When we had our security briefing, Kaori and I asked about the part of town we would be going to in order to work with the musicians, called Ngiri-Ngiri. We were told these musicians were, "Not in the safest area, but not in the worst area either." Luckily, we never had to really step foot outdoors in town. We were always being driven to the rehearsal site by our driver, and the musicians rehearsed in a gated community. It's not like the gates were ever locked, but there was still a sense that this musician's community was well respected by everybody, and therefore safe.
On our second day of teaching, we finished teaching around 5:30. We were told there would be full orchestra rehearsal later on, but not yet. One of the flutists, Josephine, along with her very friendly sister Bissette, suggested that Kaori and I walk around their neighborhood of Ngiri-Ngiri while we waited.
I was terrified leaving the gated rehearsal site. Kinshasa isn't exactly a safe city and it's not like Kaori and I could blend in with the locals! But the musicians were so nice, and I had developed such trust with them, and I really wanted to see what they wanted to show me. So we went.
Never in my life did I think I would ever walk down the dirt roads of a city in central Africa, speaking bits and pieces of the Lingala dialect while I stared at the buildings, the people, and the various merchants selling the strangest looking things everywhere I turned. It was miraculous! People stared and people yelled, but it was quite clear that we were also being kept safe. We were walking and chatting with the orchestra musicians, being seen as part of the Kimbanguist community. Josephine and Bissette would point out to us the various shops they bought food and various other goods from, and kept up a pretty lively conversation with the locals who shouted things to us like, "Are you Chinese?" or "You are beautiful!"
Had I walked down that street on my own, I'm sure I would have had a very different experience. Maybe they would have been tempted to exploit me. I am a very wealthy foreigner in their eyes, but with my friends, I was perceived as something more. At the security briefing, our driver had said to us, "The orchestra will be able to provide you safety in ways I cannot, because they are part of the community." I finally understood what he had meant, and realized the significance of the mutual trust we had established with our new friends.