Chapter 10 : Land of The Gorilla
Upon arrival in Malaysia, I went to see Dato Wong. Well…. after a good negotiation, I accepted his offer and quit Petit Palais.. One month later, I was on Dato Wong’s private jet.. on the way back to Rep of Guinea. That was on my 700th day in africa.. ie in early 1998. We stopped at Maldives, Madagascar and Mozambique. I was on a mission of refurbishing a formerly bombarded Parliament House of Guinea to a 5 star hotel. As I was explaining more and more of the viability of the project, Dato finally changed his mind about doing the hotel. “We change plan!!” he said. I was astonished! “What am I going to do now Dato?” and he said “You are going to Kinshasa with me.. in Republique Democratique of Congo!!” Wow! That as a quick decision. He said “You will handle the road construction project from Matadi to Kinshasa.. about 350km long” “You will also look after 5 logging concessions of 250 000 hectares each”. “Shit” I said. “What knowledge do I have to do all this?” I only had experience in the hospitality industry, not logging neither road construction! But I had been appointed, so there was no turning back now. I had sleepless nights until we reached Kinshasa one week later.. after staying a few miserable days in Madagascar and Mozambique. I said miserable coz we had to stay in the hotel in Madagascar as early as 10pm, as there was no security after midnight. Robbery was everywhere especially targetting the foreigners like us. More misery when I was thinking about Petit Palais, my car there, my belongings, what would my adopted father say blah blah blah.. It was even more tiring when the ministerial people in Madagascar and Mozambique tried to convince Dato to stay there for investment.. so there was on-going discussion, waiting period and so forth.. really tiring with false hope.. I sort of could tell already by then whether they were sincere or not, or whether they just wanted to cheat.. as I had stayed for a couple of years in Africa.. good enough to notice things.. and Dato kinda followed my advices..
The first thing Dato said when I reached Kinshasa in Republique of Congo was “Let’s play Golf!!” Bloody hell!! What knowledge do I have about playing golf? I still had to play though.. and after the game he said “Don’t play with me next time!! You too slow!!” hahaha.. Thanks for not inviting me anymore coz I hate that game! We stayed about 2 weeks looking for an office in Kinshasa.. strange enough Dato used his compass to determine the “Fungsui” of the office. We finally decided on a bungalow of 7 rooms.. and I was to stay there alone. Can you imagine the rental was USD 2000 a month.. I kept saying to Dato the rent was too high.. but he insisted that the Fungsui was good. Actually he even employed me using my birthdate and fungsui.. In the Chinese zodiac I was told that I was born in the year of the Dragon, and my birthdate suggests that I am a fiery fighter.. therefore I should be a lucky person.. and can bring wealth.. Well, it is just a belief that is forbidden in Islam!! I also learnt from working with corporate figures that you may have to follow many things against your will.. Once during dinner Dato took me to a Chinese restaurant and ordered the menu while speaking Mandarin.. once the meal was served.. he said “Go ahead.. eat!!” Assuming he knew that I was a Muslim, I expected the food was halal.. After dinner I asked him what was it? And he said.. “The bulky looking thing was crocodile meat and the fried wings were frog legs!!!!!!!!!!” It was too late for me.. Next time I will ask first.. Celaka betol la…. (common swearing in Malay meaning how unfortunate!)
My first mission was to get a 4×4 jeep and to travel throughout the 350km road for a first survey.. Just imagine, it took us 24 solid hours to get from Kinshasa to Matadi.. Kinshasa, the capital is located by the Congo river, a black watered river full of crocodile which span about 5km broad.. separating Rep Democratique of Congo on the south and Republique of Congo on the other side. Matadi is the main port of Rep Democratique of Congo, located at the Souh West facing the Atlantic Ocean. The road condition was horrible.. there was absolutely no maintenance done for years due to economic problem that the country had. The former President, Mobutu was ousted by Laurent Kabila 2 years before that, a military rebel that took over from Mobutu (who runs the country for more than 30 years).. My first impression of the project was…”TOUGH!!” I had to start from scratch.. learning all the know-how to construct a road.. Once I made Dato laughed when I said the road was going to look like a hotel.. with beautiful marble here and there… “hahaha” he said.. “I like your humour”
To be continued.. DjRay