As already mentioned, I recently traveled to Comoros.
So how did this come about? My wife was going to Comoros as a State Dept. English Language Specialist which included her spending about three weeks on that island. This just sounded way too interesting to me, so I decided to tag along. Little did I know at that point that it would involve an almost 54 hour (!) plane travel to get there. I left my house in North Carolina at 4am on a Thursday, and arrived in Moroni (Comoros) two days later (Saturday) at noon. This was my route:
- Durham (North Carolina)
- Newark (New Jersey)
- JFK (New York)
- Brussels (Belgium)
- Kigali (Rwanda)
- Nairobi (Kenya)
- Dzaoudzi (Mayotte)
- Moroni (Comoros)
Needless to say, by the time I arrived I was extremely tired and was not looking forward to the usual lengthy and stressful immigration procedures of an African country. Thankfully somebody from the University of Comoros (where my wife was giving her workshops) was there to pick me up at the airport, so once I was done with visa and customs procedures I could relax.
Or so I thought....
The first day after my arrival I escorted my wife from our hotel to the university and was greeted by an official translater, who informed me that the president of the university had requested a meeting with me. Very surprised and very curious I went to the meeting the next morning and had an interesting conversation with the president.
As it turned out, he had heard that I am a Web Developer from Duke University and was asking me if I would be willing to meet with the IT people of the university and help them to solve some of the issues they are dealing with. What a great opportunity! Instead of being a tourist who aimlessly walks around and explores the area I could meet people, work with them, teach and help.
We drank tea and did some small talk, which was somewhat challenging because of the language barrier - but thankfully we had Aboudou, a translater, with us. Aboudou would become one of our closest aquaintances during our three weeks in Comoros, driving us to and from work and helping us in all kinds of ways.
I got started with my work, and I have to say that I was thorougly impressed. The people of the IT department had to deal with all kinds of challenges, and they did it with enthusiasm and an incredible amount of ingenuity.
Just take the computer store: A room with old computer equipment that would in most other places get discarded as electronic trash. Here they collect the parts and piece them together into working machines - pure genius!
My time in Comoros was a mix of work and just exploring the island, a perfect combination. It was very rewarding to donate my time to the university. In the end, the days before we had to leave to go back to our real work life in North Carolina, I felt like I belonged at the university. I would meet people I knew walking around on campus, and would engage in short conversations here and there.
Typical classroom at the university.
I'm so very grateful that I could join my wife on this trip and had this experience that goes way beyond a vacation on an exotic paradise African island!