ones in Kinshasa, DRC

​​Our new traveller spotlight series is created to inspire and encourage travellers to explore new places. The advice in each interview feature includes tips from travellers that will allow you to uncover the beauty of a place.

Leaving the DRC and moving to Europe

After leaving the Democratic Republic of Congo as an infant, Marilyne moved to France with her mother before permanently relocating to Sweden as a toddler. Growing up in Stockholm, she was raised in a Congolese household that highly celebrated their culture. Through the music, cuisine and entertainment, she was taught early on the importance of preserving her heritage, and with time she began to yearn to one day visit her native home. After years of patiently waiting, she finally purchased a return flight ticket to Kinshasa, where she would spend two weeks learning about herself, her people, and how her culture contributed to the woman she had become. As she sat on the plane heading towards the Congolese capital, she suddenly understood the importance of the trip and how she was about to embark on a journey that would allow her to find the last piece of the puzzle. 

What were your initial thoughts on Kinshasa?

I was slightly nervous when I was about to land. Not because I was on solo travel but because I didn’t know what to expect. But landing at N’djili International Airport was unreal! The feeling of finally standing on the land of my ancestors was truly indescribable. I had waited a long time for this moment, and though time had passed, my heart was full. As I sat in the car heading to my home for the next two weeks, I rolled down the window and instantly got I got a sense of the city. As a minority living outside of the African continent, being back home, where everyone looked like me, was unreal. Despite standing out, for the first time in nearly three decades, I was part of the majority! 

How was Kinshasa different from Stockholm?

It was different from Sweden or Europe in general. Kinshasa is chaotic in its own beautiful way, making it perfectly put together. As I strolled around the streets, I constantly felt like I was a character in one of the Congolese TV shows I grew up watching. The air was filled with pulsating city noises, music playing from different corners and the sounds of people chatting as they went on about their business. The sun was beaming every day, kissing my skin most beautifully while slowly but surely adding another layer to my melanated hue.

After two weeks, what was the verdict?

I loved everything about my city, from the heat, and the vibrant atmosphere, to the accessibility to things. Regardless of what you were on the hunt for, there was always a way to obtain it. From food to service, nothing was out of reach. But despite its beauty, it broke my heart to see the state of the Congo. The country has been plagued by war, poverty, and resource curses, which have greatly affected the state of the nation. And while you’ll find lower, middle, and upper-class living in Kinshasa, the reality is that not everyone can afford to live a normal life in the capital for multiple reasons.

3 things to things to think about before flying to the DRC:

  • There are different vaccines for travel to Africa, and you should do your research and find out if it’s mandatory to be vaccinated or if antibacterial pills are enough for each country. ​​Health organisations and embassies often update their websites, and I advise you to look them up when you book your flight.
  • Don’t forget your sunscreen! You may be a melanated queen or king, but you should still protect that skin. Unless you plan to spend all of your days at home, top it up as you roam around the streets. 
  • Find a connection – If you’re Congolese, you’re bound to either stay with family or elsewhere but still have access to a family that can help you get settled. However, if you’re not Congolese, travel with a family member or friend, at least the first time, as you familiarise yourself with the region. Kinshasa is amazing, but the city can also be overwhelming, especially if you’re a foreigner. Having someone there can facilitate your stay!

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