Bike Trip

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Taking the Long Way Home

Soo....lots to update about here as there have been a few changes going on the last month or two. Long story short, AirServ Goma is done. Not because anything has really changed, improved or that we're no longer needed, but because we lost our funding due to inane, 'humanitarian' world politics.

Things came to a pretty abrupt halt about 5 weeks ago. Everyone here knew things were looking bad but we all thought we had some time - a month, minimum - before we may have ceased operations. On a particular Saturday in early May I remember waking up and thinking that we probably had until the end of May. By breakfast we were told we were only going to fly until next weekend and by evening, sitting on the porch of the crew house in Entebbe I got the call to come back to Congo the next morning - Monday is the last flight. So a few of us packed up, went to the airport Sunday morning and flew back to Goma, my last flight in Africa. It was sobering flying that route across western Uganda, over lake Albert and Edward, Rutshuru, along smoking Nyiragongo and one last turn to final over Lake Kivu for RWY 36 into Goma.

And that was it. That night at the Lebanese restaurant in town we were officially informed that we were shutting down and to get in touch with Kim for a flight back to the states.

What a kick in the pants being told that you're losing your job, have to leave what has become your home, that you're being forced to go back somewhere that you don't want to go during a depressed economy that nobody's hiring in.

I wasn't ready to go back yet. I didn't want to be back in the States. Neither did Bruce. That night we stayed up talking about possibilities that could at least temporarily extend the adventure and avoid having to go back to the real world for a little while longer. We tossed out ideas of traveling for a couple of months in Africa, Southeast Asia and/or Europe. Eventually, somehow, we settled on biking (as in the pedaling, non-fossil fuel burning kind) across Canada. A couple of days later I had my bike and camping gear ordered and a train ticket from D.C. to Portland, Oregon.

The last couple of days were spent packing up and taking in as much of Congo and Africa as I could. A bunch of us took a boat across the lake to Bukavu for the last weekend to go see the mountain gorrillas. We spent a morning, three days before driving out of DRC for good, up on a 6,000' jungle mountain side sitting within arms reach of a family of gorillas, silver-back and all. It was indescribable.

Then back to the west. The land of superfluous SUV's, fast-food and grocery stores with enough food to feed a small village for a year. It was tough coming back but not as tough as I thought it would be. It would also be a quick visit to the U.S. Just a week back home before hopping on a train that would go across the country to begin the next adventure and long trek back home again.

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