Posts tagged ‘travel’

April 1, 2022

Return to Congo with Sarah

The time had come for another set of farewells and greetings. I finally had all of Sarah’s documents to travel back to Congo with her and be reunited with Othy and Moses once again. On Saturday we had a nice family gathering to say our goodbyes. Even though I tried not to procrastinate with my packing, it still took until it was time to depart for the airport on Sunday to have the bags ready. Packing was a real puzzle because I was bringing some awkwardly shaped items like the used highchair, the toilet training step stool, and the used pack-and-play. Part of me was thinking I could leave them behind, but the other part was telling me I would not be able to find the equivalent over there. Because I am writing this much later I can say how happy I am to have them! Thankfully we were able to fit everything in one car and the drive to the airport was smooth.

I decided last-minute to bring an extra suitcase and expected to pay a fee for it at the airport, but the person checking us in was super gracious and accepted the extra bag free of charge. I was very happy with the service of Turkish Airlines. The mistake I made was not checking in the carseat then and there. I thought I would be able to find a cart on the other side of security to put Sarah with her carseat on, but I was mistaken. I had to lug the carseat base and carseat while wearing Sarah in her carrier all the way to the gate, and it was faaaar. I was exhausted and praying to God my back would hold up for the journey. I see now it may have been better for me to take our stroller instead of Othy and we could have found one of those cute suitcases on wheels for Moses to sit and ride on. Luckily I was able to check the carseat in at the gate so that I didn’t have to see it again until the final destination. I did miss having a spot for Sarah to sit while we were waiting between flights.

I was given seats behind the dividers where there is extra foot space and a sleeping cot for Sarah for the overnight flight. I dozed off several times but every time we had slight turbulence, the flight attendant woke me up and made me take the sleeping Sarah out of her cot and buckle her to me. It was very annoying. I’m sorry, but if it is possible to sleep through the turbulence, then it is not bad enough to wake up a tired parent and baby to get them to buckle up, especially since the cot itself has a thing you have to zip up to keep them in it. We transferred in Istanbul and then arrived in Kigali just before midnight the following day. I had prearranged for a driver who was referred by a friend to pick us up so that we could continue our journey directly to Goma instead of finding a place to stay for the few remaining hours of the night.

I had not prepared for how everything is closed in Rwanda at that time of night. By the time I arrived I was out of drinking water but it took a long time for us to find a place that was open to buy a bottle. Next time I will instruct the driver to arrive with it. Besides my thirst, exhaustion, and slight feeling of nausea on the winding roads, the journey went smoothly. We arrived at the border right before it opened and I got to witness the daily line of people who cross to Goma for their work race from the gate to the building to get in line at the customs. I had planned to stay the few days with the Shaws and they offered for their driver to meet me and help me through customs. I thought he looked vaguely familiar and while talking we discovered he was a friend of Othy from Kinshasa and that ironically he had been one of the friends who picked us up from the airport the day we first arrived in Kinshasa! I was grateful that because I had a baby I got to skip to the front of the line.

We arrived at the Shaws and I got to catch up with the family over breakfast. I rested for a good part of the morning and then Othy’s brother Obady sent his car with a driver to take me on the few visits I wanted to make. I decided to start in town and then move my way back out. I visited our friend Maurice and then went on to visit Hortense, Serge and Guylaine. Hortense helped me drop off the boxes with a business that would send the large suitcase and boxes to Butembo by road. That took much longer than expected and so we didn’t leave their place until close to 5pm. The final stop was Obady’s place. It was wonderful to see their family again and see how much the kids had grown. As I planned to eat dinner at the Shaw’s, Marie packed me a to-go container of fries and chicken she had prepared. They came with me to drop me off at the Shaw’s so that they could see where they live. The power was out and so I went to my room and got Sarah to sleep. Then I spent some time again with the Shaws before turning in myself.

Bright and early the following day, the Shaw’s driver took me to the airport and handed me off to an airport staff who helped me through the process. They treated me like a VIP by taking my documents and doing everything for me. The small Busy Bee flight felt like deja vu as Othy and I had taken the same journey with Moses from Kinshasa. Sarah slept for the duration of the flight. I made sure to sit on the left side this time as I knew I would get a better view of Nyiragongo. It was a clear day and I could see the river of cooled lava curving its way down the mountainside. Once in Butembo I had to borrow the phone of a stranger in order to call Othy because my old sim card was no longer working and he had thought the flight was arriving later. Our family was reunited again and Sarah got to meet her Congolese grandparents and great grandmother for the first time. I was thankful for a very smooth journey overall. I am happy to stay put for awhile before making such a long journey again!