Bill Frist, MD
We were up at 6 am and off to the airport. Things took just a bit longer to clear customs for our flight to Kigali, Rwanda, so we were delayed us just a bit. We left Mozambique after a full four and a half days, with many great memories. We are much more educated as to the challenges of the people of Mozambique, and we appreciate them teaching us about how we can be most useful. They don’t want fish; they want the opportunity to fish. And we can help make the setting more conducive to fishing – by help with clean water, roads, training community health workers (who can teach others and treat others), and capacity building.
It’s a long flight to Rwanda; check the map. The dot between Nampula, Mozambique, to the dot of Kigali, Rwanda, is 8 hours – as the single engine plane with a 30 knot headwind flies! “Are we there yet?” I kept hearing from the seats behind me. I have piloted single engine planes a lot in Africa – Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya. But never in Mozambique and Rwanda so I even had to fly a little bit today.
Mauro de Lorenzo, my “plus one” scholar/aide who assists me with the MCC, had kindly gotten a couple of rolls for each of us for our breakfast, but that was it for meals until after we landed. On board, the pilots had brought some sausage and Ritz crackers that we all split – I was looking for some cheese but we had run out on the last leg. Cokes (minus Carville this time) and water kept us hydrated, but not too much because there is no bathroom on the plane. There’s nothing better than getting a little hypoxic after a few hours of flying at 13,500 feet. There was a little turbulence for the final two hours, but overall, it was a beautiful day flying over a majestic countryside with the vivid colors enhanced by the African sunlight.
We did make one fuel stop in Tanzania for 30 minutes, and we stretched our legs. Then back up to Kigali. We finally arrived, and we were met at the plane by the ONE Campaign staffers, one from the U.S. and one from Germany. One of the Deputy Ministers (who is also a physician – yeah!!) met us at the airport to welcome us and off we went to the hotel. When I was last in Rwanda, the hotel was under different ownership, but it has now been upgraded and it’s very comfortable. We went to the lounge looking for food at 5:30pm. I still had cheese on my mind, but unfortunately the bar only had peanuts.
Mauro and I were met by Tyler Denton from ONE, and we discussed the next five days of the trip. It looked perfectly planned. We will begin with the genocide history tomorrow.
I had a private meeting that I will tell you about in a few days that ran for an hour, and then I went to dinner with Cindy McCain. The rest of the group will arrive from the States after dinner. Cindy is blogging as well, so I will let her tell her story, but let me just say, she is the only one of our group who was on the ground--right here--during the genocide. In the Senate, I tried to keep most of my humanitarian work private and as anonymous as possible; Cindy really has! I am sure the world will uncover over the months ahead.
It's a small world. At dinner, outdoors at an Indian restaurant, someone came up and introduced himself. A fellow Nashvillian, Chris Peak, is here for several months working with a Nashville-based NGO that cares for Rwandan women. Chris was eating nearby at a table with about 10 other young volunteers working with NGOs here in Rwanda – all were from the U.S. People like Chris are why I am so optimistic about the world.
At about 9pm, everyone else arrived and we gathered for the first time as a group. Tom Daschle and I are leading the group. We are the co-Chairs for ONE Vote ’08.
Sit down before you read who all is in our new family for the next 4 days. We are ONE: John Podesta and Mike Huckabee, Susan McCue and Jack Oliver, Karen and John Kasich, David Lane, Judy Black, Tom Freston, Cindy, Tom, and me.
It’s midnight now so off to bed. But follow us on our journey. You will meet genocide affected families, gorillas, former guerillas, entrepreneurs, people with HIV, children with malaria, community health workers on the front line, and capitalists. We will visit a USAID farm site, see areas subjected to extreme poverty, attend church with Bishop John, visit an HIV clinic, and maybe even meet President Paul Kagame.
As I told the group tonight at the gathering, the next several days will be life changing. So the family has met, and we are off and running.