I think I would have felt a lot more sad on my last day, had I not met Emmanuel. He was our driver to the airport, and he was also our guide - getting us through passport control and staying with us until we got on the shuttle that took us to our plane. Emmanuel was Congolese, but he worked for the British Embassy.
We had not met Emmanuel until that afternoon, so during our drive to the airport, he asked us what our first trip had been like. We told him how much we loved it, how impressed we were by the musicians, how much we loved their food, and of course - how we loved their sense of style! Emmanuel was very friendly, and he told us he would take good care of us at the airport. He was sad we hadn't met earlier, and made us promise that next time, we would have dinner together and he would sing and play guitar for us.
I had heard a lot of tales about the airport even before we had left NY, and I was slightly worried. We had a very enjoyable time getting into Kinshasa, but who knows what might happen next? Emmanuel offered to hold onto our boarding passes as we walked towards the airport, which made us feel a lot better.
It turned out I had nothing to be worried about, because Emmanuel literally knew everybody and everything at the airport. He would smile, shake hands, and joke around with each worker we passed, and because of him, everyone treated us very nicely. There was something about him that made everyone around him happy and pleasant. Not only was he quick about getting our boarding passes and in line for passport control, he was also very good at introducing us to his friends and and workers without making us feel like he was actually translating. It seemed to make the airport personnels much friendlier towards us, and at least three different workers even told us we were beautiful and welcomed us back anytime!
"Who needs fly first class, when you have Emmanuel?", I wondered.
N'djili airport is tricky, because after you get your boarding pass, you have to actually exit the building to go pay the airport tax. Then, you have to go to a different office back inside and pay a different tax, and if you don't have both these receipts, you'll get to your plane and be denied boarding. I could imagine this process being tricky for any first-timer, but with Emmanuel, it was completely stress free. He knew exactly where he needed to be at all times, and we just marched right along him. We cut quite a few lines, and Emmanuel even got us into a special lounge without even paying for it. He really knew how to get people to cooperate, all while staying friendly and relaxed. It was incredible! It was nice being able to wrap up our trip on a really high note. We met so many amazing people here, that accepted us with open arms.
I learned so many things on this trip, about music, about communication, about trust. I also learned a lot about DR Congo, and some of the issues my friends face on a daily basis. Yes, there's is a lot more I don't know about, and possibly may never understand. However, there is one thing I know for sure.
Music isn't about fame, jealousy, or opposition. It's not a competition, and it's certainly not just for the upper class. And I believe that if I can celebrate these traits about music by training these musicians to become music teachers, we will not only be providing educational and economic opportunities, but also investing in a brighter future for the children growing up in these communities built on trust. Sure, there's a lot of obstacles, but that makes this project even more meaningful. My only hope is this. That this little dream of mine could develop into something even richer, so that I can share it with many more musicians around the world.