We received our permission to travel on Wednesday, August 8th, and began the furious dash to finish our semesters of teaching, prepare triple copies of our documents, and pack enough clothing and basic food for ourselves and our kids, whom we had never met. In addition, we had over 100 pairs of flip flops collected by our church to take to the orphanage. The list was long, but the light weight flip flops kept our bags under weight. And because we were flying on a “humanitarian mission” we got to each check 2 pieces of luggage for free.
We left for Kinshasa on Sunday, August 12th. We flew through Washington, D.C. where we met another family traveling to go get their children. Then it was quickly off to Brussels, and then on to Kinshasa. I had considerable trouble in Brussels getting my Epi-Pens through security. They wanted to run them through the scanner, but the manufacturer states that it will degrade the epiniphrine, and recommends having it hand inspected instead. The officer refused to hand scan it. He said either it would go through the scanner, or he would confiscate it. I tried to explain that it was very possible that I would die if he did that, especially eating in a country in which I didn’t recognize the foods. I was about to give up, when Ken stepped in and demanded to talk to the supervisor. At first, the officer refused, but he eventually went and talked to the supervisor, who didn’t even come over to us — he approved the Epi-Pens outright. Praise the Lord. (It turns out, I was very fortunate to have it. Peanuts were hidden in dishes, and hazelnuts were served every breakfast.)
We left for Kinshasa, and arrived safely, and then the craziness began. We were able to enter the country with our visas, and found our driver holding a sign for us, and we were then escorted to an area to get our luggage. It was sheer chaos. My new best friend Jenny and I stood back and guarded our carry on luggage, while our husbands wrestled for our checked luggage. There was pushing, shoving, yelling, grabbing. Men jumped up on the center of the luggage carousel and tried to distribute the luggage. In the midst of all of this, Jenny and I lost track of our driver, a police officer helped us for a while, and then another person showed up looking for us. We had trouble getting a cart for our 8 gigantic suitcases and 8 carry-on pieces, but when we finally collected ourselves, our driver, and our interpreter, we realized we had to fit 6 adults and all of the luggage into a very small SUV (I think it was a CRV). We had a very special get-to-know-you well one hour ride to the convent.
The streets were crowded and dusty, but for the most part, I couldn’t really see much of anything. We were completely relieved to make it safely to the convent for one last night of sleep before our gotcha day.