[Attila József: Consciousness]
(extract from a poem ) By day, the moon’s my body’s beacon, by night, an inner sun will burn. Inside there is a world of pain, outside is only explanation. The world’s your scab, the outer stain, your soul’s the fever-inflammation. Jailed by your heart’s own insurrection, you’re only free when you refrain, nor build so fine a habitation, the landlord takes it back again. I’ve heard the crying of the steel, I’ve heard the laugh of rain, its pattern; I’ve seen the past burst through its seal: only illusions are forgotten, for naught but love was I begotten, bent, though, beneath my burdens’ wheel Ádám: Football is football. France: Kornél, kick it! Kick it already! Welcome to College Othniel. Ádám: …and what we see is a lot of smiling, happy children. Kornél: So, this is a infirmary here, on the side of the school. It’s brutal. We are blessed with disinfectation here, disinfectation there. Here – nothing. Surgeries here are performed on the concrete if necessary, and what’s shocking is that on the face of it everyone looks healthy. Ádám: What’s more, they look healthier than the people back at home. The strangest thing when we entered was that the kids were so happy, they were jumping around, running around like crazy… Kornél: It really sent a shiver down my back and I’m not even that type. I’m not one to get the shivers whenever something happens. But when we entered… If you go to a school in Hungary: ‘Who is this…?’ …what’s this now?’ Right? Here on the other hand, you could see that they were really glad to see us, even though they didn’t yet know whether they’d receive something. They were very cute. Ádám: By the way, the trip here… Kornél: …that was shocking. Regardless, everybody is smiling on the streets. You don’t see lethargic, suicidal people. Everyone’s smiling, coming up to you, fraternizing, cordializing, and everyone panhandles, of course. Ádám: They earn 5-10 dollars a month by doing business. Everyone’s bartering and haggling. Everyone’s selling things on the side of the road, you can be sure they’re selling something. They make a living off those 5-10 dollars, or if they’re successful entrepreneurs, 20 dollars a month, let’s say. Kornél: $20. 6000 Hungarian forints? Brutal. On the other hand, you can find anything on the side of the road. You can charge your phone, you can do anything, so you don’t even have to get out of the car. And the traffic… that’s… unimaginably chaotic. There’s not one car that’s not completely broken, but broken beyond repair! Ádám: What’s the best is that there is no uniform set of traffic rules, nothing. People drive, honk like crazy. Three motorcyclists ride on the same bike, nine people sit in the five-passenger car, twenty-five sit in the nine-passenger ones
Kornél: Nine? Twenty! Ádám: and they hang out at the back. Kornél: Every vehicle is a taxi. Every car, every motorbike. Everyone’s a taxi driver here. Everyone on the road is going somewhere. Where to? Because nobody works. The way I see it there are no jobs, but everybody is going somewhere. They’re still going at midnight. But where? Incomprehensible. Back at home it’s mostly quiet after 10pm. Here, the streets are flooded with people, businesses are running, they’re dickering in the dark, fixing tires on the side of the road. The bike taken apart, and I mean completely taken apart, propped up, engine outside. That’s where they were fixing the bike together with their pals, on the side of the road. [Tavaszi szél – Hungarian folk song] Cameraman: Is this dietary? Yes, of course. Made of whole grain bread and dried meat, straight from Hungary. There you go. Yes, we are. There’s no mistake. We’re competent in this, too. Ádám: Only the Cutler. Kornél: The chaos here is unbelievable. It’s incomprehensible for a European person. Where they’re going, that mystery I cannot solve. Everybody’s going from somewhere to somewhere, but nobody’s working. There are no jobs, no factories, nothing. Unbelievable. France: For Africa. Ádám: Something interesting: although not polluted, the water is brown as… Kornél: If this gets stuck fam we all die, together with the locals. We’re trying to fit in. No? I totally look like the locals. France: Millepede. Kornél: Inside? I have no idea. Hungarian kid can lean on something even in Africa. Hungarian style, you know. That’s for sure. Everyone’s going everywhere. Left and right. Ádám: We’re here, in front of our proud construction, or I don’t know what to call it. They