After weeks of making lists, shopping, organizing, and packing we were all set to begin our journey to the Congo.
I awoke in the wee hours of morning the day of our departure to discover that I had what seemed like pink eye. Not a great start. I have never had pink eye in my entire life and it couldn’t have come at worse timing. Thankfully I was able to get a prescription called in. Driving across town to pick it up and then waiting on it (Why is it that it takes sooo long to get prescriptions filled? Take the drops off the shelf, put them in the bag, and give them to me. Thanks.) put us way behind in our timeline.
This setback made for a stressful drive to the airport. The Indianapolis Airport is great and we had no trouble finding a parking spot and catching the bus to our terminal.
We grabbed a coffee and waited for our plane. I was wishing that there was a magical way teleport all the way there. We were super excited to be finally making our way toward our little girl, but the idea of being faced with 30 hours* of travel was daunting. I wanted to be there already.
*Thanks to a long layover at Dulles.
We managed to squeeze in a little lunch during our 5 hour (and totally boring) layover. While in line to board the plane from Dulles to Brussels we met up with James and Sarah, another family from our agency who happened to be traveling at the same time. It was great to finally meet them after weeks of talking via email. As we boarded the plane I called my mom to let her know that we were leaving the US and would be in touch as soon as we could.
We were hoping to sleep on this leg of the journey. The flight was 8 hours and would put us in Brussels at 1 am our time. Our seats weren’t very comfortable and we both started to feel crummy. I think it was stress, pressure in ears, dry air, and lack of sleep leading up the trip. We were able to watch We Bought a Zoo on our iPad during the flight. Cute movie. We were given both dinner and breakfast on the flight.
When we landed in Brussels it was around 5 am there. We made our way to the Africa departure terminal and visited with James and Sarah. They were able to use skype to call our agency to say that we had arrived and were ready to catch our flight to Congo. I was surprised to learn that my cellphone wouldn’t work there. I had thought I could use it. We had been told that we would be well fed on our next flight so we didn’t bother getting anything to eat. It was great having someone there to talk to and distract us from over thinking about what lied ahead.
This is the play area at the Africa terminal. Sadly, we weren’t at the same terminal on the return flight so Odette didn’t get to play there.
And we were off to Kinshasa.
The flight to Congo seemed to take FOREVER! I had dreams of sleeping, but again I just couldn’t. I was feeling terrible by this point. They did feed us very well. My favorite was the ice cream bar. Not that I fly a lot, ever really, but if so I would fly Brussels Airlines whenever possible.
I did a little reading on the plane.
It was 8:30 pm local time when we landed in Congo. I didn’t really want to step off the plane. I knew the airport would be stressful, as would the drive to our hotel. I was not feeling it one bit.
We met up with James and Sarah just steps off the plane and we made our way together to find our airport guide. He was holding a sign with our names on it and we headed for baggage claim hoping all of our luggage arrived. It did! It took a good while, but it was all there. We were told to expect lots of people to try to help with our luggage, but our guide shewed them away and they respected our, no merci. In the parking lot we met with “PJ” our guide for our time in Kinshasa (capital of Congo). The four of us could fit in his car, but all of our luggage couldn’t. I had a moment of panic when he mentioned this. Thankfully, it was quick and easy for him to get another driver for us. We rode with him to our hotel and James and Sarah rode with the other driver. We definitely drew the long straw. PJ talked to us all about what we were seeing as we looked out the windows. Their driver didn’t speak english. It was about an hour drive to our hotel.
As I’ve read and heard from everyone who travels, people are EVERYWHERE. They were walking on the sides of the streets, walking in the middle of the streets, selling stuff under umbrellas along the road. They were everywhere. We got our first taste of driving in Congo. Wow. No holds barred. Just honk and weave in and out of traffic at your will. It was crazy. You can’t understand unless you are there. (I will post some pictures of it as I continue to through our time there.)
By this point, I was exhausted, sore from craning my neck in every angle possible to try to sleep and from carrying a bajillion pound backpack on my shoulders, and feeling as if my sinuses were going to explode. Just before landing in Congo I put my contacts in so I could see better, but now my eye was burning as well. Not a good start.
PJ got us checked into our hotel room. We were on the third floor and of course there was no elevator. After over 30 hours of travel we needed to now carry our 50 lb suitcases (We had 3. Two were filled with donations), carry on bag, and two backpacks up three flights of stairs. I think that mile 25 of the marathon felt better than that did.
This was our room at St. Anne’s.
Our room had two beds. Each had mosquito nets, but we didn’t use them. I only ever saw a couple in our room, but didn’t get bit more than 4 times throughout our entire trip. I’ll share why I think that was later. The beds had sheets only, but there was a blanket in the shelf. We brought our own. I’m glad we did. It was cold on the flights and with the air conditioning it was a little chilly at night. It was also nice to have a touch of home with us.
They sell water downstairs. We loaded up before bed. Each room also has a bottle of filtered water. We didn’t drink that water.We were only given one roll of toilet paper. Good thing we brought our own. We brought the wipes you see by the sink, too.The 2 brownish towels were provided. We brought one towel and 2 washclothes. I wished I had another towel or two. The shower was a must to wash off all the sweat from the 90 degree temps. It only had cold water, so I sponge bathed and bent over and washed my hair. I’m a wimp.
We had a little screened in porch off our room with a view of some body of water.
The aircondtioner was remote-controlled. It is in celsius. Ours was set at 23-24 while we were there. I didn’t want it too cold since the rest of the hotel isn’t air-conditioned. I worried we would get sick from going from hot to cold too much.
After looking around the room we took a quick shower and flopped into bed. Due to extreme exhaustion, we slept decently well and knew that we were being picked up at 9 to go meet Odette for the first time.