Travel to the Congo
Trip Start Apr 18, 2016
25Trip End May 15, 2016
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Where I stayed
To prepare for such a trip, I start roughing in an itinerary about 6-8 weeks in advance. We take into account local needs, most recent visits, and safety concerns on the ground. As to the latter, I would very much like to visit Burundi, it's been over a year since Daniel Harper and I have been there, but it still is not safe. The ongoing violence continues in Bujumbura especially, which is where we would need to be based.
By early March we were working with a travel agent to decide on flights, based on where we need to go, available flights and prices. The first price quoted is usually quite a bit higher than what we’ll pay in the end. We will juggle days and airlines until we can get a price that seems reasonable for a workable itinerary. This takes several days and many e-mails.
As departure day gets closer other arrangements are made. Packing lists are checked. What can I hand carry, to whom, within our baggage weight limits? I weigh the suitcase and adjust the contents. A few extra pounds in the States are not much of a problem. In much of rest of the world, they will cost quite a lot each time we check in for a flight.
Before this trip I had to renew my yellow fever vaccination, which is required to receive visas in much of Africa. There is a major outbreak of this mosquito borne illness in Angola. The vaccination is good for 10 years, and this was my third shot, which means I’ve been going to Africa for 20 years now. I also had boosters against a few other diseases. It’s important to keep tetanus coverage up to date, and so I also had a Tdap (against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), a dead polio vaccine, one for meningitis, and one against typhoid fever (taken orally this provides longer protection. Those are the higher risk diseases. A few of the more exotic vaccinations I don’t get, such as rabies which costs $750-1000. The risks are small and they are quite expensive. I pack a malarial remedy, in case I come down with that disease. This time, I also sprayed my clothing with permethrin, very effective in preventing mosquito bites. The chemical will stay in the clothing for six washes, which should be enough to get me in and out of Africa.
I try to get ahead of the curve in editorial matters, so I don’t get behind while traveling. And I try to have a sermon or two ready in advance of needs.
Finally D-day arrives. Monday, I called an Uber car just before 10:00 Monday for the drive to DFW. I kissed my wife for the last time for four weeks, and we talked through the next month one more time. The driver arrived in 7 minutes, an affable older fellow named Joseph, originally from Iran. He came west through Turkey on his way to the US, so we discuss our favorite places in Istanbul.
At the hotel I paid the driver 40 dollars and received the equivalent of 10 dollars change in Congolese francs. After filling in a very intrusive check-in form, I was given the key to my room on the second floor. I thanked the men for coming and we agreed to meet tomorrow to discuss the next days’ events.
I sprayed on some mosquito repellent, walked out to the restaurant in the gardens and ordered a plate of spaghetti and a glass of red wine for dinner. There are many foreign visitors here now, more than I’ve ever seen before at this hotel. Just as I arrived back in my room, the sky split open and rain poured down in heavy sheets. The rain seemed to close us up in a cocoon, insulate us from the presence of other people. And it insulated us from the rest of the world by cutting off our internet access. I will hope to post this account tomorrow when the connection can be reestablished.
And now after only a few hours’ sleep last night, this night is welcome.