(Written 7/2/16…there is internet but it’s slow and I’ve not had much time to connect between visiting and working)
I’ve been away for as long as I was here. So much has changed, yet almost nothing has changed. I’ve changed in many ways-physically, emotionally, spiritually) and people here have changed in similar ways. The climate and the culture are still the same, which doesn’t surprise me. Things still run on “African Time” (what we time oriented people would call “late”). This can range from the expected time of arrival to an event to how long it takes to run errands. I have to remind myself when I make a “to do” list that I should keep it very short, and be happy if I get just one thing on it done each day, because errands and other tasks just take longer here.
The last 2-3 hours of my flight from Paris to Brazzaville seemed to take FOR-E-VER. I was so eager to see my Congolese family that I could no longer rest. We finally landed in Brazzaville. All the sights and sounds of the airport were so familiar, except for the nurses handing out health questionnaires (a result of the recent Ebola epidemic, but the screening is now rather lax). The heat and humidity of the immigration area closed in on us as we joined the line to have our yellow cards checked and passports stamped. Once through, we waited with all the others for our luggage. This takes some time as though there are fully functioning belts that look quite nice and remain in working condition, the luggage is unloaded from the plane into large carts and then pushed/pulled by airport personnel to the airport, then manually unloaded.
As we left the baggage area to proceed through customs, I dreaded taking off our 8 pieces of luggage and passing them through the x-ray scanner (a procedure I’ve found to be hit or miss-sometimes requested, sometimes not). This time, a somewhat familiar face greeted me and read my letter of invitation. He was familiar with Impfondo as his brother works at our hospital. I know his brother well, he works in the workshop, with the chaplains, and has made multiple dresses for me in the past. He resembled his brother very much! He let us through without requiring they go through the x-ray machine.
Finally, I saw them-my “other” family-Yvonne, Octavie, and Guylvi. They had been waiting for about an hour and half by the time we got everything and saw them. Oh, it was so wonderful to see them! I had tears in my eyes! We chatted a bit and then soon were off to Hotel Bravo together, where we got to visit a bit more before they had to take off. We had some time together on Sunday, but still not as much as I would like. I will have more time to visit with Guylvi and his parents as he is coming back to Impfondo on our flight. I realized after we left that I did not get a picture of all of us together. I am sad for that.