Ann Marie Thomson is co-founder of Giving Back to Arica. She was born to missionary parents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and lived there until she was 18. Upon returning to the DRC in 2005 she was struck by the staggering lack of access to education and was determined to do what she could to make a difference in the country that had given her so much.
This post is the first in a series we will be publishing of Ann Marie's reflections on her return to DRC in January 2011.
Tuesday Jan 11, 2011 - Day one DRC
Exhausted from a 22 hr flight from Indianapolis to Addis Ababa to Kinshasa, we stepped off the stairs and our feet touched the ancient Congo earth. This is always a holy moment for me. For Michael and Marty, the first time ever! The usual hot smells of Congo hit me like they always do – palpable as a brick but permeable, nevertheless, and welcoming. The first step on Congo soil already introduces the dominant reality of life in Kinshasa for me – PARADOX.
Ndjili – Congo’s infamous airport -- a mass of hustlers, soldiers, squeezing you in despite everything you do to avoid them, a mass of humanity, all doing everything they can to make something, anything, off of the rich folks coming off the plane; even 500 congo francs (45 cents) is worth it – at least that can buy a “sucre” (fanta). It’s a kind of dance with lots of laughing, jostling, negotiating, and an underlying seething anger, too…if you know the game you can make it just fine; if you don’t, chaos…
But this time, it was a new place – hard to believe! Orderly, no one allowed but official “welcomers” called “protocol”, gone were all the hustlers and police (except a few). I couldn’t believe it. It was almost as easy as being at the Indianapolis Airport. AND all our luggage arrived!
But everything else I love about Congo remained, the smells, the laughter, the craziness with its own rationality that defies definition. We arrived safely at Danielle and Vinson Anderson’s home, warmly welcomed by their staff. Thanks to Danielle, a GBA volunteer here in DRC, I could already feel this trip would be less stressful than all our previous trips. What a wonderful gift to an exhausted group of 4!