We got up at 2.00 am. The night´s sleep had been short and of poor quality. An hour later, Kerstin and I were on our way to Lars-Ola. His wife Lena drove us to Borås, where the others were waiting for us outside the Immanuel Church. Daniel and Sara, Hugo and Ritva´s son and daughter, took us to Landvetter Airport in two cars with one trailer in tow. The trailer was loaded with 21 suitcases weighing 396 kg. To that, we had hand luggage that we had forgot to weigh. Without knowing, we had three suitcases too much, but we totalled 18 kg less than the allowed weight.
Before checking-in, Bernt managed to transform one of the suitcases to hand luggage. It was the suitcase Elisabeth Nsumbu had brought on Monday afternoon, when everything already was packed. Now, we had only two suitcases too much, but totalled 27 kg less than the allowed weight. During check-in Hugo was stopped as he was responsible for the two extra suitcases. The women at the check-in counter told him that we had to pay 1 500 SEK a case. The news was tough to handle. The suitcases contained footballs to Emy´s boys and girls in Kimpese, and we were going to give some of the footballs to the children in Matadi at the inauguration of the Youth House. Hugo and Ritva went to strengthen themselves with some coffee. When Air Brussels opened at 5.30, Hugo, Bernt and Lennart went up to the staff and told them about the amazing football project in Kimpese. The responsible were so taken by the story that Hugo and his assistants could go back to the check-in counter and get the exact total weight of our luggage. As I said, our luggage weighed 27 kg less than allowed. And the two suitcases with 40 new and 20 slightly used footballs weighed 25 kg. From the check-in counter, they got a written confirmation that we didn´t have any overload. On the contrary, we had an ”underload” of 27 kg.
When the lady at Air Brussels office took into account this document and Hugos description of the football project, she yielded and gave us permission to bring the suitcases without charge. From a long distance, we could see the result of Hugo´s negotiations. Tomorrow, the boys and girls in Kimpese will receive 50 balls. Wonderful! By the way, the joint packing of our suitcases had been an miraculous event too. Nobody believed that we would be able to stow everything into the suitcases, but we made it much to our great surprise. Each and every little thing got fitted in. Our luggage contains: medical equipment, football clothes for two full teams, football shoes, 69 new t-shirts from SVIF´s (local football club) 70th anniversary, gold, silver and bronze medals for future winners, a set of cutlery for a large party, books for a library in Luozi, almanacks and educational material for a Sunday school in Sundi Lutete, large amounts of dollars destined to various recipients, and of course our personal belongings such as toothbrushes etc.
Soon, we are going to land in Douala in Camerun. We are flying with an Airbus 330, with room for 300 passengers, but there are only about 200 people on the plane. The distance from Brussels to Douala is 5 240 kilometers. And from Douala, there is another 1 130 kilometers to Kinshasa.
The third miracle of the beginnings of this journey is Jenny´s passport. We had to apply for her visa in Sweden, and it was sent to Chile on September 13th. Last Thursday, the National Post Agency in Sweden told us that it had disappeared without a trace somewhere between Sweden and Chile despite us having sent it by registered post. ”There are many places in between the two countries; we take no responsibility after it leaves Sweden. But you can send in a request for a search and we’ll get back to you within 30 days.” I spent half of the day Thursday trying to work out alternative solutions in cooperation with the Embassies. But none of my brilliant ideas was accepted. The Post Agencies in Sweden and in Chile blamed each other. You should probably not commission these operators to this kind of tasks. The only real help we got from the Swedish Post was some good advice. ”Tell Jenny to go to her local post office in Santiago.” So she went there and stated the specifications of the parcel to see if there was anything at all that they could do. The parcel had miraculously turned up in their system 5 minutes earlier:”Your parcel has finally arrived in Chile. We can’t let you go and get it at the airport, but don’t worry – it’ll be in your mailbox tomorrow.” No parcel arrived the next day (Saturday) either.
Now there was no time to lose. It was only one workday left until the plane left on Tuesday morning. Jenny went to the post office again on Monday morning. She was directed to the dispatch office and an incredible 15 hours before the departure to Johannesburg, she had the passport in her hand. I see this as a combination of prayers and human efforts, a combination that delivers results.
These are some thoughts on the flight between Brussels and Kinshasa. This very moment, we are passing the equator and the night has fallen in Africa. This is the day when all of us, except Hugo, will walk the earth of Congo for the first time.