5 o’clock in the morning at the SLC international airport, two weeks ago. I’m there with my 17 year old brother, Ryan who had been living with us for a few weeks. He was flying home to Zambia where my parents live. Walking back to the car a tear comes to my eye as I look up and see a plane taking to the sky. It was in that moment that I realized that the pandemic had in fact affected me, I had felt trapped. It was time to make a change, time for a new adventure.
Kigali Rwanda, August 2020
Fast forward 15 days to today. 5am (again) my son Tony and I are sitting on the couch eating honey roasted peanuts waiting for the sunrise. Eventually we see the sun peak over a hill in the distance. We are in Rwanda The Land of a Thousand Hills looking at a deep red colored sun rise into the big sky. A sun you can only see in Africa!
If you’ve been to Africa you don’t have to ask why we want to be here. It’s hard to explain the intrigue of Africa but Hemmingway felt the same way about Africa as I dol, “All I wanted to do was get back to Africa. We had not left it, yet, but when I would wake in the night I would lie, listening, homesick for it already”
Thanks to grandparents who lived multiple times in Africa as missionaries I was taught from a young age that Africa was a continent of mystery, adventure and full of the most humble and amazing people you’ll ever find. I will admit I was a bit disappointed when I discovered Tarzan was a fictional character but the rest of what I was taught seems to be true. The cultures, the language and the big open sky has a draw unlike any other place I’ve been.
Chobe river cruise, Botswana, February 2020
Angie and I took a family trip with our four kids from January to March of this year (2020) and we were able to visit nine counties, mostly in Africa. While there we spent some time with my parents in Zambia. They are serving as mission presidents for our church on a three year assignment and just completed their first year. Angie and I had this overwhelming feeling like we needed to temporarily move our family to Malawi to help them in the missionary effort. But on our way back from Africa while we were in Italy for about 10 days COVID19 hit hard and tried to delay our plans of moving (we left Italy two days before Italy locked down). It was a bit discouraging at times feeling like we were supposed to go to Malawi but given the current pandemic it seemed too crazy and much more difficult to get there. But, with faith and a lot of effort we decided to show our faith and start making it happen.
Rwanda is beautiful and even more importantly it’s borders are open to tourists… Also, my cousin Juan and his family have been living here for the past several years. It is great for us to be able to visit him and it allowed us to get to Africa sooner as we are waiting for Malawi to open to tourists. We started to get concerned that if the virus breaks out again in the fall that we would be stuck in the US. Plus, I’ve been to Africa several times since Juan has lived here and this is the first time I’ve visited him. We couldn’t have moved to Africa and not take the time to visit!
Jet-lag only lasted a couple days. We take no chances with mosquitoes and are so happy with these mosquito tents!
Yeah, it’s true it was difficult to get to Rwanda but obviously not impossible. First we had to have a negative COVID-19 test to take with us, completed within 72 hours of our first departing flight. Luckily by the time we were ready to go Utah was offering free testing with results back within 72 hours. All six of our results were back to us within 50 hours. We also had to complete what they call a passenger locator form online for Rwanda and submit our results and give them other important information. Plus every airport required a new health declaration form to be completed. Masks are required for all travelers above six years old in the US (our flight from SLC-JFK) and 10+ on KLM international flights.
Masks required for travelers over 2 yrs old
Stroopwafels in Amsterdam
Most Asians were in full hazmat suits
Besides one of our bags being left in New York and a two hour delay for our flight from Amsterdam to Kigali (passengers didn’t have their paperwork ready and six were denied boarding— my hours of research and prep paid off) we arrived without problems.
I LOVED traveling during the pandemic. The airports are empty, the lines are short, but the best part was the empty airplanes! We basically had 4 rows all to ourselves on each of our international flights. We were able to bring the car seat on board with us even though Rosie was a lap infant and technically didn’t have a seat.
Rwanda Entry Requirements
The view from our quarantine hotel in Kigali
Rwandan tourist visas cost $50 per person and last for 30 days with the option to extend (for a fee). Each of us had to show our negative COVID19 tests and give them our passenger locator number. We also had to show our booking confirmation from one of 17 hotels the government has given permission to host tourists. Each traveler coming into Rwanda is required to take a new COVID-19 test at their approved hotel and quarantine there for 24 hours until test results come back as negative. The tests cost $60 per person and just like before our trip, every traveler needs a test, even babies (NOT FUN!). In our case with a family of 6 and staying in one of the least expensive hotels available, it cost us about $1,000 just to enter the country.
We hope the Malawian borders will open soon so we can catch a flight to our intended final destination. In the meantime we are happy and safe and enjoying our time with our cousins Juan and Jenn and their kids in Kigali Rwanda. We are looking forward to traveling Rwanda a bit with them and trying to learn from their wisdom and experience living in Africa!