First Days in the Great Lakes of Africa

Oh the sweetness of rain. There is something so wonderful about the African rain pouring down. It takes me back to my days as a Peace Corps Volunteer when rain meant that all activities were postponed until after the rain. It was a free ticket to relax at home and wait for the rains to stop.

This evening it gives me a moment to reflect on my time in DR Congo instead of going back to my work email. I have plenty to share on that end, but I’ll focus on the fun stuff that I don’t get as much time to appreciate in the day.

Landing in Rwanda was a bit surreal. While on the one side having the image of genocide linger in my mind, I also couldn’t help but notice that the airport was incredibly peaceful and calm in comparison to that of Kinshasa. There was no shouting and yelling and paying for an expeditor to help you through the process. The ride from the airport was also brief and smooth. Kigali felt small even at night.

The morning further reaffirmed this notion. A city that feels very developed for Africa, and apparently has been at the expense of Eastern DR Congo. Rwanda is deplete of natural resources while rich in infrastructure and development, where DRC holds an abundance of resources with no development. It is easy to see where the resources are allocated.

We headed West towards Eastern DRC on a six plus hour drive; a bit longer as our drive accidently took us to the border of Burundi first by accident. We passed through the city and then were informed that the field workers laboring along side in pink shorts and shirt were convicted for acts of genocide.

Luckily the roads were all on the Rwandan side, so altogether very nice. We also passed through a national park that was lush with rain forest and had several sightings of white faced black monkeys of some kind. It was a lush and mountainous ride, where I was thankful not to be prone to car sickness. About half way through it was announced at the top of one of the mountains that we had another five mountain ranges to cross before coming to Bukavu.

Bukavu is a small city situated on the southern edge of Lake Kivu that separates the Rwanda and DRC. It rests on the edge and is distinct in covering several peninsulas out into the lake. For instance, our office is on one finger into the lake, the guest house is on another, and the main drag extends onto yet another. My room therefore looks a small section of the lake that looks more like a step riverside.

The city feels like the riveria in the way that all of the houses appear to be vacation homes. There are numerous Belgian style houses that look like they were dropped here in the 1950s. Back at that time there were around 50,000 foreigners living here. It had the first cinema in Africa, the first cathedral, and all of the European banks of the day.

Today it feels like a time warp, with remnants of the past but altogether decaying. The city streets are worse than the worst off roading that one would dream of attempting back in the states. There are two small shops where western conveniences are to be had, as well as two restaurants.

So much more to share, but I’ll stop for today. Hopefully this gives you an idea of where I’m at and what I’m experiencing.



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