The Other Side of Goma

The flight to Goma on Friday was uneventful.  I guess boring is what we typically aim for when making a flight.  I think I am slowly getting used to the chaos that is flying in Africa.  The weather was beautiful for the entire flight.  It was about the first time flying between Kinshasa and Goma that we didn’t have to do a bit of weather dodging. 

It was fun to see the other two pilots from the orientation class that I went through back in November in Virginia. 

On Friday night almost all of us went out for pizza.  It was an amazingly clear night and we could see the glow of the volcano reflecting off of the steam it continuously spews.  I didn’t imagine that I would be eating pizza in Africa.  It’s not quite the same as you’d get back home, but its still pizza.  In order to fully Africanize the pizza you must add the additional topping of Pili-Pili, which is ridiculously hot.  I have been told that the benefits of the Pili are many which include, repelling mosquitoes, preventing food poisoning, malaria and cancer, among other things.  I saw a few of the passengers that I had flown out to Goma previously there. 

A few of the pilots who had to fly the next day ended up heading home before us.  About a half an hour after they left, they were back and seemed a little shaken up.  They told us that we needed to leave immediately to go to the office compound.  This seemed a bit odd, so they explained that they were on the road home when they saw a military roadblock with something going on not far beyond it.  When the driver (local Congolese) saw this, he made a hasty U-turn and sped off back to the restaurant.  Apparently there was some sort of demonstration going on between where we were and the crew houses.  The military and police came in to get things under control.  They don’t have tear gas or bean-bag guns to disperse an unruly crowd so they make use of other tools.  I think the driver had good reason to not want to go anywhere near the activity. 

All of us were rounded up to make sure that we all made it into the Land Cruiser.  We stood around the truck waiting for a few stragglers and trying to figure out for sure where we were going to go.  About this time the skies seemed to open up and dump buckets of water on us.  We waited for ten or fifteen minutes for a plan to be made by our security coordinator and then joined up with an armed convoy that was going our way.  The convoy took a serpentine route through alleys and back roads to avoid where the activity was taking place.  It took a while, but we made it back to the houses without seeing anything of what was causing the problems. 

The next day we drove the route that was blocked on the way to the airport.  I couldn’t see any evidence of what had happened.  When most of the buildings are already derelict, I guess it’s hard to notice any new damage. 

It’s not easy to know if the reaction that our security coordinator had was a bit of overkill.  I have talked to several other expats from other NGO’s here in Goma that seem to think that Air Serv is overly paranoid when it comes to security.  Still, I would rather see an extremely cautious response than to have a situation ignored and presumed to be normal.  It is really easy to be here in Goma and appreciate the beauty and relative luxury and not be fully aware of the surroundings.  I suppose this is the type of thing we need to see every now and then just to remind us of where we are and how careful we need to be. 

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3 Responses to “The Other Side of Goma”

  1. mormor Says:

    Patrick, …….sounds like your time in Goma area was somewhat tense!! I am glad that Air Serv has strict security for the safety of their pilots and planes. It is nice that you can have some leisure time in Goma, sounds like a beautiful and unusual place. I always enjoy reading about your adventures, and remember……I am praying for you!

    love you, mormor

  2. Kristina Says:

    Seriously, Patrick. Every time I read your blog I get hungry. Glady you’re safe!

  3. Mom Says:

    We know that with God watching over you and protecting you and with Pili-Pili in your tummy—you will be fine! Have fun!

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