There is a little expression I learned back in Zimbabwe. It goes T.I.A. It means “Things in Africa.” It can also double as “Time in Africa,” which is usually the causal problem of “Things in Africa” in the first place. Saying it helps you deal with the constant frustration of uncertainty and lack of dependability.
A long drive into Kigali today was followed by a stop at the travel agency to confirm the flight time of my departure from Rwanda. My ticket said 15:10, but they flight was now moved to 17:00. “How do you know for sure?” I kept asking.
“It is for sure.”
“But my ticket says 15:10. How do I know they won’t change it back?”
“We will call you if it changes.”
“Yeah… right. T.I.A.” I then instruct Fr. Michael that I wanted to be at the airport by 14:00 just in case they change their mind again.
I’m going to miss Rwanda. I’ve grown accustomed to it, even if it is the most complicated place that I know in the world. You can never really expect what will happen next, and the people are so naturally reserved, that it takes awhile to figure out that there fear, suspicion, and lack of trust, still dominate the public forum. It reminds me of Zimbabwe in the way everything is kept quiet, and quiet suffering is seen as a virtue. It reminds me of Malaysia in the fact that the rivaling forces have achieved tolerant coexistence, but not peaceful reconciliation.
But… the life of a pilgrim is the journey, and I trust that God has shown me what I have needed to see while here in Rwanda. It is time to move on. I am not meant to stay. Perhaps my frustration with the delay of the flight is just an opportunity to enjoy a few last moments in Rwanda.
So… I asked Fr. Emmanuel to drop me off at the Hotel Des Milles Collins while he attended a brief meeting. This is the hotel, in the heart of Kigali, which became a sanctuary for Tutsis hunted by the Interahamwe. The man who assumed the responsibility of directing the hotel during the genocide used the resources of the hotel to bribe political officials long enough for thousands of Tutsis to survive the genocide. It is the story which became the basis for the movie Hotel Rwanda.
I didn’t take any pictures of the hotel, but I did put its satellite photo as the focal point of the Google Earth pictorial that I made of all the parishes I visited while in Rwanda. If you have downloaded Google Earth onto your computer, you can view the pictorial by clicking here.
Fr. Michael and I enjoyed a relaxing drink by the pool. The calmness made it difficult to imagine the horror of being stuck in these walls, while thousands were being murdered outside. The luxury and civility of the hotel almost betrays the hotel’s history.
And in my last moments of soaking in this peaceful demeanor, thankful that the country of Rwanda has once again taught me about the possibility of both human evil, and heroism, Fr. Emmanuel came back to sit with us.
“We must go quickly,” he says.
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“They moved the flight back to 15:10”
“T.I.A.” I say, and get up from the table... Now I’m late.
I made it to the airport, on time, and felt rather sad as I said good bye to Emmanuel and Michael. I had been in Rwanda for the longest period of time that I’ve been in one place during this whole pilgrimage. Now, I’m on the move again and wondering when things will ever slow down.
In the end, the plane decided to make a compromise. The flight was moved back to 15:10, but didn’t land in Kigali until 16:00. Everyone at the airport restaurant rushed up to pay their bills and hurry onto the flight, which they had come to believe was going to leave at 17:00.Traveling in Africa teaches you one thing. Expect the unexpected. You never know exactly what is going to happen next. Just hold tight and be flexible. T.I.A. That’s the way things go.