Last day in Kigali - night flight to Bujumbura

Trip Start Sep 15, 2011
Trip End Oct 21, 2011

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Flag of Burundi  , Bujumbura Mairie,
Monday, September 19, 2011

Yesterday morning Mr. Mundeli came to the hotel for an administrative work day. My visits to Rwanda only come two or three times a year, and there are some decisions to be made, questions to be answered and plans to formulate that are best handled in person where direct give-and-take discussion and analysis can occur.

Sitting on the hotel terrace,we enjoyed the cool morning air as Kigali went about its Sunday routine: Catholic Church bells ringing here, loud, pounding Pentecostalish music throbbing there, and lines of families and individuals in their Sunday best walking along the red-dirt lanes and roads to or from their places of worship.

We discussed the ongoing situation with the process of having the church registered in Rwanda. It is a slow process hampered by ever changing laws governing how this is done and what is required. The proposed constitution and bylaws must be submitted in three languages simultaneously: in Kinyarwanda, French and English.

We also discussed festival organization for this year, as well as some ongoing challenges members are facing. We discussed the local budget and how funds should be allocated.

There was a long list of Bible questions to be answered. When members have questions for which they cannot find answers they prepare a list that I go over each time I come. They are usually very good questions, and often ones I have not been asked before.

For example, one question this time came from Judges 8:22-24 where it states that the Midianites that oppressed Israel were "Ishmaelites." How could this be, went the question, since Midianites were descendants of Ketura (Gen. 25:2) and Ishmael came from Hagar?

Here's another: Matthew 10:16 says to be “prudent” (in French) as serpents and “simple” or “gentle” (according to French translations) as doves. How exactly is a serpent prudent or wise? And how is a dove simple or gentle?

And one more: How do we explain the difference between 2 Sam.24:13 and 1 Chron. 21:11-12? Was it 7 years of famine or 3 years of famine?

I’m encouraged to receive questions like this because it assures me the members here are studying their Bibles and thinking about what they read.

Mr. Mundeli and I discussed the future of our work in Rwanda, how we could better train leaders, how leadership training has gone so far, what form training should take in the future and what additional subjects would be helpful to cover.

By the time we wrapped up it was time for a late lunch so we went down to the very reasonable restaurant and ate. He chose breaded captain fish, and I had a beef brochette and fries which was quite a good deal at just over 3 dollars. We talked another hour and half over lunch, and then he needed to start for home. It’s best not to travel after dark if possible.

After M. Mundeli left, I worked on my computer the rest of the afternoon. A constant stream of e-mails arrive concerning a number of ongoing responsibilities and projects and I try not to get too far behind even when I’m on the road.

I planned to go out to a favorite Indian restaurant that is within walking distance from the hotel, but then the sky clouded over and a rumbling of loud thunder began so I decided to have my last dinner at the hotel. The tables on the terrace were full with either diners or locals watching Manchester United play on the screen in the bar, so I took a garden table.

Without warning the lights went out. There was only a dim light provided by the diffuse reflection of city lights on low clouds. It was only a local outage, I could see other parts of Kigali still lit. One positive result of the outages was that all the loud Manchester fans left to find a bar where the television still worked, so things got much quieter. We sat in the dark for about 10 minutes. I find there is something unusual and usually pleasant in the Rwandan night. Night can be an uneasy time in Africa too depending on the location, in high crime cities, there is a forbidding, threatening feel to the darkness.

But in Rwanda, the aromas of tropical vegetation, meat cooking over charcoal (it smells somehow different here), even the smell of the rich earth all combine in an exotic mix. There is an occasional addition of rotting garbage depending on where one is, but that was happily absent this evening. The cool but heavy air seems to embrace one in a comforting wrap.

The spell was broken when the hotel staff decided the outage was going to last and they started the diesel generator, that all hotels worth the time have in preparation for blackouts. Since the terrace tables were now empty I moved under cover just as a heavy rain fell. The pounding of the water added its layer to the cocoon of the night.

I checked out at 10:00 pm and had a taxi pick me up at 10:30. The drive to the airport took 15 minutes or so. I was able to check in right away and clear formalities quickly. In the departure area, I finished reading the second to last volume of the Nicolo series by Dorothy Dunnett. I’ll miss that series when I finish the last one.

We boarded at 00:30, and took off on time at 01:00 for the half hour flight to Bujumbura. The Kenya Airways plane made one of the hardest landings I have ever experienced, as if we fell from 20 feet onto the runway. A curious silence fell over passengers; I suppose we all wondered if there was some mechanical difficulty or if the plane had been damaged. A minute later the pilot came on and apologized for the “rather firm” landing, which he said was due to “relatively high winds.” When we deplaned however, I felt no wind at all…s

The African pace of life is slower, people see no need to rush, so knowing my way around the airport, I was able to get through formalities among the first. Find an arrival card, fill it out quickly, move to the immigration line where they barely check my visa and don’t check my card at all. My suitcase arrives quickly too and I’m out the door into the night that feels more open that in Kigali. I’m no longer surrounded by hills and mountains, but on an open plain.

The hotel was to have had a taxi waiting for me; we had confirmed this by e-mail. A driver should have been there holding a piece of paper with my name on it.  But there was no one. I would have to take my chances with a local taxi that I don’t know. This is something I try to avoid, especially in the middle of the night. It’s not common that expats are robbed and dumped, but it does happen, so one takes what precautions are possible. I felt reassured to know I wasn’t truly alone, and asked silently for a guardian.

The driver turned out to be good, he sped through the darkness. It’s best to keep up your speed at night, as long as the road is good, since that makes it harder to stop a car if someone were to want to do so. He didn’t slow down any more than he had to until he had me in front of the Hotel Botanika in the center of Bujumbura. It was well after 02:00 when I arrived. Across the street is one of the popular bars in Bujumbura, and the music was still going loud and strong. Girls in tight short skirts lounged quite obviously outside.

I paid the driver as the hotel guard opened the reinforced metal door to the hotel and then lead me down a corridor to the hotel where he rousted a staff member to check me in. In my room it took me half an hour to wind down before I slipped under the mosquito net for the night. There is certain amount of adrenaline associated with a night arrival. But I felt I would sleep well, and I did. I slept through the night without waking, the first time on this trip, until 10:00 this morning.
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Dorrie on

Thank you so much for sharing Joel...we will be praying for you - and your family back home.

John Fox on

Your blog and writing style truly brings the African way to life to life for those of us who have not seen it eye to eye and nose to smell. Thank you for your dedication and service to God's people. Prayers for your safety.

Warm regards to you all,

John & Lynn

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