The resurrection of the blog- Destination Congo4
10/06/2012 by etiennefish
So, um, it’s been awhile… Excuses clearly don’t mean much, so let’s just get the catch-up out of the way and carry on.
Basically, I left Haiti a while ago, after a year in the country. It was overall a great experience, even if things were sometimes a bit bumpy. Aside from work-ness, I miss swimming in the beautiful Caribbean ocean, the pace of life in Jacmel, beach food, Barbancourt, and the friends I made there. It was a strange parting.
So, but then I spent the last couple of months hanging out in Europe, Thailand, and most recently, New Orleans. It’s been interesting and generally fun (even though idleness does not exactly suit me).
Now, I am on my official day 1 of my new mission in the DRC. Yup, another top tourist destination.
I just spent the last two days travelling across the world, and so I’m still a little sleep deprived (i.e. delirious), but I’m glad I’m most of the way to where I need to be.
My latest journey started in New Orleans (after leaving Switzerland, where I’d gone back to living), a city full of awesome, and even awesomer (yes, yes, not a real word. Pfffttt) friends. I wasn’t expecting to be there as long as I was, but luckily no one seemed to mind too much. My friends did their best to help me satisfy all my food needs (i.e. white cheddar popcorn, fake bacon, lots of sushi, etc), as well as ‘forcibly’ assisting me in fully dousing my liver in adult beverages. You know, just in case there weren’t enough frozen daiquiris, Abita Strawberry (oh Strawberry, I don’t even really like most beer, and I already miss you), and other fabulous concoctions to satisfy New Orleans’ standards (there won’t be. Clearly.). I was given an amazing send-off at a bar with a pool, sauna, and jacuzzi out back, and it was hard to leave. Very hard.
A number of hours later (no idea really, time zone changes screw with my brain. Dear maths- I hate you), I had flown into Lagos, Nigeria, the last number of months of my life already feeling a bit dreamlike. Of course the layover time was really too short to get through customs, and then the conveyor belt for the baggage claim broke down, so the security person who was following me around, my passport in hand (I was a transit passenger and not allowed out of the officials’ sights, as I had no visa to be there), told me I would have to spend the night in the transit lounge and take a flight the following afternoon. This did not sound like a fun time, and I was slightly terrified by the thought, I’m not going to lie. I had no money that was worth anything there, no real way to notify the people waiting for me that I wouldn’t be where I was supposed to be at the appointed time, and was already exhausted and not looking forward to ‘sleeping’ in said transit lounge.
Luckily, just when the immigrations guard told me he was going to leave with my passport because he didn’t want to stand any longer because his poor legs were tired (there’d been a constant rotation of guards around me. He’d been there approximately 7 minutes. I’d been standing for like 2 hours, minimum), my bags finally appeared and there was an announcement stating that the Rwanda flight was just arriving, so I convinced (i.e. annoyingly coerced) the guard to help me try and catch the flight before it left.
As we rushed across the airport, the guard kept getting mad at me because I couldn’t keep up with him. But then I was carrying all my bags, and all he had was my passport, so when he asked me for money for doing his job when I finally arrived at my gate, I didn’t pay. I also didn’t have any money, but that’s beside the point. I am glad he didn’t ask until I was already at the gate. I may have had to spend the night in the transit lounge after all otherwise.
Safely arriving (albeit late) from my flight to Kigali, I was actually picked up as soon as I made it through customs (this is probably a first for me. Generally there is a minimum of an hour before people show up. Which is always a little bit scare inducing the first time in, without a phone, or any idea of where I’m going, or who I’m meeting, etc). The hotel was nice. There was hot water (best shower ever), the Euro Cup on the television, and a bed (yay bed!). Sadly, though, visions of Haiti floated through my head when I couldn’t get the sleep I desperately craved due to the music from the bar across the street reverberating through my room until like 3am, and then people getting up to start their day at 4, by sitting under my window and yelling. Well, not yelling really, but speaking. Oh So Loudly. I got no sleep.
The driver picked me up pretty early and we set out to Goma. Rwanda is so clean! And pretty! And the roads are so smooth! Maybe I spoke too soon when I mentioned Haiti before… Our drive had us wandering through a hilly countryside covered in mist, which was full of trees and green fields of varying types (and no animals anywhere- Yay vegetarians!) (also it is cold here. New Orleans, you did not properly prepare me). We stopped at one point on the side of the road to watch the Tour de Rwanda (it has another name, but I forget) cycling race. Which was random, and pretty cool. It was the beginning of the race, so everyone was still neck and neck, and all the people on the side of the road were cheering and excited. I wish I had taken photos.
Crossing the border into the DRC was less exciting than I imagined it would be (I have had a lot of eventful border crossings) although I’m not complaining at all, and soon we were driving along the enormous Lake Kivu. The driver was right, and the road deteriorated a bit on the other side of the border (I was assured it would get worse). I doubt I’ll get to see much of Goma on this trip, but at least I have another nice bed for sleeping, and tomorrow I am off to my destination and temporary home: Masisi.
PS- I hate posts without photos. So I will attempt to remedy this post haste with updates. I’m tired. This is the best I can do for the moment
Just been reading your blog about living in Haiti.
I think we might be about to leave the uk (Scotland) for Haiti in the next few months and I thought I’d drop you a line to ask you about Jacmel, which is where our aircraft, and us, will be based.
We’ll be flying our aircraft out via Iceland, Greenland, Nova Scotia and down the east coast of America to the Caribbean.
You’re definitely welcome to ask any questions you like regarding Jacmel. I spent a year there so I know the area pretty well. How long are planning to be there, and what will you be doing? For the most part, Jacmel is a pretty quiet and laid back town by the sea with lots of artists, and a few nice things to do. I’m happy to give you reccomendations on places to stay (if you need), as well as good places to visit in/around town, etc. Feel free to contact me by email: email@example.com.
I bet that immigrations official was looking for a bribe and that was why he was threatening to keep you overnight and hanging on to your passport and following you around. One tactic that has worked well for me is when someone asks for a bribe? I demand an official receipt. That usually stops them short. In some places (for example Pakistan), a bribe only costs like 5-50 cents and it’s so much easier to just pay off the police than get dragged into the station.
You are so adventurous! One other blog I’m following? This girl has been riding her bicycle from south africa to europe. She even brought along a pet goat. A Canadian. All alone. So brave!
Yeah, he was definitely asking for a bribe. I find that I can avoid them fairly easily by pretending to be really dense, as well as by being clearly in a massive hurry. So far it has generally worked out for me… As for the girl who is cycling from South Africa to Europe- all I can say is that she is both way cooler and way braver than me. I don’t think I could ever do that alone, pet goat or no!