Category Archives: Rwanda

Flyga från Kindu till Kanada

(I put the title in Swedish so I could justifiably spell Canada with a K, because alliteration is awesome)

On the evening of June 28th, I landed in Vancouver without telling anyone but my family. Getting there, from my current home in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was a rather long process. If you add up all the time I spent in the air to get from Kindu, Maniema Province, DRC to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada it’s a short little 22 hours spent airborne spread over three short hops within DRC and three longer leaps from Rwanda to Kenya to the Netherlands to Canada.

First, I had to fly domestically from Kindu to Goma. I caught a ride on June 23rd on Busy Bee, a great little charter airline we often use. That flight touched down in Punia, then Lubutu, then landed in Goma.

En route from Kindu to Punia, one of many tributaries of the mighty Congo River:

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The pilot and co-pilot gave me permission to take this photograph on the ground in Punia:

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Just before landing in Lubutu:

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En route to Goma, North Kivu Province:

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Some of the wealthier residences in Goma are waterfront properties on Lake Kivu:

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After a few days in Goma, I caught a bus from the border to Kigali in Rwanda and a taxi from downtown to the Kigali airport, where I watched the World Cup football match in which Germany destroyed England. Rooney wasn’t very happy with his team’s lack of success:

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From Kigali I flew to Nairobi on Kenya Airways, which actually provides a small hot meal on this short (just over one hour) flight, much better than Canadian airlines such as Air Canada and Westjet who don’t give a meal on a four and a half hour flight from Vancouver to Toronto. Kenya Airways planes at the gates:

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I spent the night in Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) – many people tell horror stories that remind of trying to sleep in Stansted airport, but in JKIA if you head toward Gate 3, down some stairs from Gate 4, you’ll find the sleep n’ shower facilities which were very useful for me. Also, at Gate 14 there’s a coffee shop called Java House with very tasty espressos. Gaining altitude outside Nairobi:

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Nearly nine hours later, I landed in sunny Amsterdam, where I boarded a KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) flight for Vancouver. KLM planes on the tarmac:

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Direct flights from Europe to Vancouver always fly over the Arctic, as it’s the shortest route, so we got to see some white scenery over Greenland and northern Canada:

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Finally, we passed just to the south of Bowen Island and came in for the usual east-facing landing at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, with UBC on our left:

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On July 13th I left Vancouver to do the exact opposite flight route, which was much more tiring because of the lack of sleep, and when I arrived in Kindu yesterday (July 17th) I slept from 1:30pm until 9:30pm and from midnight to 6:00am today.

The Closest I’ve Ever Been to Missing a Flight

[This post is a bit text-heavy. If you don’t like reading, scroll down to see a few photos.]

On March 16th, I finished packing my bags at my friend Aidan’s house in London with the plan of taking a taxi to the tube station and catching the tube out to Heathrow Airport in good time for my flight to Africa on Kenya Airways. The very short taxi ride (it’s a 15 minute walk) was to prevent all the sweating from walking with my bags, and to avoid overworking my bad knee. Unfortunately, it turns out that phoning for a taxi in London is not a good idea. The first company took a while to take down the address etc, then put me on hold to wait for an automated message that would give me an estimate of the arrival time of the taxi. After 10 minutes on hold, the machine told me there were no taxis available and promptly hung up.

We called another company and they said the taxi was on its way and wouldn’t be long. After some time I called them and they said it would be about 15 minutes. By this point I was starting to run short of time to take the tube, and had begun entertaining the thought of paying an exorbitant sum for the taxi to drive me the whole way to the airport. Eventually the taxi company called to tell me the taxi was at my address, but there was no taxi in sight. It turns out he went to a completely different address despite the fact that I had gone to the trouble of spelling the name of the street for the operator.

