National Geographic : 1952 Mar
322 Lennart Nilsson, Black Star "Read All About It!" A French-crying Newsboy Peddles Le Courrier d'Afrique Leopoldville's only "skyscraper," the nine-story air-conditioned Forescom Building, looks down on this scene. Le Courrier is an afternoon daily. Magazines and European newspapers are flown in. Tribal womenfolk, traditionally conserva tive, now queue up at clinics to receive care for themselves and their babies. In the big hospital in Leopoldville, one of the biggest in Africa, I saw many of them in maternity and surgical wards or waiting in outpatient lines for minor treatment. In 1950 this hospital alone received nearly 20,000 new cases-three-fourths of them native-and treated more than 560,000 out patients. Today medicine is being carried into rural districts by young, intelligent Congolese. At the Icole d'Assistants Medicaux Indigenes, in Leopoldville, I saw Belgian doctors training eager youths brought in from the Provinces. Students come for a six-year medical course, after which they return to their homes as medical practitioners. Others also are trained as infirmary attendants and maternity aides. Leopoldville, or Leo, as the Belgians often call it in their passion for abbreviation, is young. It has been the capital only since 1923, when colonial Government offices were moved here from Boma. New post office and telegraph buildings are under construction, as is a whole new unit for housing the Governor General's offices. Everywhere along its wide business streets and residential avenues new buildings are being erected (pages 328, 344). Attractive homes are surrounded by lush gardens, and the entire city is half-hidden by luxuriant shade trees. Private cars, trucks, and taxis, most of them of American make, crowd the thorough fares. But drivers watch signals of ebony police directing traffic at intersections, keep an eye out for bicyclists, and maintain courtesy at the city's circles and triangles. To avoid midday heat and to cater to their own comfort, many businessmen and Govern ment officials go to work early and close up shop between 12 and 2 o'clock, as in many Spanish-speaking countries. Hotels and restaurants lend a continental flavor to the town by spreading tables on the sidewalks at sunset aperitif time. The pleasant evening oasis on the sidewalk in front of my hotel was made even more interesting by the rows of dusky Islamic traders, garbed in white gowns and fezzes, who spread out tempting displays of ivory statuettes, ebony heads, and snakeskin or crocodile-leather handbags. Yes, I bought ivory after long bargaining!