I picked 14 K on the Brussels flight to Kigali on purpose. I wanted a window seat and to spread my legs out in front of me. I never get the chance to sit in the first seat in the economy class, but this time, the Plane Gods were on my side.
The trip to Rwanda from Brussels is a long one. It takes nearly as long to get from DC to London. But, damn, it is an amazing view. The flight takes you over Germany and its swirling fields of green, and Italy and the mountains still capped in snow, and then on to the vast blue of Mediterranean.
And, then there is Africa.
I will never forget the first time I saw this amazing continent.
I was sitting in my (fabulous) seat, writing, when I happened to look out the window at the most perfect time.
There, on the right side of the plane was the Mediterranean kissing Africa’s shore. The blue water turning green and lapping against the desert sand of the continent. And then, a vast field of peachgold desert and sand. Completely desolate. Immensely beautiful.
I am pretty sure we went hundreds of miles without ever seeing a single sign of life … just desert cliffs cut into desert and darker patches of desert.
A few hours after crossing into Africa, the sun began to set — a marvelous spattering of yellow fading into orange, fading into green, into blue, into purple and into the black night sky.
I am in the Southern Hemisphere.
Then, I looked at my watch. It was only 5 p.m.
What the hell?
By the time we began our descent into Kigali at 7 p.m., the sun was a distant memory. I surveyed the scene out of my window. Unlike landing in Las Vegas, where the cross sections of roads, the neon of The Strip, the black of the mountains, are all completely visible, all I could see here were scattered lights.
This is the capital of the country, and I could not even make out a building. Just what appeared to be roads climbing into hills, spattered with a few flourescent lights.
Completely different from any place I had seen before.
I didn’t even realize we were touching down until the wheels of the plane hit the surface, and the brakes kicked in (quite a forceful landing).
When we got out of the airplane and walked onto the tarmac, I was hit with a wall of amazement.
There, in front of me, was the tiny Kigali International Airport, just one building.
I went through security rather quickly — I had marked on my entry form I was a guest of the government on a mission, so the only question asked was where I was staying.
I grabbed my bag and was greeted by the Sports View Hotel’s driver who had my name on a piece of paper, along with another member of our blog trip, JD.
I stood, wide-eyed as I took in the scene.
A place I never imagined I would ever step foot, and now, there I was. Standing in Kigali’s parking lot, waiting for JD to clear customs, to start an adventure I could never have imagend in my wildest dreams, with people who were strangers, but would become friends.