Landing at the Kilgali (Rwanda) International Airport at night is unlike any other airport landing I have experienced in the past first half of my life. The pilot having made his announcement that we were about to land, the thump of the landing gear having reverberated through the plane, I watched as the lights of Kigali came in view, apparently still several hundred feet below us. Then the thud of wheels hitting the tarmac and still the lights of the city looked like they were two or three hundred feet below us. They were--the airport sits atop a ridge, and the runway we used did not appear to be very wide. There was a driving rainstorm and one could have thoughts of the plane skidding and crashing down the hillside. Of course I did not have such thoughts, being ever positive and free of any anxiety of any kind, except where anxiety is called for, as determined by me.
Ever reliable Kassim was there to meet me and quickly shuttled me to the Gorilla Hotel. As I walked into the cozy but efficient reception room, the desk clerk and his assistant greeted me with "Bonsoir, Mr. Kerry." And they were the same staff that greeted me 17 months ago. The porter carried my large duffel up three flights of stairs to my room, amazingly the same room I had occupied on my first stay at Gorilla Hotel. I made a quick inspection, and yes, the sheets had been changed! Actually, I had no anxiety about the cleanliness of the room. Kigali is one of the cleanest, if not the cleanest, cities in Africa, and the business enterprises reflect that concern for cleanliness. Indeed, on my first trip to Rwanda, I was carrying a box of Belgian chocolates in a plastic bag. I was required to throw away the plastic bag before going through passport control. You will not see plastic blowing around the streets of Kigali, which prides itself on environmental protection.
After getting settled in my room, I went to the charming little restaurant at the rear of the hotel. Once again, familiar faces, some of the save servers and busboys as when I was last there.
Although it has been said that familiarity breeds contempt, and perhaps that is true for house guests who overstay their welcome, being greeted with familiar sights and sounds in a foreign country is very warming and reassuring. I had a couple of Primus beers, THE beer in Congo, some frites and enjoyed watching the diverse patronage. To my immediate left, three German men; across from me, a boy of about 12 or 13 engrossed in his laptop, drinking tea and what appeared to be fried bananas; also across from me and to the left, three young women in a lively conversation in French, with as much being said with hand and finger gestures like little birds darting about as with words. I could catch a few words, but their speech was so animated and so fast, that I was at a loss for efficient eavesdropping.
Tomorrow Kassim picks me up a 9 for the trip to Goma. And then the work begins. Pray for the women of the Congo, who are the greatest victims of rape, discrimination and injustice, but who also are the Hope of the Congo. And on that note, I sign off for now, urging you to read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDun, who make a plea for us all to do something to help rescue women and children from violence, rape, discrimination, and injustice.