probably wouldn’t be too happy about this at home, but as surprising as it is, here this counts as a miracle, and everyone’s elated. In this village Kornél is practically viewed as a demigod. Kornél: Well, watching a white man work was a curiosity, I guess. They snapped photos and took videos. Ádám: White men probably didn’t come here to work in the old times, but to… If you look to the side a little bit, we’ll show our team. Kornél: Competent team. Ádám: The crew is here. Kornél: By the way, the crew consists of excellent professionals. So, this is the group of the bricklayers. Ádám: These people are serious professionals. For that matter, they have spirit levels, suspenders, everything else, but they aren’t used for anything. Kornél: That’s right. Ádám: Every component fits. Kornél: They’re beyond this. They can measure everything without tools. They measure horizontally as well as vertically by eye. They’re not bothered by equipment. But I think it turned out relatively good. Ádám: Of course we’re joking about the situation and… But the brigade is there. The brigade is there. We’re taking them home, bundled. Kornél: Yes, like in communism – one worked, five watched him. It was the same here – if you started working five gathered around and watched how you did it. The problem is if you’re not here they don’t do anything. What’s finished today is finished, the rest will stay the way it is, forever. Only big surfaces matter. If that’s alright, it’s done, concluded. Ádám: Rough and ready, rough and ready…
Kornél: Exactly. Kornél: But it turned out alright. There aren’t buildings even similar to this in the surrounding villages. Just crumbling, dilapidated houses everywhere. There’s a village on the way to Angola, that’s even in worse state than this. Ádám: So we were thinking with Kornél: we help a lot back at home, and that will always be a priority – doing as much as possible at home, because we believe that we should improve our own environment. That will probably always be where we can do the most, since it’s difficult to provide aid to such distant locations, but still… we thought, both of us have a dream: Africa… It sounded like bit of a romantic journey, to come here, and help a different culture a little. Kornél: It’s an adventure, for sure.
Ádám: Yes. Kornél: It has nothing to do with romance. But still, I think it’s drawing to an end. The story itself began with us joining the Foundation For Africa to renovate a clinic. We’ve reached that goal, to be the representatives or advocates or I don’t even know what to call ourselves – that this is an important cause. We’ve fulfilled that obligation, and how else could we have done that other than coming here personally, and doing everything that needed to be done with our own hands, sweat and blood? Kornél: Since we’re competent in everything as well, we felt it obligatory to volunteer. Ádám: What we did here was a truly serious assistance, since many come here from the neighboring towns. Kornél: Where the hospital stands now, or clinic – this infirmary-thing, this is in Congo near the Angolan border. The village is called Luanika. This is a border crossing. There’s the main route, so to speak, but the road is a disaster. The conditions are tragic Ádám: They’re driving such huge trucks, it’s terrifying. Kornél: And the trucks are filled to the brim – filled to the brim! – and if you put another truck on top, they would fill that up, too. Say, a personal car… especially in Kinshasa – that’s the capital – there, a personal car – let’s say, a Toyota Corolla – is easily filled with fifteen passengers. This is common, so the police doesn’t even bat an eye. Four on a motorbike – and it’s a good day if it’s only four. The driver on the tank, plus three others behind them, and they ride like the wind. Unbelievable. Compared to this, going on wildwater canoeing is like having lunch at your grandma’s. On the way here we had a near death experience at least twenty times, and I’m not even kidding… Our car had a defective wheel, and we traveled 350 kilometers on these roads… Ádám: 25 speedbumps, or at least 30 and the frame touched the bottom on all occasions. Kornél: Not ordinary speedbumps, either. Not like ours. These were some speedbumps, man. We passed all of them like ‘ksss’ …the car pulled itself through them. This is how we came here, with a defective wheel, to top it all. Ádám: What’s funny, is that the driver didn’t even react to this… to him this was perfectly normal.
