Rwanda: Departure, Arrival and 1st Full Day

Okay…I know I’ve taken forever to start recapping our trip to Rwanda but it’s been emotionally hard to wrap my head around sharing it. Sharing my every move is “normal” for me and in my crazy brain, sharing our trip means I’m officially back to normal. But I really can’t put it off for much longer or I’m gonna start forgetting details {which is the entire reason I’m recapping it anyway}. I have no idea how long this will take because I’ve got so many pictures and I’d really like to do it one day at a time so in advance, I apologize for all the picture heavy/way too many details posts you will see in the near future. If it’s not your thing, feel free to skip over it!

MONDAY | September 8th

Our flight was scheduled to leave at 2:30pm from GSP so everyone met at our house around 10:00 to get a few more things packed up, weigh our bags one last time, and give Cory our passports so he could purchase travel insurance for us all.


My parents both had to work so we said our goodbyes on Sunday night and Amber’s mom, Kristin, Jessica and Kaylen, Michelle and Hayden, and the four of us {of course} took off to the airport! We left around 11:30, giving us ample time to get to GSP, check in, eat lunch, and say our goodbyes before going through security.


We unloaded all the luggage and waited on Jessica and Michelle to park their cars.


Kristin was a huge help because she was able to fit all of our luggage in her van!

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Like I said, we thought we would have time to grab a bite to eat but the check in line took forever! We were the only ones there when we walked up and by the time we left, the line was really backed up. This poor fella was there all by himself so Cory decided to just step around the counter and help him out with our bags. FYI…all bags going international HAVE to have a tag on them.

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By this time, it was approaching 1:30 so we had to skip out on eating, say our goodbyes and head on through security. Turns out, when we passed the restaurant, it was closed for construction. This meant that most of us hadn’t eaten anything all day, though.


The Fabulous Four ready to start the adventure of a lifetime.

After getting through security, we had a few minutes before boarding and we realized Tajh Boyd {Clemson’s former quarterback} was on our flight! I know Tajh and his Mom through my dad and our office so when we got up to board, he hugged me and went to shake Cory’s hand…which prompted Cory to totally grab him and hug him around his neck. We laughed about it all the way to DC!


This was Amber’s very first flight {or any mode of public transportation!}, which unfortunately was the worst flight we were on, and she was pretty nervous. It was just a puddle jumper but it was a small plane and I even got nauseous from it.

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After landing in DC, we had to walk from one end of Dulles to the complete other end of the airport. I’m not sure if it was hunger that had set in, nausea from the plane, or a combination of both, but I didn’t think I was going to make it through that airport without puking or passing out. We finally got to our terminal, I shed my heavy backpack and carry-on and watched our stuff while Amber, Cory, and Jarrod ordered us some subs from Potbelly Sandwich Shop. Best sub I’ve ever had! After downing a Mt. Dew and a ham sub, I finally started feeling better.

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Once we boarded our flight, we sat on the tarmac for what seemed like forever {surprisingly not because of all the emergency vehicles on the runway}. They told us there was something wrong in the cargo hold and we had to go back to the terminal so they could make sure everything was secure. After an hour or so, we finally took off and never found out what was going on on the runway.


The flight from DC to Brussels was right at 7.5 hours plus the 6 hour time change so we got to see the sunset and the sunrise.


My first meal on the plane {and the only one I took a picture of}. The roll was the best part.


We needed to sleep on this flight to adjust to the time change but it’s kind of hard to sleep at 7:00pm. Even though I was exhausted, I just couldn’t turn my brain off so I watched a couple movies until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore.


Amber and Jarrod seemed to be sleeping well, though.


TUESDAY | September 9th

I had just gotten to sleep when they started serving breakfast so I gave up on trying to sleep, went to the bathroom to freshen up, and watched the sunrise.

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We originally had a 3-hour layover in Brussels but since our flight was delayed an hour, by the time we got our tickets switched from United to Brussels Air, we only had 45 minutes or so before boarding our final leg. It wasn’t enough time to try and get a nap in so we all just used the wifi to check Facebook and update our families even though it was like 2:00am at home.

Somehow, when they printed our new tickets they printed two with my name on it and Cory and I both had one. We realized this when mine wouldn’t work because it said the ticket had already been scanned. The scary thing is Cory made it through first and the lady had looked at his passport–obviously not very closely! She printed us two new tickets and we were on our way.

Our flight to Kigali was another 8 hours but pretty bare. Amber had a row {two seater} to herself while Cory and I were beside each other. I finally had an aisle seat where I could stretch out and could lean on Cory so I was out before we even took off.

