Graduate’s First Steps Story: Mordekay, DR Congo, 2022, Part 1

This week, ARI and American Friends of ARI are fundraising for rural leaders to travel to ARI, with our Little by Little fundraising matching campaign on GlobalGiving. Read our story and consider supporting them with a donation.

Spring marks a new class of participants at ARI. Rural leaders are preparing for their journey to Japan.  For some ARI participants, this is their first time on a plane. Others travel more than a thousand miles to attend the Rural Leaders Training Program in Tochigi, Japan, leaving their families and community work behind for 9-months. Today, we’re highlighting Mordekay’s story of him and Shukuru traveling from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rural leaders travel to ARI for the betterment of their communities. Here is the first part of their story.

It was like a dream for me, what a superb journey I made to ARI.

I left my hometown with a brother who has become a friend, a familiar figure, a comrade in struggle, Shukuru. 

After receiving my mother’s blessings and prayers, we left for Goma, heading to the nearest port to catch the boat. Accompanied by the coordinator of my sending organization, we boarded our ship, a twelve-hour ride at the start of a new adventure, a new life, a new vision, and, above all, a new community that I was soon to meet at ARI.

Our stay in the volcanic city (Goma) was short-lived, as we had to catch our 3:30 p.m. flight on April 3 to Kinshasa, the capital of DRCongo. I was looking forward to going there for the first time in my life, as I was already 29, so it was a very eagerly awaited moment. However, in Goma, we made the most of our time, tasting the best sausages, the best cheese, the best mikeke, and the best tropical fruits. 

The journey was not easy, with a flight scheduled for 3.25 pm; we had to be at Goma International Airport at 10 am for preparations and checks. Therefore, tiring and so much fun, it was nevertheless a dream trip to set foot in Kinshasa for the first time.

And here we were, both ready to set off in the same direction. All I knew about Kinshasa was that it was very hot, and I was so afraid of getting sick because of climate change. I had taken the malaria medicine with me, and I knew that it would be useful in Japan if I got sick. When you leave Bukavu, where the average temperature is 25°C and the average rainfall is 495, and Goma, where the average temperature is 18°C and average rainfall is 364 mm, to go to Kinshasa, where the temperature can exceed 35°C, it starts to get a bit scary.

It was a warm, sunny day. A long-time friend and brother were waiting for us at Ndjili International Airport.  As we stepped off the plane, I could feel the pressure of Kinshasa, but it’s such a wonderful city on the banks of the Congo River. I feel that this is where our best journey began, as well as our challenges, a magnificent city with an incredible cultural richness. As the bustling capital of the country, I discovered the vibrant music of Congolese rumba and tasted delicious local specialties such as Fumbwa, Ngaingai, makoso, mposso… despite the traffic jams everywhere, which seemed strange to me. 

18 more days in Kinshasa before the trip? Poof, it was sometimes tedious, but I had to take the time to get everything in order, the COVID tests, the visa, and the organization of plane tickets, it was also the right time to take moments for retreat and meditation, visits with friends and acquaintances, and to discover the environment (museums, universities, Palais de la Nation, Central Bank of Congo, Congo River, farmers and breeders, supermarkets, stadiums, big local markets, libraries, etc.) and the hidden face of Kinshasa, while awaiting the embassy’s response. But things did not go according to plan: the embassy had many various questions, and ARI intervened directly to guide us through.

We received a phone call from the embassy: your visa is ready, and you can travel to Japan, what immense joy I felt, I was reading some stories about Japan and ARI, and I was looking forward to participating in the rural leader’s program for the good of my community, our organization and myself, a new adventure was about to begin in the next few days.

Mordekay and Shukuru took a perilous voyage from the DR Congo to ARI in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic — their story will continue tomorrow.

If you would like to support rural leaders like Mordekay and Shukuru, please consider donating to our campaign.