When you’re out at sea for a couple of weeks, you start to wonder what walking on solid ground will feel like. In particular, you wonder if your inner ear is just going to keep sloshing around, convincing your brain to tell your feet that they’ve got compensating to do. Making you look like a wandering drunk. Stability suddenly seems significantly superior, yet remains illusive.
When we arrived, we had what we would classify as an impressive welcome waiting for us on the dock. The government sponsored our arrival ceremony. They laid out quite the spread. There was a military band, a catered meal, and a mass of media like I’ve never seen waiting for us. And as usual, I was one of the first to touch Congolese soil (though in a different capacity this time).
I hit the ground running. There were twenty-something media representatives on the dock with whom I got to speak. They were all really friendly, although pretty disappointed that they wouldn’t get a tour of the ship immediately. They did try to bum-rush the gangway at one point. Aside from that little fiasco, everything went smoothly on my end. In fact, everything went smoothly from every angle.
We have this team that goes into countries before we get there, they’re called our Advance Team (which makes sense), and they’ve done a wonderful job squaring things away for us to bring the ship in. They take care of visas, licensing the Land Rovers, getting water, fuel, SIM cards, pretty much everything ahead of time so we can keep on moving, even after the ship stops.
They were here for months before the ship pulled into port, and we’re so grateful for the massive workload and long days it took to get it all done. And, of course, it’s just great to be reunited with them at last!
I’ve already had a conference call with the French TV station coming next month, and Coca-Cola dropped in on us today to talk about upcoming events. While it was unfortunate that the president couldn’t make it, we have already had a lot going on. Day one and I was already arranging an interview with our founder, Don Stephens.
And let’s not forget the people I’m already meeting in town! It’s been a whirlwind and we haven’t even been here a week. I’m really grateful though. I’ve already met some really amazing people, and I feel a deeper burden to immerse myself in Congolese culture than I ever have before when in an African country. I don’t know what that’s all about. Maybe it just took me this long to feel like I really need to dive in, but it’s there. It will be a challenge to balance everything as I move forward, but I’m excited to see what the next ten months bring!
I’m really looking forward to the hospital opening and all of the cool people coming to visit (not to mention the amazing folks I work and live with, and the 200 or so day crew who just started working this week)! Here we go, Congo!