Democratic Republic of Congo is a country where the real and the unreal live together in perfect harmony. And the story I was investigating had more than its fair share of surreal twists and turns.
Take pro wrestling. Anyone who saw The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke will know that it takes real dedication, training and skill to be a pro wrestler, and even if the fighting isn't real - it's pure pantomime - it's still potentially dangerous and loved by millions worldwide.
The same can be said of magic. To my western eyes, the magic I was shown in Congo was obviously just illusions - tricks that allow some people to control others. But here in Congo magic (or 'fetiche,' as they call it) is all-powerful; our local fixer would say to me, 'I don't believe in fetiche, but I know it exists.'
It sounds silly at first, but the fact is here in Congo magic is so pervasive that your choice is whether or not to use it, not whether or not to believe it exists. As a result its effects are real. If you tell someone you can put a spell on them they will be genuinely scared and their behaviour will be the same as if you really could put a spell on them.
When our Congolese fixer - a well-educated man who speaks six languages fluently - watched fetiche wrestling, he totally believed it (the magic AND the wrestling). It took me a while to really appreciate just how much he believed it (100%).
The problem I found was that information and journalism in general are subject to the same rules. The rumour mill in DR Congo is so influential that it even has a name: Radio Trottoir.
Radio Trottoir is a network of gossips, bloggers and others through which most residents of Kinshasa get their news. Stories spread fast on Radio Trottoir and grow in credibility with each re-telling. After a few months it becomes an accepted fact - despite lacking credible details, witnesses etc.
Another slightly surreal event I witnessed explains why everyone trusts Radio Trottoir over traditional news sources. At the state opening of parliament I watched as hordes of journalists followed MPs out the building and towards their cars.
It looked totally normal - like most press packs chasing someone looking for a decent quote or photo. What was eye-opening was the surreal reason for the chase: when the MP arrives at his car he hands out wads of cash to the journalists who interviewed him!
It's called 'coupage' (for more information read 'From 'coupage' to self reliance' by Mary Myers). It's a payment that many wealthy Congolese people make to ensure the journalist will publish a complimentary piece.
After witnessing that I listened a lot more closely to Radio Trottoir... but I still don't believe in magic - or wrestling.