you understand now why you came this way
The generator at Karibu is broken and there's some problem with the power supply lines that run from the Ruzizi dam at Bukavu (the city at the southern end of Lake Kivu). So at night now, it is really dark. Really dark. This makes things like cooking dinner a bit of a challenge, but it also means that you can see every star in the sky. The other night I came home from a party late, walked out on the back porch, and, there, clear as day, right on the southeastern horizon, was the Southern Cross. I'd never seen it before - it's obvious why early navigators relied on it. So beautiful.
Sunday I leave Goma for the next week or so. I'm going to Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, to visit some friends and do an interview, then on to Kampala, the capital of Uganda, to meet Melissa's sister Stephanie who's a missionary there, and catch My Brother (If-We're-Talking-to-Congolese-Immigration) who's been sweet enough to drag some stuff from my parents all the way to central Africa before he heads back home. After that, it will be on to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, to catch a bus back to Goma. You could call it the Spring Break 2006 K-K-Kapitals Tour of Central Africa, but that seems more than a bit tasteless. N'est-ce pas?
I am very excited to be getting a break from Goma. Kinshasa is supposed to be a crazy city; I'm hoping to get to see the sites in the midst of the madness, including the Congo River and the stadium where the Rumble in the Jungle took place. I'm also staying at a nice hotel with a pool and air conditioning(!) and get free internet access at the American Cultural Center – yahoo! Kampala is a pleasant city and I'm looking forward to a couple of days in a place where 1) they speak English, and 2) there's a great bookstore with books in English. And Kigali, well, Kigali is Kigali.
I'd appreciate your prayers for safe travel, and also that I'll be able to find a way to get to Kampala – there must be a direct flight, but won't be able to confirm this before arriving in Kinshasa. As for the Goma-Kinshasa segment, I'll be flying on CAA, one of the 40 Congolese airlines that were banned from traveling to the EU this week. That's right, forty. Not that most of these companies are trying to fly to Europe anyway, but it seems that the EU has a problem with "All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight of Democratic Republic of Congo" and is only allowing one carrier to operate one specific aircraft (like, the actual plane) in Europe. They did the same thing to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, and Equatorial Guinea.
Thus there are no other options, and it's up to personal scientific investigation to figure out the safest way to go. I started with recommendations from Judy, a missionary friend who grew up in Congo, then narrowing it down a bit further to airlines that actually have websites (meaning they at least have enough money to maintain that portion of their operations). After that, I started paying attention to flights take off, and, based on the look of their planes, CAA seems to have the newest planes of any of the airlines that fly out of Goma. Their ticketing agents are also a lot nicer than the surly ones in the fancier office at Hewa Bora. And plus my friend Nicole flew CAA a few weeks ago, and given her connections, she'd know which one is best. So CAA it is. At 2:30 on Sunday, we fly from here to Kisangani, which is the actual heart of darkness at the end of the navigable part of the Congo River and which I've always wanted to visit, then will theoretically be in Kinshasa by 5:30. Kinshasa Ndjili Airport is supposed to be one of the great adventures in travel - apparently I will not escape without being asked for multiple bribes, and, if I were checking luggage, it would take 2 hours to get my bags.
Yep, this is going to be fun.