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We’re always glad to come back to Kivumu
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 Written by Maja Sajler Garmaz

We’re always glad to come back to KivumuIgot off Liemba feeling a bit sad. (Liemba is the boat that inspired the movie “The African Queen”, a passenger and cargo ferry that runs along the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika). Immediately I started persuading Željko how we had to come back again next year. He liked the idea, too. But, then again, who knows if Liemba  now over a hundred years old, will make it into the next year...

Few people have enough time and money to go back to all the beautiful places they had visited in their lives. I have hoped that we will at least see the Virunga Mountains’ gorillas one more time. But, although we’ve returned to Rwanda every year, we (still) haven’t repeated that particular adventure.

There are a lot of things I would like to see again: the Mursi tribe in Ethiopia, the beautiful national parks in Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa... or climb to the top of the Nyiragongo active volcano in DR Congo and spend the night there again, or drive on a motorbike through Ugandan wilderness, or walk the hot sand dunes of Sahara, or enjoy the view of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain, or sip cocktails on the unforgettable beaches of Zanzibar..

It’s not worth repeating. It’s better to visit new places and increase the list of the places you would like to see again. But Liemba is definitely the one thing I would like to see again.

When we disembarked from Liemba, we were greeted by the border control. They weren’t interested in our passports or our visas, because we’d dealt with those things back onboard the ship. Instead, they demanded to see the one thing they usually don’t ask for – although you have to have one – the booklet that confirms you’d been vaccinated against yellow fever.

Since no one had ever asked for it before, we nervously began to search for the booklets in our bags. Željko and I found ours, but Matthew just didn’t seem to be able to remember where exactly in his bag he’d put his.

We’re always glad to come back to Kivumu„I do have it, but I cannot find it among my things now,” Matthew told the border police in English.

The policeman took a good look at him and repeated, in his version of English:

„Please, show me the card.“

„But, I’ve just told you, I’m not sure where it is, so you’ll have to wait for me to get all my stuff out of the bag,” Matthew told him, then crouched, opened his backpack and started burrowing through his things.

The policeman seemed completely confused. He went over to Matthew and said:

„Excuse me, do you speak English?“

„Yes!” Matthew responded abruptly. He figured that he should keep the sentences short and simple. Maybe it was best to use just one word, like ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ ‘thanks,’ ‘wait’ and ‘goodbye,’ since that was the only English the policeman seemed to understand.

On Matthew’s ‘Yes!’ the policeman jerked and answered back: “Well, then speak English!“.

Željko and I hardly managed to keep ourselves form bursting into laughter. Luckily, Matthew found his booklet and we were able to continue our trip.

When we exited the harbour, we said goodbye to our English friend. He went his way, and we remained there waiting for our Bosnian friend to arrive. We rendezvoused with fra Ivica in Kigoma in order to continue our journey together to Rwanda and his Kivumu mission.

We’re always glad to come back to KivumuSmiles, hugs, and a toast with cold beer to another African get-together. Fra Ivica has become like family to us. That is why we decided to help him realize his dream. We wrote a book, ‘Our Man in Africa’ (Croatian: ‘Naš čo’ek u Africi’), about his life and missionary work. We renounced all profit from the book in favour of his mission and spent three months in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina tirelessly promoting the book, fra Ivica, Kivumu and the school construction plan… All of a sudden, the results were visible. We have raised enough money to be able to start the construction of several classrooms. Now we set out together, across Burundi, towards Rwanda, to mark the beginning of construction works.

There you have it: Kivumu is the place we always come back to. That village, which just a couple of months ago didn’t even have electricity, has completely won our hearts. That’s why we keep coming back to it. It is preferred above all the other places we would like to return to again.

This is our fourth visit. And – I’m one hundred percent sure of this – it definitely isn’t our last one. There is no way that we are going to miss the school opening party upon its completion.

On our way to Rwanda, through the hilly and mountainous Burundi, to the astonishment of Željko and fra Ivica, I didn’t talk much. I’d taken an anti-nausea pill, which made me totally drowsy. So, half-drugged as I was, I replayed a film in my head about our first visit to Kivumu and all that had followed thereafter. And it all turned into a splendid story. Who would have guessed that the Garmaz family would one day be building a school somewhere?!

Eyes half shut, dizzy from the tablet, the car bouncing on the bumpy, dusty road, I thought I heard Željko’s and fra Ivica’s voices in the distance. They were talking about something, but I didn’t pay any attention. In my thoughts I was already in Kivumu and my lips slowly began to smile.

Translated by Branimir Mlakić
Edited by: Valerie Kae Ken

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