Kornél: Didn’t even bat an eye. The exhaust pipe is already halfway off the car, unbelievable. But it doesn’t matter, they ride. The car is still functional, there’s no problem. They will think about what to do when it stops. Everything works this way: it’s good now, it runs, when it stops we’ll think of something. Yes, they don’t make an effort, only today matters, the now, and that’s it. Ádám: I don’t know whether it’s good or bad. We don’t see stressed out people, that’s sure. What’s more, they talk about their problems while laughing, that the car broke down, and it will either be ready when it’s time to go home, or not – and they laugh. Kornél: Here in the village, Luanika, you’d think that they’re destitute. But one night when we were sitting outside at the fire – the women were making the food – it got us thinking, who’s happy? Are they the happy ones? Are they the ones living the good life, or the ones in the city? Because they live in a beautiful place. You can see in the background – I don’t know, you can see some 150 kilometers away. Ádám: But I think that rationing this energy will be the most important – our own, others’, the team’s, the energy of those who teamed up with us. I think we only realized it now how big of a responsibility this is. Kornél: We hope that we will have many followers, and if nothing else than learning from our journey someone will follow our footsteps and partake in a fundraising, or personally lend a hand somewhere. Ádám: I think we realized that of course, it’s fun to travel to Africa and help, but as we can see the ones living in the same community could help the most. The most potential lies in getting organized and doing for each other what needs to be done. That’s when things become permanent, continuous and sustainable, when it becomes a part of their lives, to help themselves and help each other. Kornél: Leave a footprint on Earth – it’s a very sympathetic way of thinking to me. I believe that we will leave a footprint behind us in Hungary. That’s what I feel, or at least hope. That’s the most important, I think. Here’s the suite. Out of five stars five are missing. No, six. Six are missing. Ádám: This is the living room, the study, the bedroom, the dining room… Kornél: …and a view to the toilet. Ádám: The nets are still here. I’m not saying ‘thank God’, but we’re moving out. This was the last day, but we thought we’d show where we’ve been living. By the way, this is a church, and the school… everything, so this is a community center here in the village. Ádám: Both of us woke with backpain, shoulder pain and everything every single day, what a joy… Regardless, the work continued during the day, because it needed to be done.
Kornél: Hard work. Cementing, plastering, painting. Ádám: Mixing materials. Kornél: We finished everything. We played a little with the locals, though. Socializing.
Ádám: A little football… [Attila József: Consciousness]
(extract from a poem) I stared from underneath the evening
into the cogwheel of the sky – the loom of all the past was weaving
law from those glimmery threads, and I looked up again into the sky
from underneath the steams of dreaming and saw… Kornél: Here’s our ‘African Transporter’. The ‘Congolese Transporter’ – this is what we’re going to call our man from now on. We arrived yesterday… We came back to Kinshasa, the capital from Luanika. They’re about 300 kilometers apart. This is a day-long trip. Not like at home, where you can get it done in 2-3 hours. A whole day. We departed in the morning, arrived in the evening. At one of the checkpoints there were tires on the road, hubs, pieces of concrete, the road was closed. We were stopped by the police – the driver wanted to drive past, with the policeman standing in front of it. He slammed the hood to tell our driver to stop. He didn’t pay them any attention whatsoever. Unfortunately, there was a big frame in front of us – the frame of a truck, so he had to stop. The window was slightly rolled down and the police told him to give his papers. He said no, no, he’s not giving anything. They were arguing for 15 minutes, then he showed his license and his registration through the window. Ádám: Yes. What’s more, while this was happening the policemen wanted to rip off the license plate Ádám: tried to rip the door off,
Kornél: Force the door open. they were knocking, hammering, whacking, kicking the car. We’ve never…
Kornél: While we were sitting inside. We were sitting there like saints. Our driver got out finally, gave his license to the police. The police took a look at it then wanted to take it. They were arguing about it, the policeman didn’t want to let him go. It looked like it was about to escalate into a fight, but they were just negotiating, I don’t even know. It would’ve been a fight back at home easily. Eight policemen, four drivers, everybody shouting. Everybody screaming. Then suddenly they got quiet, the papers were given back, everybody sat back into the car, the police took the tires out of the way and off we went. Ádám: What’s more, one of the policemen even warned us politely to not drive on the tires, not to damage the car. Kornél: What’s more, France, our guide – when he stopped, because he came back for us – had his car break down, and the police had to push it for it to start. Disaster.
