Tuesday, February 9, 2016


All aboard!
Today is Saturday, February 6th it’s 7am, we’ve been up…well, let’s just say most of the night, lol. We left the Accord hotel yesterday about 930am, late start to say the least. By the time we reached the border it was almost 3:30pm. Our driver, Theo’s phone wasn’t going through so we kind of just waited around, got our exit stamps and then we were greeted by a young man named Levi. He said he was the one waiting for us to take us to Uvira. The guards wouldn’t let any one car go across the border so we hired a bike pusher or a ‘kinga’ to take some of the luggage and we all walked across with the rest of the bags. Upon saying goodbye to our driver Joseph, we tried to pay him another installment but he wanted more money, so sadly we said we would just give what we owe to his boss upon our return. It was upsetting because we really got to know him over our 6-hour drive and shared stories etc… We will most likely take a bus on our way back as we won’t have as many bags and we will be in no rush.

Once we crossed the border it was more or less smooth sailing to the Fizi hotel, it took just under 2 hours of driving that would bring my mom to her knees lol. With the occasional stop for roasted corn and bananas to help with our hunger, it was a straight shot. Oh, and we had to pass through a river- literally through a river lol, not over a bridge.

The Kinga, getting our
bags across the border
As soon as we got to the hotel I asked for some hot water, Rocco and I shared a cup of noodle and showered (with cold bucket water!) and fell asleep. Ethan and Kaka went downstairs and waited about two hours for fish and foo foo. Once he came to the room we were out cold, all three of us. Until about 2am….then the electricity went out which means the fan went which means we all started sweating throught the sheet. So Ethan got up to open some windows (we were securely under the one mosquito net!), and the rain started down. It was pouring, thundering, lightening, we all woke up including Rocco. We watched a bit of the storm show then fell back asleep till about 3:30am when a very loud car pulled up off the main highway and started yelling, music blaring etc. We had a laugh and summed it up….T.I.A (this is Africa). Not even 20 minutes later Ethan jumped up in a fright and turned on his flood light only to find a cockroach about three inches long- 3 INHCES, that was IN OUR BED! He felt it crawling on him and well; let’s just say its life was short lived after that.

Rocco and I have been up since just before 6am and we are awaiting hot water so mom can have some coffee before getting our day, i.e., long journey part two, started!

The boat will leave later this afternoon and arrive in Kalemie tomorrow early morning, around sunrise.  Today is a lot of organizing, admin computer work!

And, as I sit here looking out into the streets of Uvira, smelling the rainy wet streets and surrounding fires burning, I can’t be any happier to be exactly right here, right now.
Ethan in the background,
crossing Rwanda/DRC border
Sunday, Monday & Tuesday February 7-9th, 2016
Today is actually Tuesday; we were on the OKAKO (boat) all day and night Sunday. When kaka got back to the Fizi with our tickets he had some bad news…there were no ‘rooms’ available so, he got the ‘first class seats’ on the boat. Which just means we are upstairs instead of downstairs and paid $4 more for each ticket basically, to have a chair. This really was bad news because after the sleepless night prior, I think we were all kind of looking forward to a little shut-eye. We got to the port early, partly because we had no choice as we had to check-out of the hotel, secondly, we needed to get our places on the boat to store our ridiculous amount of luggage (9 bags now including carry-ons)…sigh.
The port was, as usual, a complete mad house. Rocco of course fell asleep en-route to the port in the taxi van, so I was occupied with him. Thankfully, and really, I am EVER so thankful! For Ethan and kaka as I literally sat on a rock next to ladies selling ground-nuts and water while they had each and every bag checked by the DGM then organized the storage of the luggage for the entire trip- I only boarded the boat with a sleeping Rocco once everything was settled. Of course we were also the first ones on board, which was fine because as you can see from the pictures it was not an easy task getting on board this boat!
Rocco woke-up shortly after 2 hours and the boat, which was supposed to depart at 5pm only left 10 to 6pm local time.  We met some new people and said hello to a few familiar faces, got situated took a few pictures and then ordered our much anticipated beans and rice (which we were certain would take a few hours- at least). By 8:30 pm we were enjoying our lunch/dinner, (just shy of 2 hours). Then, the news of the match (DRC vs. Mali) came through the radio and the entire boat was soon consumed with cheer and celebration. Even Rocco was yelling goal and cheering, success for Congo!
Luggage- yikes
Finally, arriving in Kalemie
By 9pm we were tired, long day the long journey was in motion and it was time to close our eyes, windows open and the breeze was fantastic and fresh.  Only I couldn’t sleep L I couldn’t get comfortable, we made Rocco a bed out of two of the four seat so he could sleep (and boy did he!), Ethan and I shared our space and kaka found a couple empty seats he was able to stretch out on.  Soon our surrounding area was emptying seat after seat and as I looked around I looked down and noticed everyone had made makeshift beds on the ground and they were sleeping on the life vests. I was tempted but since I had seen a cockroach or two crawling around earlier I just couldn’t muster the act…until I couldn’t take it anymore that is! I was so tired, tears were beginning to form and in seconds I was laying on the floor, in between the four chairs sprawled out on three open life vests, fast asleep. Rocco rolled right down on top of me within maybe an hour of my slumber and with that we were two snuggling sleepy slumbers’. I stayed this way till about 3:30am with the occasional (every 20 minutes) position change to the position of back pain, lol.  We were up by 4:30am, Rocco and I, kaka and Ethan joined our morning party by 6am and we all felt fresh albeit still exhausted.

