Friday, June 12, 2009

This is Africa (T.I.A.)

Written Thurs, June 11, 8 AM—On bus full of OLPC group members heading to the KIST (Kigali Institute of Science and Technology) for another IT seminar. Driving through the heart (but not the downtown) of this unbelievable city with a dark and unassuming history. 

I’m alive and well. Thanks for everyone’s patience and support. It’s been a long few days here in Kigali with, ironically, very little Internet access. I want to thank everyone who has held me in their prayers over the last few very difficult days—both in regards to Africa and in regards to Edmonton. We can only do this as a family, together, with justice, love—and forgiveness. From now on, though, I will not mention anything about the incident, other than to say that I am deeply heartbroken and amiss. This has changed me forever but the value of life has not only been preserved, it has been strengthened. Please smile a little longer today.

 Africa. Kigali. Rwanda. Beauty. Despair. Compassion. Change. Development. These are all simultaneously occurring realities in this country. But before that, let’s talk logistics.

 The 15-hour flight from Boston to Jo’burg was turbulent. I fear flying, although at this point I don’t know exactly how much I fear. It was a long flight, throughout the night, with decent food but little shut-eye. There were many interesting people on the flight: some Americans who were on a medical mission going to Durban, others who were Caucasian South Africans going back to SA, and other Indian SA citizens (when the Brits colonized India, they sent laborers to SA, their other lucrative colony. As a result, Indians are a significant minority in South Africa and have mated with both whites and blacks to create a sort of mestizo race of people living in the country, wealthier and usually higher in rank than the majority of SA-in blacks.) Others on board were there either to watch or play in what is most likely a preliminary round of matches for the SA 2010 World Cup, known as the Confederation Cup. It’s held in Jo’burg and surrounding area from June 14-24. There are some all-star players arriving for the matches, and I’ll be sure to take pics when I watch a match in the coming week. I leave here on the 18th and my deployment begins the day after for two months in Soweto.

We landed in Jo’burg right on time. Initial aerial view of the city was reminiscent of Edmonton: hills, flatlands, agricultural land. Once in the Jo’burg airport, we got our first taste of SA. The airport is so beautiful—very vast and modern. Maegan, you will appreciate the aesthetic simplicity and conservation of the design of the air conditioners: they protruded from the pillars in the airport like bubbles. I don’t have a picture, though. Sorry love.

 We arrived at the Jo’burg airport on the 6th, and, my, oh my, what a luxurious place. We were going to stay at the InterContinental (practically physically attached to the airport) but it was close to 3,000 Rand (SA currency, approx. 8:1 Rand to American conversion) per night for one room, to be shared among my two group members, the couple John and Anastasia. We instead took a shuttle to the Sun Sunrise hotel that was equally prestigious (far from searching for luxury, we were very tired and didn’t want to travel far—esp. not into the crime-ridden city center—because we had a flight to catch to Kigali through Nairobi the next afternoon). Needless to say, the shower was nice, the bed plush, and the food plentiful and Western. Initial reactions of SA-ans is warm, yet we were there for such a short time I cannot truly say. The airport had a Muslim prayer room in it and people seemed to look less exhausted than Americans. God knows what many of the have been through, though. I want to move ahead in the blog so very badly but there is so much to say that I will keep it in order…and speed it up.

 I read the English-language newspaper at breakfast and the Confed Cup was all over the news; Also news of ANC rivalry with another political party or a branch of the bureaucracy. The newspaper is wider than Western papers. I miss the newspaper—both in anticipation of it’s possible demise and the literal lack of having read anything recent in the last little while, other than Mandela’s ‘Long Walk to Freedom,’ which is a fascinating and simple read.

The flight was from Jo’burg to Nairobi was very smooth and we were fed multiple times as well as offered unlimited alcohol, something in which I did not indulge—until Nairobi, where I tasted my first African style lager; T’was nice.

I am continuing to write now but I want to get something up on the blog so stay tuned.


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