He called me back 5 minutes later to tell me that the taxi was so far away he could not be rerouted to my location and I would have to begin the entire process over again, and it would take 15 minutes for a new cab to arrive. Half an hour later, the taxi arrived. He looked like one of the goons out of the movie Lock, Stock, and Three Smoking Barrels and honked at a lot of people as we sped toward the airport. I ran in and found the check-in counters were already closed, but an airport staff member suggested I go to the customer service desk.

I asked the the lady at the Kenya Airways customer service desk if there was any chance of boarding the flight and she said no, absolutely not. I asked again, trying my hardest to imitate the puppy dog eyes I’d seen in some movies, and she took me over to the First Class check-in desk, where I was allowed to check in. She then took me to the Special Baggage bag drop so I could drop my backpacks without any delay and told me to sprint all the way to the gate, which I did.

I ran all the way onto the plane, sat down sweating more than if I were still back in Burma in the hot season, and tried to breathe. This was the closest I had ever been to missing a flight (out of 138 flights I’ve taken in my lifetime, the only one I ever missed a connecting flight missed because the first flight was massively delayed, so I had to wait in Frankfurt for a few hours until the next one). The second closest I’ve ever been to missing a flight was avoided because of a broken toilet in San Francisco (click here for that story).

And now for some photos!

My flight from London landed in Nairobi on the morning of March 17th, after which I caught my connecting flight to Kigali (Rwanda) via Bujumbura (Burundi). At the airport in Bujumbura, there was an ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) plane:

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In the early afternoon the plane landed in Kigali, capital of Rwanda. After clearing customs and grabbing my bags, I found a taxi driver waiting with my name on a piece of paper. We drove three and a half hours northwest through the beautiful green mountains of Rwanda to the border crossing at Gisenyi. This waterfall is typical of the scenery along the road from Kigali to Gisenyi:

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At Gisenyi, the taxi driver explained to me what to do on the Rwandan side of the border, then met me again after I had walked across the border to the Democratic Republic of Congo and its customs office. There, when the customs officers took my passport and didn’t return it, he assured me that the Merlin HR staff would get it back for me the following day, which turned out to mean the next week.

I spent 6 days in Goma, doing a small amount of work and getting a very basic introduction to the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). This is one of our vehicles, being loaded up to transport stuff to field offices in North Kivu. The flags were added for extra visibility as the roads in the area are not always safe; making it clear that the truck belongs to a medical charity hopefully decreases the likelihood of running into trouble.

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My clippers decided not to work once I arrived in DRC, so I borrowed Gareth’s clippers. Turns out the battery was not fully charged, resulting in this new hairstyle until it was charged enough to finish the job:

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Even in Goma you get a few creepy crawlies in the house, like this millipede:

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Gareth found this tiny skink on his shorts, and it seemed quite happy to hang out on his finger and pose for a photo:

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Although I can’t say I like Goma very much, it is pretty cool to see the nearby volcano on a clear day from the centre of town:

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On March 23rd I left Goma for Kindu, the pleasant little town (‘Kindu Paradise’ as some of us like to call it) where I would be based for nearly half a year.

Shake Hands With the Devil

On Sunday I went to see a movie I had been anticipating for quite some time – Shake Hands With the Devil. It’s a documentary about Roméo Dallaire’s return to Rwanda ten years after the genocide that saw 800,000 people die in 100 days while he and his understaffed underfunded UN mission could do nothing to stop it.

His book by the same name came out just over a year ago and I bought it for my Mom (www.RosemaryAnderson.com) when it first came out, as a Christmas present. When he came to UBC in Vancouver to speak publicly, Mom and I bought tickets and went to listen/watch him at the Chan Centre. His talk was really amazing to both Mom and me. I didn’t end up finding the time to read his book after Mom had finished reading it, but it has received much praise and I would recommend it to anyone.

The movie was really amazing. It has screened at numerous film festivals around the world, and won several awards including Audience Award for a World Cinema Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival this year. No wonder. I highly highly recommend you watch it.

The book is available online at: Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda