Travel to Rwanda
Trip Start Jan 14, 2016
16Trip End Feb 01, 2016
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Where I stayed
Our daughter Tatiana is staying with us for a while and she drove me to the airport at 10:45 on Thursday 14 January. I was darkly amused to see at check-in at the airport that I was number 40 out of 55 on the upgrade list for the Delta flight to Atlanta. There were six open seats in business class for the 55….
Because of my tier level, I automatically qualify for upgrades on domestic flights with Delta. But the scheduling is so tight and the flights so full, that I almost never actually receive an upgrade. It's a bit amazing, though I suppose it shouldn’t be, that there are so many people flying so much that a plane with a seating capacity of around 150 can have more than a third of its passengers qualifying for an upgrade, and that someone who travels as much as I would be so far down the list. One has to fly a quite a bit to reach such a tier. Many are running to and fro, as the angel told Daniel.
The flight to Atlanta left a bit late but arrived on time. I had time for a snack in the lounge before boarding the next flight to Amsterdam. The flight left around 6:00 pm, which meant that we arrived in Amsterdam about 01:00 Dallas time. The flight crew wakes passengers about 90 minutes before landing; all that to say I didn’t do more than doze a few minutes on that flight.
I was happy to note that I didn’t have to clear a security check on arrival in Amsterdam; I could just enter the departure lounge and find my next flight. Usually when traveling internationally, one has to redo the security checkpoint, which is unpleasant.
Again I just had time for a cappuccino, and some good Dutch cheese on black bread in the KLM lounge before boarding an Airbus for the eight-hour flight to Kigali. I was given one of the rigid seats at the front of a section, next to an emergency exit. These seats are narrower than others because the armrests are solid all the way down to the seat cushion, not open under the rest itself. And there is no seatback pocket in front, because there is no seat in front. This requires more juggling around meal time and during take-off and landing. I sat next to a Dutch woman who was traveling to Uganda to work on a teaching project and then visit the gorillas. She was excited about that, but didn’t seem much interested in conversation, so I continued my reading.
As usual I brought several books to read on this trip. I reached about halfway through a book just out called Self and Soul by Mark Edmundson, which came highly recommended to me. It’s a scholarly defense of ideals, which he calls the values of the soul, as opposed to the skeptical materialism of the modern self. He looks at his thesis through great literary works. Parts of it are quite good, though of course he got his section on Jesus completely wrong, because he treats the Bible like just literary magnum opus, not the word of God. The opening section on Homer was quite good, describing the two types of heroes represented by Achilles and Hector. We’ll see how the rest is. I’m looking forward to his treatment of Shakespeare.
I also read halfway through Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky. It’s not a long work and it predates his great novels; in fact introducing many of the key themes he later explored. I’m finding it quite an interesting glimpse of human nature - much as it is described in the Bible, not that he uses the Bible of course. When I finish both of those I will read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, which I’ve intended to read for several years, but hadn’t yet done. I probably will on this trip. And if I finish those I have many other downloaded on my iPad. There is no good that comes from coming short of good reading material.
I was also able to sleep about three hours, which was welcome.
We arrived in Kigali, where about 20% pf the passengers deplaned. The rest were going on to Uganda. Because I know the airport well, I was able to reach the immigration desk quickly and receive my visa in exchange for $30. Then to baggage claim, where to my surprise, my bags were among the first out of the chute. I tried to be as boring as possible as I pushed my cart passed the customs desk. One of my bags is a very large black duffle bag full of Days for Girls kits for our girls and women in Rwanda, made by volunteers in several congregations in the US (thank you ladies!). I have 50 pounds of them and, as I said, they fill a large duffle, which is precisely the kind of bag customs agents like to explore because they frequently hold commercial goods of the kind that can be taxed. I adopted as beatific an expression as I could and slowly pushed my cart through the gauntlet, saying a silent prayer for speed. No one stopped me, and I walked out into the cool, slightly humid air of the African night.
Outside, I reached an agreement with a taxi driver on price for the short drive to Chez Lando, and off we went. I checked into my room in the main building, the place where the least expensive rooms are located, where I’ve been staying for close to 20 years now, this year marks a score for me since my first trip to Rwanda, just two years after the genocide, or the events, as people here often call the period.
After dropping my bags, I headed across the street to buy bottled water and noticed that the building that housed my usual supermarket, Ndoli’s Joint, is all black. It appears the whole three floor structure burned. But there is no shortage of markets and I was able to fill my needs quickly.
I called Mr. Mundeli, to let him know I had arrived and he told me a vehicle would pick me up for services at 08:30.
I should sleep well tonight.