Heading to Rwanda

Trip Start Apr 02, 2014
Trip End May 07, 2014

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Where I stayed
Hotel Chez Lando Kigali
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Rwanda  , Kigali,
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

4:30 came very quickly this morning! I slipped quietly out the front door about 4:50 and was waiting by the entry gate with my bags slightly before 5:00 when Mr. Prodigue arrived. We loaded the car and cruised quietly down the hill through the still sleeping houses to have a cup of coffee and a pain au chocolat (which in English has nothing to do with pain and everything to do with chocolate!) at their house.

I thanked them for their hospitality and their faithfulness and said I looked forward to seeing them again in just a few months. Mr. Prodigue drove me to the airport where I checked in and waited until the emigration desks opened (only half an hour before my flight was to leave).

This time we traveled in a prop-propelled ATR for the short hop back to Mauritius. On arrival, even though I was in transit, I had to talk to an immigration agent and turn in another health form. Virtually as soon as I arrived at the departure gate it was time to board the Air Mauritius A319 bound for Nairobi. The flight took a little more than four hours during which we had breakfast and I continued following Theodore Roosevelt's presidency. I hadn’t realized how close the US came to war with Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany in the very early years of the 20th century; that was one fascinating story among many.

We landed in Nairobi with a one-hour time change, just before noon local time. As we deplaned, we were sorted on the tarmac into two groups, those entering Kenya, and those in transit. I was directed with the latter to a stairway leading up into the departure lounge. When we arrived in the entry passageway, the glass doors were locked with a large chain and padlock. The passengers in front of me appeared to be new to the airport, they looked around confusedly wondering what to so. Coming through this airport several times a year, I knew a way to get prompt attention. I shook the chain making as much noise with it as possible. Almost immediately, an airport employee showed up with a bunch of keys and tried half a dozen before finding the right one and releasing us into the departure area.

I picked up the boarding pass for the next flight and headed to the Kenya Airway lounge for a free lunch (I know, I know…). I caught up on my journal and got some other work done while I waited for my flight to Kigali. The lounge had been moved to the departure area, no doubt due to the big fire that occurred last year. The lounge is pretty cramped now and very noisy, a situation that is not helped by thoughtless travelers. A large fellow was having a Skype conversation in Italian with no headset, so not only was he speaking loudly, the whole lounge could also hear his interlocutor almost as loudly.

Another traveler had his computer or phone set to make a whistling sound every time he performed a certain operation, which he was doing several times each minute. It was very annoying, but the staff did nothing. All sorts of constant background noise is such a part of African societies that I find many Africans would rather have even the most annoying background noise rather than silence. I breathed a sigh of relief when they finally left for their flights.

After a five-hour layover, I stepped out into the departure lounge and walked to the gate. Clearing a security checkpoint for the third time in the day, I joined passengers waiting in the stuffy glass walled room. We waited until a Kenya Airways staffer came and led us through several corridors, outside, down another stairway to the tarmac where we boarded a bus that drove us to the small Embraer jet for the hour-long flight to Kigali. I had hoped to shoot some video over the rift valley, the views there are often stunning, but today the views were blocked by clouds. They cleared over Lake Victoria, but then my window clouded up, so I wasn’t able to record.

As we made our final approach into Kigali, I recognized Lake Muhazi, which I pass on the way to the village of Giti where we have a church hall and where a number of church members live. I’ve been told the lake was full of bodies, and stained with blood during the genocide. It was hard to dispose of 800,000 to a million bodies in such a small country (in Rwanda, you’re never more than about 30 miles from the border of a neighboring country). More recently we often perform baptisms in the lake.

Closer to the airport I could make out hills dotted with simple Rwandan houses by the small fields the owners farmed. It is this way on most arable land in the small nation. Finally we landed at the airport where the terminal has been under remodeling and reconstruction for several years.

Formalities went quickly at the airport, so I was able to quickly get a taxi to Chez Lando, my usual hotel in Kigali. Chez Lando was opened by Lando Ndasingwa, a moderate politician who was abducted with his Canadian wife and their two children at the start of the genocide. They were all later murdered. The hotel is now run by the surviving members of his family.

Along the road from the airport there were several billboard signs advertising Kwibuka20, the 20th anniversary commemoration of the genocide which began in April 1994. There will be a month of commemoration events; I plan to see what I can of the events while here.

I settled into my room, and then went to the Chez Lando barbecue pit famous for its goat brochettes, though I prefer the beef ones which are much less chewy. I had a brochette for dinner, which was quite good, though one must be prepared to wait quite a while for the food to arrive. As I arrived back in my room, the phone rang. Mr. Mundeli asked how I was and welcomed me to Rwanda. He told me he planned to stop by the see me tomorrow (Thursday) morning so we can plan for our upcoming activities.
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mary on

Hi Joel,
Glad to hear you arrived safely. It must be sobering to conduct baptisms in a lake once filled with bodies. What must it be like to have a 20th anniversary of that genocidal tragedy? Anyway, in the present we pray that your visit will be a joy to the brethren there.

Tess Washington on

Hi Mr. Meeker, now we know what to expect if we do travel in that part of Africa! The travelers you described need to be educated in travelling protocols and courtesy BIG TIME! Rwanda and Chez Lando, names that are familiar by now since we've been reading your travel blogs...its been a long time...but still sad to remember. It's just good to know that God's people are there too like Mr. Mundeli.

thomas.clark on

Thanks for the updates on your travels, Joel. Please pass along my greetings to Mr. Mundeli.

Margaret Villaescusa on

Thank you for keeping us up to date on your recent activities. Your blogs are always very interesting. They certainly help educate me in history, geography, culture and more importantly, how God is working in many places around the world.
With best wishes and continued prayers.

jpvernaud on

Nous sommes heureux de savoir que votre voyage se passe bien, merci de saluer tous nos frères et sœurs du Ruanda de notre part, nous prions pour la bonne continuation de votre voyage

Ted Franek on

Thanks for allowing us to come along on your travels. It is a history lesson in itself for me and I am amazed by how well you deal with all the challenges you are faced with. Our prayers go with you all.

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