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Walking the Back Streets of Goma (East Africa Day 8 Morning: 2022-04-21)

Before breakfast, and like the previous day, I awoke, worked for a couple of hours, and then joined up with Phil and Sean for a walk. This time, however, we decided to be more deliberate in walking into areas that were less tourist and commercial (but staying within the safety boundaries suggested by the hotel). We headed north along the main road until we found a dark enough alley – and in this case, I’m referring to enough of the black, volcanic dirt for a road rather than something paved. It was great. We were able to interact with the locals by playing pool and soccer, and obtain a sense of what the real Goma is like behind the preponderance of NGO buildings on the main streets. (Sean suggested we play NGO bingo.)

(See more journaling below, but there are lots of photos.)

Our time in DRC was brief and World Relief was careful to keep us in relative safety, avoiding taking us outside of Goma. For example, World Relief even avoided letting us see the volcano, which was only 100 miles away. I quickly accepted this (albeit disappointed). However, this short walk around a poorer neighborhood of Goma was a highlight. It gave us a clearer picture of how the urban population lives than our mostly car-limited view the prior two days. Additionally, part of the walk took us along the DRC-Rwanda border. We could see the stark contrast between Goma, DRC and Gisenyi, Rwanda as we walked along the border, with wood “slum-like” housing on the DRC side and brick structures on the Rwanda side. The “satellite view” between on its own reveals the inequalities.

The satellite contrast between Goma, DRC (left) and Gisenyi, Rwanda (right)

Upon our return to the hotel we packed and grabbed breakfast before checking out and meeting our driver from World Relief. Checking out was somewhat painful as getting each receipt, of three, took nearly 10 minutes and yet when I went to the “payment” room they only charged me for two rooms. I questioned them and they said it was fine. Knowing that they were underbilling, however, I repeated and insisted they had made a mistake. They finally went to check and then wanted to reinvoice while I waited. We were running late so I insisted on paying and letting them figure out the invoicing process after I left.

Our driver took us to the border. Here, we left the car and walked through security with our bags while they scanned the car for misappropriate material. We then went through DRC immigration followed by Rwanda immigration. Since we have a multi-entry East Africa visa we hoped they would just let us in, but no such luck. The multi-entry East Africa visa allows you to pass between Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda an unlimited number of times, once you leave those three countries, the visa expires – so we had to get a new visa. And, hoping we were going to Burundi (but no East Africa countries) later that week, we opted for the multi-entry Rwanda visa, paying 70 USD rather than 50 USD. Our driver insisted on staying with us until we had completed the immigration process – which took about an hour, but now that we were done, we said good-byes and continued into Rwanda. Unlike on the DRC side, there were not motorcycle scooters (motos) waiting for passengers. However, we walked down the street a ways and found a taxi area. We negotiated the rate and then each boarded a separate moto for a ride back to the car (totaling 4.50 USD and about 10 minutes journey). I was happy that I finally got Phil on some local African transportation, but don’t tell his Cathy it was my choice to use a moto please.

Unfortunately, since we were late, we had to skip our planned swim in Lake Kivu and continue on our way to Ngororero for our meetings with GiveDirectly.

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