07 August, 2009

I made it!

I am sitting in Bukavo, it was an exciting adventure getting here. I got to the Kigali airport this morning at 7 and was, quiet seriously, the only person there! So I got some coffee from Bourbon and waited. In Rwanda you go through a check point before you check in, you have to bring a print out with you so they know you are supposed to be on a flight. And they call the flights - there is a marquee above security that runs the flights that can come through. Very weird. So I waited half an hour until my flight number came up, went to the counter, got a hand written ticket and went upstairs where I went through another security check before sitting in the waiting area.

I was still the only person there.  There was some bad French soap on the telly so I tried to zone that out, while wondering if I had taken a wrong turn. My fight was at 9, by 8:50 there were six other passengers in the waiting area. 9 o'clock comes, I'm still waiting. I take my ticket to the counter and ask if the flight has left, "No that flight not on time." Period. No explanation of when it might be coming or an apology, just sit down silly muzungu and learn how things work. So I wait. Around 9:40 all seven of us walk onto the tarmac and to our plane. That is something else about airports in East Africa - you don't have walkways, you walk across the tarmac to your plane regardless of the size.  So of the 32 possible seats on the tiny twin engine plane, seven were filled.

It was amazing to fly over Rwanda. I tried to take pictures, hopefully they came out somewhat. It is an amazingly beautiful country. I am convinced more and more that most of Rwanda looks like pretty Arizona. Same red dirt, some hills, same looking foliage. Arizona is the best comparison I can come up with.

We flew for half an hour and landed in Kambabe (or Cyangugu), right on the border where I met Kristee! We went through the Rwandan border and climbed into the Land Cruiser (aka humanitarian car) and made our way to the Congo side. I was always under the assumption that borders are lines in the road. That in the same building there would be Rwanda and Congo sitting side by side. One would take your passport and slip it to the other, you would take a step, get a stamp and be on your way... That's what I thought. I filled out an exit form and gave it to the border patrol, we got in the car and drove half a mile down the road, over a bridge, through a couple gates to another building. We followed a staff of the NGO into a room where he spoke in French, I tried to play it cool. He slipped my passport across the table, along with my visa fee, and said we were okay. The woman looked everything over and stamped my passport. I now have a Congo visa in my passport. Anything could have happened after that point and I'd be okay, I have my visa, I've been here.

We got back into the car and moved into Bukavo, one of the easiest times through the border Kristee said. Before we got there the driver said that I was doing God's work and He would go before me. I think that's true.

So Bukavo is, in a word, incredible! The office backs up to Lake Kivu, it is colorful and while it looks the same as western Rwanda, it is totally different. The people are different, the feeling is different, the country is different.

Now I am at the office, waiting for lunch (so hungry!). I don't know if my cell works, but I have internet. Looking forward to chilling with the staff this weekend at the guest house, then the feeding center Monday.

So much to write about, including last week in Rwanda touring the western side, close to Goma, on Lake Kivu. But I think I will have time this weekend, and will post pictures too! But I am in Bukavu, things are going well, I survived the border.

Still can't believe it.