December 1, 2009
12:05 am: I am departing for the first leg of my journey to Congo. Oh wait, I’m actually not because the Ethopian Airlines airplane that is supposed to be flying me to Africa has not arrived yet. So I’m just sitting in the Rome airport in the middle of the night.
Eventually the plane came and Lydia and I were on our way to Africa. After a brief layover in Adis Ababba we flew onto Entebbe, Uganda. Once there, I figured that there is really no better introduction to a county then a visit to the airport’s lost luggage office so it worked out quite well when 1 of our 4 suticases never magically appeared on the conveyor belt in Uganda. Truthfully, I felt a mix of relief that is wasn’t mine and sympathy for Lydia, who, of course, lost the bag with all her clothes and not the one full of books in French. However, since Lydia and I checked in together, all the luggage was put under my name so I still got to experience the joy of filling out paperwork for an airline. When we finally emerged from the baggage claim, Sr. Imelda, one of the Canossians from Kampala whisked us a way and plopped us at a local hotel. Then she left. Then she came back and gave us a little money. Then she left. And we were on our own in Uganda until 5 am the next morning when someone would pick us up to take us to the bus. So we ate and slept and walked around the market and felt white and then ate and slept and then it was 5 am and time to go catch our 7 am bus to Arua. We climbed aboard our super-nice-first-class bus and settled in for the next 8 hours. By super-nice-first-class bus I mean that it had wheels, and seats, and only made scary noises every once in awhile. But really it was awesome. My favorite part of the bus ride was the speed bump section when there were speed bumps every 20 yard for about 5 miles. But really it was awesome. At 3 pm, sweaty, dusty, and tired we arrived in Arua to be greeted by two Canossian sisters, Sr. Annemarie and Sr. Carmela who whisked us to Aru. As we were driving along I realized that in Uganda they drive on the left side of the road (being formally British and all), but in Congo they drive on the right. I figured it might be tricky to make that transition and remember to change sides of the road at the boarder. But it turns out in Congo they actually drive on whatever side of the street is most passable. Actually, street is a bit of a strong word, more like road. Or better yet, giant pothole. So after a bumpy 1 hour long ride and over 36 hours after we left Rome we finally arrived in Aru to be enthusiastically greeted by the Sisters, the girls who live at the Canossian boarding school, and Thomas the VOICA volunteer from Czech who has been here by himself since September. Later, when we were settling into our house, our neighbor girls came over and drummed and sang us a welcome song. After all the travel I was tired, but seeing the enthusiasim and joy with which everyone greeted us made me feel so welcome that all my tiredness was replaced with excitement to be in this new place with these new people. I will try to write again soon about my first few days here!!