Ah! The plane is old, with notices written in Cyrillic but it is definitely not Russian. I don’t know where Congo purchased this plane from and i surely don’t know why it was such a nightmare to get seats on it! We have to pay extra for the excess weight we carry (lots and lots of solar lamps and water filters are with us) and we are told that some people’s bags were kicked out because of my extra heavy tote. Eek! I had combined the contents of three totes into two plus some extra things into Mandaba’s suitcase, as we are allowed only one piece each. It doesn’t matter how heavy the item is, as long as you pay. We sent the second tote by cargo the day before and hope it will arrive soonish.

We are the last on the plane but notice three open spots once we grab the two next to last seats of the plane. The last seat has its seat belt tied with the seat across the aisle, creating a barrier of sorts for the suitcases that didn’t fit under the plane. Our hand luggage and that of two other passengers is stowed on two of the empty seats, leaving one with no workable seatbelt free. Right before taking off, though, a man in a florescent vest rushes to that seat and sleeps the entire trip, mouth agape. The smell of fresh fish fills the back of the plane and I sit for 2.5 hours trying to ignore the smell. Mandaba doesn’t even notice the stink, even when I describe it. Not comprehending how this is possible, I try to sleep and manage about, as only a small person who can curl up in a tiny space, to catch a 30 minute nap, leaving me feeling good for the rest of the day.

The landing is super smooth and I watch as the red dirt rises up to greet us as we touch down. I love arriving here and in no time, am exchanging greetings with AFCA’s staff who have come to the airport. They are happy to see me, but are truly excited to see Mandaba, returning from the dead. Voices from every corner of the airport and down the road as we ride motorcycles to the office shout greetings of welcome to him. Police step out of their guard hut to wave and shout out his name and like royalty, he waves back as he roars away as he sits behind Jerome on his bike.

We made it and it sure feels good to be back.