Ádám: Something probably made things run smoothly again, Kornél: The dollar. Ádám: which helps a lot here. Things are hazardous here. I think we got into a shocked state in the first days, and we’re only starting to awaken. We can smile and laugh because it’s only a matter of hours and we’ll be on a plane.
Kornél: …taking off. Ádám: It’s funny, when a blood-eyed young man carrying a machete is walking towards you at night and you don’t know if… Kornél: Yes… Is he leaving for work, or did he come for you? Unbelievable. We were stopping at a red light on the first day, and this guy pulls up next to us with a big car. He starts arguing with the driver, then he takes a white bottle, sprinkles it on his hand, and like this… showed it like this. Right… he understood that. Unbelievable. He wanted us to see how tough he was. Ádám: Traveling at the back of the truck, as you can see here. Kornél: Yes. Very good.
Ádám: It works like this: there’s a rope attached to the vehicle, and the people stand there, trying to hang on while wearing flip-flops. Regardless of this we’ve had good experiences in the countryside. Life is finite. Kornél: Right. Ádám: We have a set number of years, and nobody knows how much they have, but we try to get the most out of it. …but there’s someone missing from every picture, and that’s… Kornél: That’s Béla. Ádám: Yes, yes. Kornél: We’ve talked a lot about him. Anytime there was no reception, no wifi or the phones were dead, we immediately… well, what comes to mind when talking about phones and wifi? Béla. ’Why is the battery dead? – Shit, it died. I can’t make calls.’ – this would’ve happened every ten minutes here. We never had wifi here, not even electricity. It ran out of a generator, until the generator went crap – that was where we charged our phones from. Half of the crew had dead phones and dead laptops. It was a lot of fun… By the way, you can see the traffic – perfect. Everyone’s honking at everything.
Ádám: Dreadful. The video is not giving it enough credit, or how should I say… the reality is much worse. Right now… Kornél: …we’re standing on a street at the very border of the city… Ádám: …where there isn’t much traffic and nothing happens, so only the honking can be heard. Kornél: Meanwhile our driver disappeared, even though it would’ve been important to show him, because if it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t have survived these ten days. Colin McRae would beg for him for driving lessons. The guy with the Toyota Corolla, the frame touching the ground, narrow tires, custom body kit… The roads we’ve taken would have made an IFA get stuck, but we pulled through everywhere, with five people inside and luggage filled to the brim. Ádám: Up to this day we still don’t understand. Kornél: With one hand, like a gangster he pulled through everywhere. Ádám: If the frame didn’t touch the ground 350 times, it didn’t touch it once! But touching it…
Kornél: It pulled itself through. It wasn’t touching, the car was pulling itself on it’s bottom. Meanwhile, he came back – here’s Colin McRae’s I don’t know, idol. Here’s the ‘Congolese Transporter’. He is the reason why we have survived. We were about to be extorted for money, or we wanted to buy something, he wouldn’t allow it. So let’s say, a bottle of water cost 2000 franc – that’s how much they wanted to sell it for -, he said ‘no, no, no, throw it out, we don’t need it’. They brought it back for a thousand, so he saved us money. So whom you see here is practically our savior. Colin McRae. Many thanks to the Foundation For Africa to give us the opportunity for the ‘Mission in Congo’!