Leaving during Lock-down

Kinshasa

Back in Kinshasa at least 50% of people wear masks, but the best service the masks render is to catch sweat coming off the chin.  The freedom of mouth and nose are unimpaired.

I was in Kindu, in the interior of DR Congo, the province of Maniema.  When I said I needed to travel despite the lock-down – There was a way.  Leon Salumu slipped into his “make things happen” mode.  I could fly as “cargo”.

He got me the papers at DGM in Kindu (an agency that controls immigration …internal and external).  It was a family emergency: Daughter pregnant, 3 weeks from delivery of first child, and her partner just diagnosed with 4th stage cancer.  But all DGM needed to know was “sickness in the family”.

As to Covid-19 in Congo, I had been up-country in Kindu since March and so far there were no known cases in Kindu; out in the villages there was a very vague idea of what Covid-19 might be.  Is it Ebola?  

Looking at the whole of DR Congo, the country has reacted correctly – so far.  Despite the first case detected early in March, on August 7th, in the whole country only 218 deaths are recorded.  Of the 9,355 known cases, 7,734 are in Kinshasa.  But it is spreading. There may still be an approaching crisis as the country will soon open up.

I am now in Kinshasa; I came as “cargo”:  Thank you Leon!

waiting at the airport

Saying good-bye to Leon in Kindu. I too, have pulled my mask below my chin!

cargo on the tarmac

Getting on the GomAir Congo Flight.

The plane started in the wrong direction – east to Goma to get more cargo.

I thought I would get off the plane – GomAir crew said “no”; I was legal in Kindu, but they did not want problems in Goma.  And the stevedores told me and my fellow cargo passenger to get way in the back while they loaded on three cars …

loading underway

First car and filling in with cargo.

full cargo

And then more and more cargo

The stevedores said I could hop into the vehicle for a more comfortable ride, but I preferred staying in reach of the back door. I found myself a comfortable seat for the 3 1/2 hour ride on a collapsed trunk.

IF there was a lavatory it was way up front.  I boarded at 11:30 AM, got off the plane at 7:30 PM and managed to find a bathroom in the abandoned Kinshasa airport. Then I waited, perched on the curb in an empty parking lot, reading my kindle as Matthieu, who came to meet me, advanced meter by meter through gridlock traffic.  

Welcome back to Kinshasa!  It was more than four months since I saw the Kinshasa staff.

I received a delorme (satellite) message from John who is moving down the Lomami: 

“How pandemic evolving? Unrest USA? You travel in dangerous times my love”

I had a covid-19 test in Kinshasa.  I walked in at 9AM, I was tested at 9:20 and I had my results that afternoon.  No Covid. Negative. 

Official air traffic opens on the 15th of the month, but Air France is running a flight through Kinshasa on the 10th.   It mandates a mask at all times, except when eating.  I’ve bought a face shield too.

We know we are in strange times.  Times when the Mom-Grandma in me pushes me forward, masked and shielded, home to what has become a wound on the earth, the USA.  Times when an old lady like me, 68 this November, must beware of the infectious danger I might pose to a young, immunocompromised, loved-one on chemotherapy.  May our choices be right. May we all heal.

8 Comments

  1. Posted 2020-08-08 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Bless you Leon!
    Safe travels Terese.
    We await you ‘from a distance” (6 feet).

  2. Joan Strassmann
    Posted 2020-08-08 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Oh, so sorry to hear! So glad you will be able to make it to your daughter. What a difference you make on so many fronts! Glad Congo is doing better than USA. We just stay home or go camping.

  3. Daniel Alempijevic
    Posted 2020-08-08 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I am so sorry to read this. My thoughts are with you and your family. Safe travels, hope to see you soon.

  4. Posted 2020-08-08 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Safe travels and thoughts are with your daughter, her partner and your grandchild soon to come into this world. We have such responsibilities to next generation to bequeath them a world worth living in. Let’s hope that world still includes bonobos, okapi, and some intact equatorial forests and rivers.

  5. Cindy Salo
    Posted 2020-08-08 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Terese and all,

    My thoughts are with you. Safe travels. I’m holding you all in the light.

    Cindy

  6. Bob Gorman
    Posted 2020-08-09 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    Safe travels, Terese.

    My thoughts go out to your family in the USA, and my thanks for all your remarkable work in TL2 and beyond.

    Bob

  7. Paul Falay
    Posted 2020-08-10 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Nous sommes de coeur avec vous, baba et à toute la famille aux USA pendant ce moment difficile que vous traversez.
    Bon voyage et courage Maman
    PF

  8. Kate Detwiler
    Posted 2020-08-10 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Safe travels, Terese. As always, thank you for sharing your story! Thinking of you all and looking forward to news of your arrival.

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