Goodbyes are never easy!

I’m now in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, waiting to take my flight back to London…and strangely missing my bucket baths back in DR Congo. The place I’m staying at here in Kigali has a shower to rival the strength of Victoria falls!

Since I’ve last posted I’ve continued to assist at the malnourishment centre at the General Hospital of Bukavu (in the mornings) and in the afternoons assisted the nuns with basic English (and English homework) at the Congregation De Cemmo Dorothee. I’ve also attended the Congolese wedding (which I mentioned in my previous post) and felt totally silly in the traditional ‘uniform’ the family made for me to wear on the day, but it’s a great souvenir  to keep. I found the actual wedding ceremony much less traditional than the ‘dot’ ceremony. The couple is Catholic, so the ceremony took place at the Catholic church followed by driving around in Bukavu in a procession of cars and then ended with an all night party at one of the hotels. It was such a laugh and great food (on the menu too was of course the goats that were slaughtered outside my window)….yum! That day also happened to be my 30th birthday (all downhill form now on then!) but I kept that to myself whilst imagining the wedding cake we were served was birthday cake instead and wondered to myself how lucky I was to be experiencing all that I am in the DRC.

Me and Nicole in our wedding uniformsMe and Nicole in our wedding uniforms

On my last day at the malnourishment centre I held a little ‘party’ for the kiddies and said a sad goodbye to all of them. (again sorry for sideway images, don’t know where to rotate in wordpress).

Me and Nicole in our wedding uniforms
Me and Nicole in our wedding uniforms

On my final taxi ride in Bukavu I was quoted by the driver the price I know it should be for the specific route I was travelling, and was so surprised and grateful I paid him triple!

I met some truly fantastic people (Brandi Walker who does fantastic work at Panzi hospital where they treat women, and in increasing numbers men, who are victims of sexual violence/war rape). Please have a look at Panzi’s website or view this brief video on the situation of war rape featuring Dr. Denis Mukwege who works at Panzi hospital.
Poor Brandy fell ill with typhoid fever shortly after we met up for the last time (so I’m feeling rather guilty for blaming the samoesas at Gerda’s, one of the local expat & NGO/aid worker hangouts).
I’m pretty amazed that other than very light bouts of diarrhea and nosebleeds I’ve not been ill once (well for all the bloody vaccines I got as well as the price I paid for them I should hope not!). I’ve also not had one mosquito bite…but let me wait after I’ve left Kigali before getting too excited as there seems to be malaria awareness posters everywhere here in Kigali.
I had a hard time too saying goodbye to my Congolese host family, especially Nicole, the lady of the house, we really got on so well and she keeps texting me ‘Your Congo mammy misses for you!’.
I took the boat back from Bukavu to Goma for a last time as I love these boat trips on Lake Kivu but was disappointed that the boat I travelled with on this occasion was really small (although very quick, gets you to Goma in about 2 hours) so didn’t have a deck to walk around on. Ihusi Express, the speedboats I’ve been travelling with on previous occasions don’t operate on Sundays so I had to find an alternative. So to anyone who ever finds themselves in this part of the world, I’d definitely recommend Ihusi Express: The boat is called Kivu Queen, 3 hour trip, spacious, deck to walk around on and gaze at the amazing scenery that stretches along the banks of Lake Kivu, refreshments served, even a movie on board (usually ‘King Kong’ translated into French :) .
Once in Goma some friends and I decided to go for a meal at one of the local restaurants at night. On our way over to the restaurant there was someone driving in front of us who clearly had too much Primus (one of the locally brewed beers) and was going rather slow, swerving. As we tried to overtake him he stopped and reversed back into our vehicle and blocked us, got out, opened the door on the drivers side and tried to grab the keys, couldn’t reach it, started pounding the windows and bonnet with his fists furiously…then came over to my side, tried to open my door (I couldn’t find the lock but luckily the person sitting behind me locked the door just in time). He then started pounding on my window….we took off, he followed and cornered us in one of the main roads in Goma, which of course caused a bit of a traffic jam, onlookers and also attracted the attention of a car loaded with police, or Congolese army…not sure which, all I know is they had guns 🙂 . Loads of arguing which I didn’t really understand erupted, the issue seemed to be sorted, we took off again…and Mr Primus followed…again…but we did manage to loose him eventually, finally made our way to the restaurant for a quiet, relaxed meal!

On Tuesday I crossed over the boarder of DRC in Rwanda where I was met by a lovely Rwandan taxi driver who organised to show me the sites of Kigali today, which included a visit to the Rwandan Genocide memorial – well worth a visit if ever you find yourself in Kigali. The scenery along the way is pretty amazing to say the least…hill upon hill of luscious green…but not so good if you tend to get car sick like I do.

Admittedly I am pretty shattered! It’s been a full-on time from the word go and all passed so quickly! Would I do it all over again? Hell yeah! I will certainly post again as I am sure there are many bits and experiences and impressions I might have forgotten to mention…so as my memory catches up with me, and I catch my flight back to London I would just like to say a huge thanks to everyone I’ve met in the DRC who has made this an unforgettable journey and experience and to everyone who has followed the blog and left me words of encouragement – thank you all!

All best
Philippa

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