Africa Day 10: Leaving Rwanda

Posted in africa 2008, personal, travel at 4:19 am by wingerz

Day 10: March 24


Roads in Kigali trace concentric circles around the town center. All of the large roads are paved. Scooter taxis, many with driver and passenger wearing green helmets, weave through traffic, coming precariously close to cars and vans. The traffic is not bad and the cars are in good shape. While traffic drives on the right, steering wheels on the right side are not uncommon depending on origin of the car.

One unsettling thing about Kigali is the abundance of barriers and armored guards. Nearly every building is surrounded by a structural deterrent. Fences are topped with barbed wire, spikes, or broken glass. The history of inequality and instability manifests itself in the architecture.

The countryside around Kigali is quite beautiful – the main road to Volcanoes is excellent for the most part, with an effective drainage system (concrete channels carry muddy water down the hillside to the bottom of the valley). Dense forest has been cut away for farming – potatoes, bananas, coffee, and tea are grown all around the country. Small muddy paths wind up around the hillsides; the walk home looks to be very exhausting for those in the hills. A brownish-red river meanders through to the source of the Nile. Everything on the hillsides is green, whether it is terraced fields, banana trees, or forest.

Occasionally we pass through small towns. Villagers wave to us and some children ask for money. We see them wearing dirty branded clothing – Old Navy, MSU, etc.- donations from the United States. A child runs alongside our jeep on a rocky road – so rocky that he is able to keep up with the vehicle until he is admonished by his father. We do not give them money because it encourages them to skip school.

The food has been pretty underwhelming – lots of bananas and potatoes. Meats include fish, chicken, beef, and goat. Nothing is superbly flavored but it does hit the spot after a long day of being on the road. Rwandan service is atrocious. We have come to rely on buffets for meals that need to be shorter than 1 hour. For dinner last night we sought something quick and convenient around 830pm, but our food didn’t show up until 90 minutes later. They don’t have the operational model to support a party of 22 ordering 22 different things – the table next to us ordered about 5-10 chickens, all prepared in the same manner, and they received their food way before we did. Perhaps in a few years they will have a better idea of how to operate efficiently in the services industry.

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The Rwandans are a proud people with a strong national leader. Every month there is a day designated for all Rwandans to participate in community service. After the work is done, they gather with fellow local community members to discuss ways to improve. The elimination of the use of all plastic bags from the entire country is the result of one of these meetings

Considering what they have been through, the Rwandans are a welcoming group. One of our drivers, Johnson, forgave the friend who slaughtered his family. On a larger scale, Rwanda has welcomed the world that turned its back in 1994. Our stay has been pleasant, with the friendly locals, modern infrastructure, and cool weather. Would have liked to spend a few more days here.

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