So, on February 28th, Adam and I traveled from Charlottesville via car to Washington DC for my flight from Dulles to Brussels. It was a surprisingly stress-free experience. I'd been packing for so long (ummm... like a year?) and had perfect to do lists of what I would need to do prior to leaving, what Adam would need to do while I was gone, etc etc. I got accused by one of my adoptive traveling mama friends of being Type A... I didn't see myself that way, but it was possible that all the way up until my plane wheels were in the air that I actually was incredibly Type A! Once I had Jonathan in my arms, I promise that all changed.
At the gate, I met my awesome travel partner, Felice, who'd also been my late night Embassy calling partner for weeks prior, so despite meeting her at that moment officially, it felt like we'd been friends for years. We later said that being a part of one another's adoption seriously speeds up the friend quotient. There is no more being acquaintances when you've cried with someone over meeting their child for the first time.
Our plane was on time, our flight to Belgium was completely uneventful (I watched reruns of Downton Abbey and the movie Clueless, though I later found out that almost every single adoptive parent had watched Argo on the way over... apparently I was done with drama and needed a little levity in my life - thanks, Alicia Silverstone.) We arrived in Brussels and had to make the long hike (and bus ride) out to the far off terminal that had African flights. There we met up with some other adoptive moms who were going to Kinshasa for bonding trips or for community development. It was so great to start to meet some of the adoption community in person, finally. Thank goodness for Facebook profile photos, because we all basically knew one another right away.
The flight from Brussels to Kinshasa was much more comfortable (the flight was not crowded at all and I got a few seats to stretch out on). It was also easy and uneventful. Seriously, all of my travel to Kinshasa was so easy and almost relaxing. I paid for that relaxation on the flights home, but that's a story for later.
Felice and I weren't sitting together, but later we found out that we both cried when we landed in Kinshasa. There is a phenomenon that occurs on some plane rides where people returning home clap and yell in celebration when they land (this has happened a few times to me in the Caribbean and I've heard it always happens on flights into Puerto Rico). When all the Kinois folks on the plane start celebrating, I started crying. After more than 13 months, I was in the same city as my son. I was going to see his home country, meet his people, and learn more about DRC culture than any website or book could provide me. It was such a great feeling. Nothing could've happened at that moment to take away that joy.
Felice and I were both prepared for a crazy airport experience due to reviews from other traveling families. I don't know if we just got lucky (i.e. arriving at a quieter time of day), but our experience was super smooth. After passing Immigration, we found our protocol right away (I would always recommend a protocol - he was very reassuring to have around) and were able to relatively quickly get our bags (all 360 pounds of our luggage made it! Thanks so much Brussels Air - you're awesome.) After that, we were taken outside to meet our agency's coordinator, D. He was welcoming, if a bit reserved. We got loaded up and headed into the city.
We were told to expect at least a 1.5 hour car ride to our guesthouse... it only took 45 or so minutes. Again, everything really fell into place pretty easily for us. It was dark during the drive in so I couldn't see much, except for hundreds and hundreds of trash can fires on the sides of the main road and thousands of people milling about. Some seemed to be walking home but many were just socializing, it seemed like. The ride was a bit scary, but I'd seriously prepared myself for the driving "techniques" in DRC so I wasn't too shocked by the passing-a-car-in-the-oncoming-traffic-lane thing.
We arrived at Sunny Day Guesthouse, I was prepared for some big check-in procedure - not so much. The gate guard staff grabbed our bags, opened a few rooms up, taught us how to cut on the AC and the WiFi passcode and we were set.
So by this point, everyone who knows me well expected I would be immediately jumping the shower (I take two showers each day on most days, and by this point I'd been about 30 hours without one). Well, I didn't. First, I skyped Adam to let him know that I'd arrived. Apparently, he got next to no sleep because he kept checking the flight tracker through an app on his iPad. When we finally spoke, it almost 10pm my time, so they'd all been waiting (anxiously) to hear from me. We were lucky to have a fairly good Internet connection at Sunny Day, for most of the time, so we could use Skype and FaceTime fairly often.