The boat was scheduled to arrive in Kalemie at 7:30am but we only got in around 9am, even then we were unable to get close enough to the port and literally were playing bumper ‘boats’ with one to the right and the rafiki to the left. Rocco said it best, ‘this captain is silly mommy’ lol. Again, when we finally did ‘arrive’ kaka and Ethan unloaded as Rocco and I waited in our seats, watched the mad house from the windows of the boat. Finally, after paying the guy who watched our bags throughout the night and jumping from our boat to the next finally to the ground (we were passing bags, babies, you name it!), we were in Kalemie!
So happy to be with friends in Kalemie!
Mama Tete was waiting for us, Rocco ran up to her to greet her yelling, ‘Mama Tete, mama Tete!’ it was too sweet. He has been asking about all of his ‘friends’ in Africa, and the anticipation to see them and play with them was killing him! Finally, getting to the house and greeting everyone, we showered, situated then I fell asleep for two solid hours lol. Kaka went home, Ethan and Rocco were downstairs when I woke-up waiting for Servant and Michelle to get home from school. Within minutes of me joining them the kids arrived and it was playtime! Mama Tete had the girls (mama Claude, mama Jeda, and her two daughters Aliance and Antoinette) prepare lunch/dinner. We were again- starving. By 6pm we were being served rice, beans, ‘sauce de tomat’ and koko (chicken- personally, I opted for a bag of soya for my protein!). Rocco of course, falls asleep in my arms AT THE TABLE just as I am filling my plate L and, he slept pretty much through the night - waking up twice once at 3 and 4am to play lol…he was so exhausted.
Papa Guy Marie arrived from Lubumbashi last night around 830pm, he was there for work (OCHA) and came up stairs to greet and welcome us. He had Ethan join him downstairs for a celebratory drink and I fell back asleep with Rocco. All the kids were playing with the toys Rocco brought and everyone was just happy, it was nice to fall asleep to.

I was up this morning at 6am on the dot feeling refreshed and thankful for a great night sleep (under a mosquito net as there are hundreds these rainy days! L), I made some coffee and started writing…Rocco woke up and we had oatmeal together and now he is downstairs playing with Evan, the youngest of the kids (cousin). The rest have gone to school for the morning and will return around 3pm.
Our view (for a few days!), thank you
Guy and Mama Tete!
Today is the beginning of a very long couple weeks- we have a lot to cover, prepare, plan and organize. My main concern as of now is weather! It has been raining daily, and it doesn’t look like it will be letting up any time soon. I briefly spoke with Guy last night and mama Tete yesterday about the road up to Nyunzu and they both said it was REALLY bad. Granted, once we arrive there we will be there for a period of one-two weeks (total in both locations), nonetheless, it’s getting there then finding a place where we can set up camp (i.e., sleeping in tents). So today we will go to UNHCR, then OCHA- hopefully connect to the Internet, and get this program moving!
It’s now almost 8am, I am going to get ready to jump on a motor taxi and head to the office, I have no sim yet so no local number and thus no way of getting in touch with kaka.
I will hopefully be able to connect today and we will get some answers as to our program for the next week at least. Then again, TIA and ‘programs’ always change J

Until next time,

 At UNHCR now, OCHA's Internet is down....met with head of office here and now with project manager who is on the phone tying to delay a truck heading to camps today for tomorrow- so we will have to purchase ALL of our latrine materials today and send on the truck tomorrow. Then they will arrange to get us (me, Ethan, Rocco and kaka) up to the camps where we will be for approx. 12 days. The partner organization will be IRD whom we will meet with the head of office after I finish here. 

playing with cousin Evan

:) This is such a crazy life/operation, I am constantly challenged but I enjoy it, I want nothing more than to see this project (and more) through to success. 

I can't be more thankful to everyone who supported this endeavor past present and future- the need is so great and the money is so small in comparison, it's uncanny how little can go SOOOOO FAR!!!!!!!
I can name every single person that has donated to this cause in particular and every single one of you have made and are making a difference. As I get to reap the thank you's on the ground here, I send to you Thank you. Thank you for your support, your compassion and perseverance in The REEL Project.
And for now, again, I am off. I don't know when I will have access again to Internet, possibly today, tonight or not for two weeks :-/

tutaonana baadaye!

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