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Someone woke me up for lunch but Amber and Jarrod just let me and Cory sleep through the ice cream! When I woke up to go to the bathroom, I discovered I couldn’t put my Toms back on because my feet were blown up like balloons.


We landed in Kigali right before 7:00 pm and as we were walking off the plane, it was like a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. I took in a deep breath of Rwandan air and knew that my life was about to be changed forever.

We got all our luggage {thank goodness, it was all there!} and headed outside to look for Ben and Josephine. Cory called Ben to see where they were and even though they were surprised we had landed already, they were on their way. About 20 minutes later, they were there, we had our stuff loaded up in the cars and Cory, Jarrod, Ben, and Jed {Ben and Josephine’s son} took the truck and Amber, Josephine, and I were in her car heading to their house. I was immediately reminded how sweet the souls of Ben & Josephine are when Josephine told us they had been praying for us non-stop since while we started traveling and told us how excited she was to have us there.

When we got to the house, David {their house boy} helped us unload the truck and we ate our first Rwandan meal of potatoes, cabbage {so good!}, beef, rice and noodles. We had a time of prayer and Ben shared with us that we would be spending the first week in Nyabihu and not Kigali like we had originally planned. Other than a few hours on the plane, none of us had slept in the past 24 hours so we went to bed and Ben told us to rest the next morning and Phiona would be there around 10:30 to pick us up. I thought I would be too excited to sleep but as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out and I ‘m pretty sure I didn’t move a muscle all night long.

WEDNESDAY | September 10th

I was certain that I had slept the morning away but when I asked Cory what time it was, it was only 5:30.  The time change thing was no joke! Everyone except Cory started to stir around 8:30, I don’t know how long he had been up. Becuase there isn’t hot water at Ben’s, I had my first Rwandan “bird bath”. David had heated up some water for Amber and myself and I washed out of the washing tub. After my bath I splashed some water on myself and called it a day, I joined the rest of the crew for breakfast. I should tell you, breakfast in Rwanda is a big deal! Every morning there was a huge spread of toast, fruit {the best I’ve ever had!}, porridge, African tea and coffee. We got so spoiled!

While Amber and I got ready, Cory and Jarrod  took Josephine to work and around 10:30, Phiona was there and ready to take us into town to exchange some currency and go to Nakumatt {the grocery store}.


This is Ben and Josephine’s house. It was too dark to get any pictures when we arrived the night before.

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We found this note taped to the wall in Jed’s room. Poor Jed! I must say that compared to children in the US, he was the most well-behaved child.

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The back seat riders…and two of the four who get extremely car sick in the back seat.

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Cory and Jarrod had mentioned how crazy the traffic was but oh my word! It was so chaotic. Cars and people are everywhere and it took us almost 30 minutes to get across town. I don’t know how Cory drove in it the whole time!


Rwanda National Stadium

This is their national stadium where they play football {soccer}.

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I was amazed how beautiful a city Kigali is.

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This was about 30 seconds before Cory got pulled over the first time because Phiona wasn’t paying attention and forgot to tell him to turn until he was half way through the red light, in the wrong lane. Well, he just turned anyway and apparently you can’t do that. {Make sure you have the sound up and the guy in the bright yellow jacket is the police officer}

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After exchanging our money and getting a few groceries {bread and jelly to go with our peanut butter} for the week, we headed back to the house to divide the school supplies and clothes that we were taking to Nyabihu. Around 2:00pm, we were all ready to load the truck up and head to Musanze. It’s a pretty rough three hour drive up a very curvy, mountainous road. At one point, we had to stop so Amber could take some Dramimine and we could switch seats to get her out of the middle. The school is actually in Nyabihu but Musanze is the last little town that has decent hotels.

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I wouldn’t want to be on a bike going up those hills either.

Rwanda Countryside

Our last stop before Musanze was at this little road side stand so we could use the restroom, stretch and get some of these roasted potatoes that were so delicious! They also had this pineapple nectar that Jarrod completely fell in love with.  My mouth is watering just thinking about those potatoes! It started raining while were stopped and of course, we didn’t have anything to cover our luggage with but someone told us they thought it was coming from behind us and we could probably beat it, if we hurried.

While Cory was trying to “beat the storm” he got pulled over AGAIN but this time the cop was in a car and had a radar. He was going 58 km in 40 km zone. The cop made Cory and Ben get out of the car and we thought we heard the cop say he was going to have to search our luggage but then again he was speaking Kinyarwandan so how would we really know? I’m just thankful that Cory spent the $12 to get an international driver’s license at this point! He did ask Cory if he had ever been to driving school. Obviously, Cory’s not from Rwanda so no, he hasn’t been to driving school. Ben explained to him it was his first day driving in the country {but he neglected to tell him he had already been pulled over once that day} so the cop let him go!

