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The day I got stuck in the Congo and called Car Talk

Fortunately, Click and Clack knew the difference between the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, and a carburetor.

By Scott Baldauf / November 28, 2008



(The Monitor’s Africa correspondent recently had car trouble in the jungles of eastern Congo, and spent the night swatting mosquitoes in a mud hut in the Walungu district. He was tired at the time, but believes he may have called the NPR talk show, Car Talk, for advice. Here’s a transcript of what may or may not have been said.)

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TOM: Hello, you’re talking to Car Talk. Who’s on the phone?

ME: Yeah, this is Scott, calling from Congo.

RAY: Hello, Scott!

TOM: Is that the Republic of Congo, with the capital in Brazzaville or the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the capital in Kinshasa?

RAY: Look who paid attention in geography class!

TOM: At least someone in our family did. (Laughter.)

ME: Yeah, Tom, it’s Congo-Kinshasa, although I’m way over on the other side of the country near Lake Kivu.

TOM: Oh, that’s beautiful country out there. How’s the weather right now?

ME: Well, it’s been raining off and on all day, as it has been since we got here.

RAY: Well, Scott, I hate to tell you this, but we have gorgeous New England autumn weather here in Cambridge, cool and crisp. The wife and I just got back from a lovely drive up in New Hampshire. Leaves were gorgeous.

TOM: Yeah, Ray, the leaves in your yard are gorgeous, too. Maybe you coulda stayed home and picked up a rake.

RAY: Ouch! (Laughter.)

TOM: So, Scott, what can we do for you?

ME: Yeah, look guys, we’re driving a Toyota Land Cruiser on a muddy mountain road, and we got stuck in a deep hole. We can’t get out.

TOM: A Toyota Land Cruiser, huh? Best four-wheel-drive car in the Third World. Sorry, I guess we say the Developing World these days.

ME: Yes, the Land Cruiser is a good car. But right now, it might as well be furniture. Our driver has gone into forward and reverse so many times that the front left wheel is now stuck up to the hubs. It’s also leaning way over and wedged up against a muddy cliff. We’re spattered with mud from head to sandal.

TOM: OK, I’m guessing there isn’t a tow truck around.

ME: No, we’re the first car the villagers have seen for days. And it’s dusk, so we’re losing daylight fast.

RAY: Any villagers around to help you out?

ME: Yes, there’s a whole crowd watching us, but it’s Sunday and they don’t work on Sunday. They say we’re welcome to stay the night.

TOM: Well, that’s nice of them.

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