Travel Ahead to Canada

It was finally time for an extended visit to Canada. I was working remotely and so it was a chance to take advantage of my ability to work from anywhere. I was also pregnant and we decided this time around to have the baby in Canada. We applied back in March for a visitor visa for Moses, but because of delays in processing during Covid-19, we waited seven months for a visa that normally should take three weeks. I had a deadline to travel because of the pregnancy and so we made the hard decision for me to travel ahead of Othy and Moses and that they would follow once the visa arrived. The small airlines in Congo were on strick and international flights to Congo expensive and so I purchased a ticket out of Entebbe. I also decided to break my travel up over two weekends so that I could keep up with my remote work and not tire myself out too much.

So on an early morning in mid-September, we left Moses asleep and Othy and his friend drove me on the Butembo-Kasindi road to the border with Uganda. Unlike the Beni-Kasindi road which is wide and taken by many trucks, you wouldn’t dare take the Butembo road without an SUV with four-wheel drive. The road is rugged but oh so beautiful! It is also insecure at times which is a sad reality. Thankfully we made it to the border without any trouble. My 34-month pregnant self was exhausted from going over all the many bumps and I had to remind myself that our bodies are amazing and my baby had sufficient cushioning! We arrived at 9am at the border and it was almost deserted because of Covid-19. It was such a strange contrast to the usual hustle and bustle of the place. It still took us quite a while to get through the border as the agent decided to take his good old time just because he could. I also had an issue with a an agent on the Uganda side not being willing to accept my 50 dollar bill for the visa because it had a stamp on it. I refused to exchange money to get a cleaner one and eventually he accepted it. Othy was able to come with me through the border which was nice (there is a no-mans land in between and it is a confusing process) and had a driver already arranged to bring me the rest of the way to Kajjansi where I would stay for the week.

We left the border at 11am and arrived in Kajjansi at 7pm. I was hosted by Maggie who is the EMI unofficial grandma and lives on the compound with the EMI interns and fellows (she was already grandma back when I was an intern in 2012). It was so wonderful to catch up with her and share some of our plans and dreams. I worked during the days and shared some dinner and conversation with her in the evenings. One morning I walked to the EMI office and visited some old colleagues. One acquaintance, whose apartment I stayed in for a short time before Othy and I were married, is the shop manager and gave me a tour of their newly expanded fabrication shop. It was so inspiring to see and he gave many helpful tips for things to keep in mind for when we start our own shop in Congo. One afternoon our friends Patrick and Linette came and visited and I got to meet their 1-year-old son for the first time. They gave us Moses’ first book! Later that evening I joined a special outdoor dinner with the interns, some of whom had newly arrived only two weeks previously. It was a big group this quarter and was a pleasure to meet them all. I got my PCR test through a connection of Maggie’s who was able to come to the house to take the sample. I was avoiding taking bodas or walking too far which meant I had to mostly stay put. Then on Friday evening I hired a driver to take me to the airport in time for my flight. I discovered at check-in that I could not take my flight as planned because the US was not accepting transit passengers due to Covid-19. Thankfully they re-routed me free of charge through Montreal instead.

The flights were smooth but I found sitting in one place for so long very uncomfortable on my back and I did not get a wink of sleep. And yet I was so thankful that I traveled at 34 instead of 36 weeks. It was so strange to be without Moses who I had never been away from for the first 19 months of his life! I transferred in Brussels and in Montreal. In Montreal I almost missed my connecting flight because I had to go through customs, get my arrival health info reviewed, and take a PCR test. In Toronto the arrivals terminal was almost deserted because they weren’t allowing people in to receive their relatives or friends. My mom messaged me and I walked out to find her at the entrance to the parking garage. How surreal it felt to give my mom a big hug! I spent the next two weeks in quarantine in my parents basement. I was glad to have my remote work to keep me busy as I was still wrapping up the E4C fellowship and final presentations were underway. Othy and I tried our best to video-chat often and started a tradition of saying goodnight to Moses and singing him a song before bed. It was hard to be away from them but I also took it as an opportunity for self care and was glad to not be tempted to lift Moses since in the final month of pregnancy I started to have pelvic girdle pain. As I am writing this post quite a bit later I can say we were happily reunited two months later. But that is a story for another post!

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