Up by 5:30am, a nice breakfast (omelet, Nescafe, fresh avocado half, and bread with Nutella), and then a trip to the airport to catch another MAF flight hop south to Beni (3 hour stop) and then on to Goma in the afternoon.
The flight to Beni from Bunia lasts about 35 minutes and travels a over verdant landscapes criss-crossed with reddish dirt paths. Wish we could stop here and there to check out some of the remote places. We see frequent fires being used to burn vegetation to prepare the land for farming. We arrived on time to Beni, a tiny dirt-tracked airport. I do not believe the small building space we walked through had electricity. Surprisingly, the road outside the airport was paved. In fact, it was the best paved road I saw in all of the DRC. We hear that the Chinese built it. What is the pay off for them I wonder.
Our quick car trip takes us to UCBC, a bilingual christian university in the town. We met with a number of young teachers and staff along with Daniel Masumbuko Kasereka, the chaplain and an administrator. The school was running some intensive English language classes in preparation of the start of a new term. Here too we hear about the trauma in students and the negative impact on their learning. We also learn about their attempts to bring some trauma recovery to the community by hosting some seminars using the trauma/reconciliation materials of Rhiannon Lloyd. We hear of sex trafficking and abduction of women by militias. Our time is short but we do have some good conversation with them. Nice to meet Baraka Kasali, the son of the rector and someone who clearly was raised in the US but using his talents in this small area. Also, met an American, Bethany Earickson who teaches English here.
Our time is short so we say our goodbyes (after using the pit toilets), pile back in the car and head back to the MAF plane awaiting our trip to Goma. We arrive at Goma around 1:00pm. Sadly, it was raining and so we did not get a view of the massive volcano just outside Goma. Instead we dodged clouds, flew over high peaks and Lake Albert, and then flew just above the tree tops to avoid turbulence.
First sights at the airport are rusting UN aircraft, lookouts, someone who demands money for landing, and customs officials who laboriously re-enter all of our visa information. Our passports disappear and then reappear. Not sure what they do with them.The trip to the hotel is our first glimpse of this chaotic city. All streets are rutted with potholes and unpaved. Piles of lava chunks litter the streets. Besides potholes and lava, you see boys going in every direction pushing the congolese “bike” as they transport goods hither and yon?
We arrive at Hotel Linda by 2pm. Hotel Linda sits on the edge (literally) of Lake Kivu. It is a beautiful view and beautiful sound (waves). This will be our home base for the next several days. Kingfishers are sitting on flowers outside my room. I find that the hotel has a public computer and free (slow) internet so I quick pop off an email to my family to let them know we have arrived. We have time to rest and talk about what we have so far seen and heard and how we might develop a trauma curriculum for training the faculties of various schools. For dinner, I choose Capitaine fish (chunks not fillet) cooked in spices and a banana leaf. Excellent.
Tomorrow begins an intense time of listening to trauma workers and trauma victims.