Two weekends ago we traveled to Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to attend a wedding of a f/Friend of the Thomases. It is a 3 hour drive from Kigali to the North. The northern province of Rwanda is beautiful, it is where Akagera Park is (where the gorillas live) and where you can catch a glimpse of some impressive volcanoes.
We arrived in Gisenyi, a Rwandan town that is on the border, and met up with the group of pastors that we would travel to Goma with. We walked across the border (with no problems) and got picked up on the DRC side by someone from the wedding.
Goma, even though it directly borders Rwanda, is a very different place. It was clearly more impoverished. It was a dirtier place, and was constantly bustling with chaos. I noticed myself become physically uncomfortable once we crossed the border. It made me see how safe I have come to feel in Rwanda.
We first went to the legal/civil ceremony. This was held at some government offices and it was a communal gathering of about 7 couples. We waited there for hours, just watching some drunk old women play a drum and sing, all while being watched ourselves by at least 20 children standing less than a foot away from us. It was an interesting experience.
Then we made our way to the church for the religious ceremony. We got hauled up on stage to sit with the pastors. It was very interesting being the "guests of honor," even though we knew no one, especially the bride and groom. They even had us stand up and say hello from America. So America, you have now said hello to 150 people in Congo.
After the ceremony (which was full of dancing, drumming, sermons, and yet again, staring children), we walked to a school nearby for the reception. We were served a meal (just the white people and the pastors). After we ate we watched the bride and groom cut the cake, pour Fanta in each other's mouths, and then play "Simon Says" with the DJ. It was all very surreal mix of Western and African customs.
We had to hurry back to get across the border before it closed for the night. We had no problems getting back across and we were thankfully back in Rwanda.
We stayed in a great guest house that night and visited Gisenyi Friends Church the next day (and yet again, were asked to sit on stage).
The trip to Goma was a great experience. It is a place that has always intrigued me since it has been in the news so frequently over the years. I'm just glad we made it home to Kigali safely.