Monday, May 9, 2011
PWETO, Democratic Republic of Congo
May 9, 2011
Well it has been one week and one day since I arrived in the DRC and has been and continues to be a long journey… I was in Lubumbashi for five days; 3 days longer than anticipated but that is par for the course. The purpose of my stay there was to register The REEL Project with the DRC government. We started the process months ago but that never really means anything, unfortunately. Once everything was in place, more or less, I made an appointment with the head of office at the UNHCR. I met with the director and had a most interesting and enlightening meeting. We first discussed transport…how was I to get from Lubumbashi to Pweto and Pweto to Moba (where Marisa is and our work!). Because we are post rainy season, the roads are worn from the rain and what would ‘normally’ take 6-8 hours from Pweto to Moba it is now an estimated 11-14 hour drive! That being said, all the UN flights were booked and or not operating so we found a junction going to Mansa which is in Zambia, about 5 hours south of the Zambia/DRC border. We were ‘scheduled’ to leave Friday morning at 830am but, as per the photo above we had car problems and we didn’t get on the road until almost 1130am… because we were going via Zambia, the UNHCR had to issue me a ‘cross-border’ pass which acts as a passport of sorts and allows me to cross Zambia/DRC borders according to the Geneva Convention treaty (because I am working with refugees etc.) in order to get this however I had to travel to Kipushi which is about 30 kilometers outside of Lubumbashi. THANKFULLY Mr. Lumbala who is a dear friend, colleague and former refugee- he has a car and was, has been and continues to be a great source of support, guidance and friend. Lumbala, Mr. Anthony (head of security, UNHCR L’shi) and I all traveled on Thursday to Kipushi and my cross-border was processed. Upon our return Lumbala and I had a full day of meetings and running around along with translations etc. trying to get things in place for the registration process or TRP and preparations for my departure the following day. Antoine Ngeleka left Thursday for Kinshasa so we were on our own more or less….what a day!
We arrived in Mansa hungry and exhausted around 730pm. We made our way to the guesthouse and dropped our bags and went straight to a near by restaurant. After eating a full meal, I was in la la land and ready for a good nights rest. We met the AIDES people whom the junction would take place with the following morning, and we set a time for 830am departure. Once again, problems with organization, cars etc… and we were finally on the road by 1130am. Only one stop mid way to Pweto and our car wouldn’t start. Lol, problem is, it is difficult to find ‘clean’ petrol (fuel) and thus every time the tank is filled (with dirty fuel) the fuel pump gets clogged, well then we are forced to stop and pump, sometimes clean the pipes and give ourselves a push to get going again…this delayed us only about 30 minutes and we were on our way again. The border of Pweto and Zambia closes at 5:30pm ON THE DOT and we were racing with time trying to make it. We arrived JUST in the nick of time and crossed by 5:24pm….whooosh! Mr. Angeleka (Antoine’s dad) was waiting for me at the border with Rudy, Antoine’s 6 year-old son.
Ok, well it’s mid day on Monday and I have some transportation organizing I must attend to so I’ll sign off for now, and will have a full update in a couple of days (hopefully!).