April 23, 2009: The “Call” Comes in for the Congo

Not only did we go to bed last night at a decent hour but this morning I was able to really sleep in as well and then, once I finally did get up, I spent a while working from my BlackBerry.  I feel quite a bit better after actually getting some sleep.

I had to spend the day working which was too bad because we will get such limited time to spend with the Ralstons before they leave the country.

Art had come down to the basement and we were talking when Danielle called downstairs to tell him that Global, their missionary agency, was on the phone.  This was the call.  The official “you can book your flights – you leave on May 25th” call.  It was really neat that it happened while they were here.  It was very cool to get to be a part of that moment.

After the years of planning the immensity of the move to the Congo tends to wear off on those of us who have gotten used to the idea.  Seeing the shock and panic as Art and Danielle realized that they have to be on a plan in thirty-two days to central Africa and will not be seeing anyone again after that brought it all home.  They already have a ton of travel plans over the next month too so they are already down to things like “only one more chance to go to church – maybe, and not likely – at their own church!”  That’s weird to think about.

So much of the day was spent getting plans together, making calls, trying to calm down.  You can imagine.  It is finally real.  They have been working towards this for a really long time.  They rented out their house and moved out several weeks ago and Art had just recently left his job so that they would be able to go really soon and they have been saying “maybe the end of May” for a while but it was not official and had a really good chance of not happening until the news came through today.

The call came in around eleven or eleven thirty.  For roughly two hours Art and Danielle were going as fast as they could getting calls made and taking care of communications.  They have important documents that need to be obtained, money to be moved, approvals to be processed, embassy to be contacted and more.  At one thirty we all went down to Pastel’s for lunch.  Art got the Belgian waffle with strawberry preserves which is the same thing that he got the last time that he was here.

Now the reality of “this is the last Belgian waffle” starts to set in.  From this point out there will be few, if any, duplicated meals.  Each meal is likely to be their last of that particular example of Western fare.

Within a few hours they had their flights booked.  They are flying out of JFK on the 25th of May in the evening.  That is a Monday.  They are coming to our house in a minivan loaded with everything that they yet own, which isn’t very much, that will be going in their luggage on the plane on the 24th and spending their last night in the industrial world at our house.  Then on Sunday evening I will be driving them to the airport alone and will be dealing with the minivan return and that stuff.  No one else is going both because it would be a logistic nightmare but also because it will be so emotional.  This isn’t a vacation or a short term mission trip.  This is moving to the Congo with the intent to possibly not return and definitely not to return, if at all possible, for a minimum of four years.

Everyone was excited and nervous and a bit over-excited so we all, Dominica, Liesl, Art, Danielle, Oreo and I took a two and a half mile walk around Chapel Hill.  We figured that some exercise would help everyone to relax.  As long as we were in the house there were just too many last minute details that needed to be handled.

The walk helped a bit.  It was good because we really needed the exercise as well.  This week has been awful for our diets.

I worked again for a while after the walk.  A few hours.  Then Art and I ran to Best Buy a little after eight to buy another laptop for Danielle.  She has a newish Toshiba but the motherboard is starting to fail and if a computer dies in the Congo, that’s it.  No more computer.  Best case scenario is six months to get one sent from the states and six months is not very likely.  A year is probably more likely.  And any files on it will probably be lost.  They had bought the Toshiba new to go to the Congo; it didn’t survive long enough to even make the journey.  So we went to Best Buy and picked up a Compaq that was on sale.  Just $430 for a really nice unit.  It was quite a good deal.  They are taking three Compaqs with them when they go.  They each have one.

When we returned from Best Buy we all ate dinner together.  Danielle had cooked tilapia in Balsamic vinegar, dill and garlic, mashed potatoes and asparagus.  Probably their last tilapia.  They can only get catfish and Goliath tiger fish (Hydrocynus goliath) in Impfondo and neither of those looks very tasty at all.

We stayed up talking for a little while but everyone went to bed pretty early except for me.  Always more work to do so I headed back down to the basement and ended up working until four in the morning!  It is going to be another night without sleep for me.  I have only had one “full” night’s sleep all week.

The Ralstons are hoping to leave shortly after noon tomorrow so that they can get to their next stop on the travels early in the day.  They are driving from Peekskill to Painted Post, New York.  Probably about four hours on the road.  Not too bad.  We will get lunch before they leave and then they will leave from there.  They are going to be really busy for the next thirty-two days.

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