Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What is a Pousse-Pousse?

Now we have told you about the commvies that transverse the city serving as the main transportation here for the people in Kinshasa but we haven’t mentioned the proverbial Pousse Pousse, an integral part of the commerce here in Kinshasa as one of the main means of transporting all types of goods from place to place

A ”pousse pousse” is a cart that is sometimes pushed and sometimes pulled, much like the pioneer handcart. It is about 3X4½ foot with a handle on the front and back. People use these to move anything and everything. We have seen cases of detergent being hauled from the warehouse to the stores. The pousse pousse must have had about 30 cases of detergent on the one cart with one man pushing it. We have also seen a pousse pousse with a car body balanced on it and one with a set of living room furniture piled 3 layers deep, a full load of lumber, gravel that is heaped 4 feet high, and 15 galvinized barrells. Some are loaded with a full load of scrap metal, and one with 5 gallon jugs of liquid with as many as 30-36 jugs at a weight of about 1000 lbs. No wonder you see these drivers straining with every muscle in their body.

They travel on the side of the road more in the right lane than off the road and the pusher holds up his hand trying to get you to let them have space to get down the road. Most people don’t give them any space. The side of the road is too broken up to push a cart like this and they try to find the even ground to move along. But remember the roads in Kinshasa are very rough and much like what we call off road trails that we would never travel without 4 wheel drive. They “jay-push” across busy 4 lane highways with cars going every which way and we often see them going down the center of such a road trying to keep from being wedged between the two-way traffic. They often carry more than what you would dare put in a pickup truck. Another interesting thing is they never secure the load. There are no bunk cords or ropes or tarp to keep the load steady. It often rides precariously along but seldom do you see them loose a load.

The men (and boys) pushing these carts are wiry and very strong and I think these men and boys must be a hardest working people in Kinshasa. Often you see one pushing and one pulling helping each other to stabilize the cart. This is necessary especially when going up and down hills. Going up hill the man in the back bears the weight of the cart and going down the one in the front has to bear the weight and keep the cart from running out of control. It seems like a hard way to make a living.

As you watch the men pushing these carts you can see every muscle in their body straining to make this cart go. Considering that the Congolese seldom eat more than one meal at night and a tlight breakfast of bread and tea, it makes us wonder how they ever have enough energy to work so hard all day long. Their body fat % has to be zero.

We greatly admire these industrious people and realize they are one of the few stable parts of the Kinshasa infra structure. They help make things work here but get paid very little for their efforts.

So know you know what a pousse-pousse is and all you children remember, many children in this world work very hard just to eat. The children we see helping push these carts cannot afford to go to school. They work side by side with their dad or brother surviving here in the DR Congo. This world may be harsh by some standards but we never pass anyone that doesn't return a smile for a smile and a Bon Jour for a Bon Jour. There is a lot of laughing and singing and a lot of hard work.

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