Traveling out of the DRC

Have you ever left the DRC? If you said yes, you’re one of the lucky ones. Most of those born here never leave.

I guess I’m one of the lucky ones today.

Driving to the airport is always a strange feeling. You leave behind so many things. You also see so many things on your way out.

As you slowly leave Gombe, you’re filled with dread that there will be traffic and you won’t reach the airport in time or that a cop will stop your car, or maybe you will have an accident and miss your flight.

Slowly but surely your driver is able to weave his way through the chaos. You’re so glad you don’t have to drive yourself in the dark and through the millions of cars, motorcycles and pedestrians all over the place in near total darkness.

I noticed some soldiers today. I wasn’t sure why there were so many or why a government presidential bus was driving next to us empty.

Eventually I got my answer. A whole convoy of 20 or so big SUV type cars were speeding past us. I later found out that the president was arriving from Ethiopia and was about to land.

I looked at my driver John (not his real name), and we just laughed. It was just another crazy day in the DRC.

When you reach the airport, there is a sense of dread that you will have to discuss and haggle with every single person there.

Luckily, a protocol guy, Bob (not his real name) who you know is there and helps you through in exchange for “whatever you want to give him” as he says. You also overhear some Lingala from the aviation officers who look at your passport every 10 meters that they’re expecting some cash in return from Bob.

There is an air of need with every officer. A desire to ask you for something, a coffee, a 1000 francs. But they don’t. They think you’re white and you won’t understand and you’ll judge them. But speak a bit of Lingala and you’re one of them in a way and they relax. They smile. Maybe you can be friends they think. Who knows. Is it a real friendship? It could be I guess. I could be totally wrong. It’s just a feeling I guess.

Anyways. I’m through the whole ordeal which wasn’t so bad this time.

I sit down deep in my thoughts. Not sure what I think about this place and if I’ll ever leave it. Maybe someday I’ll get on a plane and never return. How would I feel? Most likely sad but also happy as well.

What about you? What do you feel when you leave the DRC? Do you miss it? What do you miss? What don’t you miss?





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