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After more than 16 hours on a plane and then 3 more crammed in the back of a truck, we were all ready to get to the hotel! The coolest part about the ride up there was we saw wild monkeys TWICE but I couldn’t get a picture of them because Cory was going too fast :)


We arrived to the Centre Pastoral Notre Dame du Fatima-Ruhengeri {our hotel} and as soon as we got our luggage unloaded and in the lobby a monsoon hit! Perfect timing! In order to save on the cost of hotel rooms, Cory and Jarrod shared a room and Amber and I were in another room. This saved us from having to get 3 rooms but when we got to our rooms, our beds were pushed together {they separated them for us}. When I walked into Cory and Jarrod’s room, I thought this picture was funny. They looked like teenage girls, checking their Facebook.

Centre Pastoral Notre Dame du Fatima-Ruhengeri

It was touch and go whether we had hot water here but the water pressure was good. Amber and I eventually discovered that if we took a shower at night, we had hot water but that wasn’t until a couple days in.

Tawakal Restaurant

Dinner our first night in Musanze was at a place called Tawakal and I’m not gonna lie, it was kinda shady. I think Ben must know the owners because he made himself right at home. They were a buffet styled restaurant serving rice, potatoes, beans, bananas, noodles and some kind of veggie mix. They did have french fries so there’s that!

Tawakal Musanze Restaurant

Musanze Restaurant

When we got back to the hotel, we all hung out in the girls room and made us some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the next day. Strangely enough, when Amber was looking for a way to close up the bread, I remembered I had a twist tie in my carry on. What a random thing to hold onto, right?

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Dinner left us all a little hungry so we broke into our own snacks. When you do things like make a sexy face while eating a marshmallow, with my turban on, you end up on the blog ;) Around 10:00, Cory and Jarrod were tired and headed to bed but Amber and I just weren’t sleepy yet so we stayed up until midnight reading before we called it a night.


Okay…this is officially the longest post I’ve ever written but again, I’m documenting this life-changing experience so it’s written down documented. I hope you’ll join me next Thursday for Day 2: Our First Day in Nyabihu and cuteness overload of children!

15 thoughts on “Rwanda: Departure, Arrival and 1st Full Day

  1. I’ve been looking forward to reading your recaps and the first one certainly didn’t disappoint! i DON’T THINK I WOULD BE BRAVE ENOUGH TO DRIVE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY, KUDOS TO COREY FOR TAKING ON THAT CHALLENGE!

  2. Look at your feet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I have such anxiety thinking of all that time on planes… I am the worst flyer.
    But look at you all making it … I can’t wait to hear more & see those babies faces :)

    1. Flights really don’t bother me as long as I don’t think about it! I kept busy watching movies, reading and trying to get comfortable! My feet ached so bad after that too! Next time, I’ll definitely bring some compression socks!

  3. Can’t wait to read about the rest of your trip! What a journey just to get there! I had the same thing happen to me with my feet swelling on a flight home from hawaii. I went to put on my toms and could not get my feet in – darn change in pressure!

    1. It was awful! And they were sore. Did your feet get sore? I’ve never experienced that before but will have to get some compression socks before I go on another long flight! Can’t wait to share the rest with you guys!

  4. Whoa–honestly, I can’t imagine ever driving in a country other than America and especially continuing to drive even after getting pulled over (but perhaps I have an unhealthy fear of getting pulled over). Still, Cory is brave. Love hearing about the beginning of your trip!

  5. My goodness! I don’t know how you slept a wink on the flights over. I am eternally jealous! And your poor feet! I had that happen to me during a 17 hour car ride…no bueno! Your pictures turned out amazing and it looks like there were lots of beautiful views and interesting foods. So glad you all were safe with Cory’s driving haha! Heading over now to check out part 2 :)

  6. So many pretty pictures! Those houses on the hills are pretty neat! I couldn’t imagine being on a plane for that long!! Why were your feet so swollen?! That is so funny about Cory being pulled over twice in one day! Haha!

  7. Oh my gosh, just reading about the trip to get to Africa made me tired, ha! I can only imagine how you felt. And amber is such a trooper, her first ever plane trip and she’s going to Africa. Go big or go home!

    I don’t think I’d be able to handle the stress of driving there so props to Cory for taking on that challenge.

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