Meaning welcome in Swahili I’m finally here, in Bukavu! Arrived yesterday (Saturday 4th) with the speed boat and was met at the port by Sœur Helena (with whom I will be working at the General Hospital in Bukavu) and Franck, with whom I’ll be staying for my time in Bukavu. Some sort of VIP must have been on the boat as well as there were crap loads of troops and crowds too. It’s strange because even though you are in the same country (travelling from Goma to Bukavu) you still need to get your passport checked and stamped leaving from Goma and arriving into Bukavu. As for the actual journey, even though it was pretty long, it went rather hassle free. I think the fact that I was so nackered even before I departed helped with not letting my nerves get to me too much and to just totally ‘go with the flow’. Leaving from Heathrow we flew to Nairobi where I had to get another flight to Kigali (but going via Bujumbura-Burundi). At Bujumbura they picked up more people and as we were about to take off again the staff realised that there were too many people abroad…so we had to wait for them to own up and get off which of course they didn’t…which resulted in 1.30 hours of rechecking everyone’s tickets and whatnot. Finally we were on our way into Kigali where I was kindly met by a friend of a friend’s dad (oh the wonders of Facebook! Turned out one of my old school friends has a friend whos dad lives in Kigali and they kindly arranged for me to be met by him at the airport). From there it was to the taxi/bus place for a 3 hour trip through Rwanda, which was truly beautiful…land of a thousand hills indeed! Of course I needed the toilet, and the taxi did stop (without me asking though!) and the toilet was some unisex setup…but hey if you gotta go you gotta go, and trust me, as far as ‘needing to go’ goes, I’ve seen it all and could probably write a guide book one day for people always ‘needing to go’! Arriving into Goma and crossing through was not as scary as I’d imagined but I’m sure it was also helped by the fact that my friend Virginia was there to meet me. Goma is crazy madly busy with UN & NGO vehicles everywhere…and of course loads and loads of people, motorbikes, potholes etc. We first stopped off at her office to meet her colleagues and from there went to a house she shares with another aid worker (a Japanese girl working for UNHCR). The majority of the houses occupied by NGO workers have security guards around the clock. Despite of this the girls still lock their bedrooms at night as ‘there has been cases recently of NGO/Aid workers being raped/attacked’. I was just too happy to lay down, even though it was a bid hard sleeping in a nackered old sofa mattress…to me it was heaven! Then up again early (5am) to catch the boat. The boat trip was of course lovely and the seating comfortable! They even showed movies (some crap American blockbuster in French), but I spend most of my time on the deck. I was pretty amazed by how huge the lake is! Meeting the family I’m staying with was truly lovely and all day long they had visitors dropping in. One of their friends is a doctor and when I told him about the type of malaria tablets I’m taking, he just laughed and said that there is no way they will be effective here…erm, OK then…but I guess I’ll just continue using them. I was never keen in the first place as I pretty much grew up in a malaria area in South Africa and never took anything for it except for relying on mosquito nets and spray. Everyone in my family has had malaria, but I’ve been lucky not too and hope it will stay that way. They also took me for a trip around Bukavu and like Goma, Bukavu is madly busy (1 million people I was told), but this helped to get me a bit familiar with the surroundings. Ironically, their house is right next to the IRC (International Rescue Committee), one of the many organisations I contacted a while back to enquire about doing volunteer work! All and all, everything is good…all I miss is 24-7 internet access and a shower (it’s a bucket with water for my time here)…but the hard work begins tomorrow as I start my 1st day at the hospital. I’ll of course try to update as much as I can, next time with some photos, but my internet access is limited. For now I’ve included some photos of the boat trip.
Sunday was spend exploring Bukavu but also met up with a friend, Brandi, who showed me the local ‘hang-outs’. We spend some time with friends of hers (visiting from the States) at Hotel Orchid (right next to the lovely Lake Kivu) and then for a bite to eat at ‘Gerdas’. All these places seem far removed, tranquil and calm in comparison n to bussy Bukavu.
Monday was my first day at the hospital. Truly overwhelming to see it all and to meet everyone (and trying to remember everyone’s names!) but certainly great to finally be here. I will soon be writing about this in more detail…access to internet is limited and where you do find it its very veerryyyyyyy slow!
So far so good! Of course I have had moments where I’ve felt and still feel totally out of my depth…but hey I that’s all part of the experience…I’m not going to lie and say it’s all a big jolly, but I am loving being here, the good and the bad.
All best x Philippa