Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Adventure Begins

Aug 6 - Aug 8, The Adventure Begins!

Shane, Alexis, Keighley, Amanda and I left Fowler at 6:15 and had an uneventful drive to Wichita (thanks for driving us, Shawna!) and boarded our flight to Chicago. We were a bit nervous because we only had 40 minutes between flights and O’Hare is a huge airport. We made it there on time...and our flight was delayed. We finally got to Dulles in Washington DC and met Katie and Abby, the other two teenagers on the trip. We caught a shuttle to the hotel and waited for the rest of the team. We had planned to meet at 6:30 for dinner, but almost every flight had been delayed. At 7:30 those who were there (the Fowler crew, Amy, Carmen, Katherine, Danellia, Katie and Abby walked to McDonalds. We had a great time getting to know each other, then walked back to the hotel...through the rain!! We decided it was just preparing us for the rainy season in Africa!
Tena, Beth, Jill, Miranda, Chris and Jenn arrived later that night.

We woke up early the next morning to board our flight. The Fowler team and Miranda were the only ones who were able to send their luggage all the way to Kigali, so we had a lot of luggage to get to the airport. We made it in two trips in the hotel shuttle. Shane took the first group, I followed with the second. When my group arrived, we had a bit of a problem. The back of the shuttle was full of our luggage. Behind the last row of seats was a plexiglass shield. The door to the back of the van was jammed! Shane tried to help the driver open it but it wouldn’t budge. After 30 minutes and a borrowed screwdriver from airport security, they were able to remove the plexiglass, and remove the suitcases. Whew!!

We were able to get our team checked in, and other than a $150 fee for Carmen’s extra suitcase, it went very smoothly. Tena had one bag that was overweight, so we distributed the extra weight to a few of the carry on bags. Shane and I were the last of the group to head to the gate. On the way there, we got a call from Amanda telling us that Alexis had been stopped at security. She had taken some of the extra luggage, and had a bag of lotions that were in Tena’s donation bag. We told them that we had some extra baggies and could split them between us. When we got to security, they were nowhere to be found! We called them back and somehow they had ended up at security on the other side of the airport. It was getting dangerously close to boarding time, so we told them to leave the lotions behind and get to the gate. We finally made it to the gate just as the plane was starting to board. We said a quick hello to Tina, Debbie and Melinda and boarded our flight.

We had a 14 hour flight to Ethiopia, then a layover in Addis. We were all a bit tired at that point. I told everyone we would have a chance to eat, shop a bit and get online once we reached the airport, but they sent us to terminal one, which didn’t even have a vending machine, let alone internet access. After an hour sitting in the smoky waiting area we loaded our last flight to Kigali. We made it safely, but the whole team was exhausted, a bit nauseated, dehydrated and cranky. We did get every piece of luggage (yay!) and met Jane in the lobby.

We were planning to check in at the hotel first, but decided we needed to get to the genocide memorial before it closed. We grabbed some water, coffee and smoothies at the cafe, then went inside to the memorial. It was absolutely heartbreaking. There are 293,000 people buried in mass graves at that site. The guide did a great job of telling the story of the Hutus and Tutsi tribes (we were so tired from the flight, many of us had a hard time keeping our eyes open while he talked).

Finally, we arrived at our hotel. It was beautiful! We stayed in apartments in groups of four. Ate dinner together, then finally went to bed.

Tomorrow we visit our first orphanage, Kimisagra, in Kigali.

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