Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Round and round Kigali on taxi buses

June 2nd

Into the office; there’s no sign of Claude or the modem, but I manage to get a lot of inspection reports printed off for him and enter up data for yet another secondary school, which has returned its census form months late.

I spend longer than I should on line, and take a moto back to the flat. Catherine is ready and waiting for me, and we go straight into Kigali on the express bus. The visibility is already far too dusty and hazy to stand a chance of seeing the volcanoes, and because we are relatively late this morning we miss most of the lovely valley mist rising up out of the depths.

In Kigali the first priority is to get money changed, both for Catherine and for me, so we head off to the forex bureaux around the main mosque. Catherine’s getting used to the crowds in the old town centre; it’s probably the only time the atmosphere here in Rwanda matches that of India.

Then we get a local bus up to Kimironko and buy some elevenses from Ndoli’s before going to the VSO office. Here, for once, there’s nobody else using the computer and the internet connection is fast. I spend a whole hour doing nothing much else but posting stuff onto the blog, while Catherine checks her emails on a second machine. It’s not really what we had come in to Kigali to do, but we both feel very happy that we’ve been back in touch with the outside world! Sonya is in the office; she’s been evacuated from her house in Kirehe District temporarily because she has a big swarm of bees in her roof and they are aggressive. The fumigator is moving in today to try to get rid of them, but out here everyone’s first thought is always of “killer bees” and nobody wants to take chances….

From Kimironko we take another matata to Gisozi and walk up the hill to the genocide museum. Catherine is getting very used to travel on matatas and already knows the “musical chairs” drill if you’re one of the last to board. Every time the bus stops and someone who is sitting behind you gets off, you have to stand to let them pass. Then you move towards the back of the bus to fill up the seat that’s just been emptied. If you’re unlucky you might have to do this three of four times until you eventually get a seat from which you don’t need to move.

There’s nothing I can add about the Gisozi genocide museum that I haven’t said on previous visits. Security is getting tighter; the museum seems to attract Rwandan madmen with grievances against the government; twice since I’ve been here people have lobbed hand grenades into the guard post at the entrance. We are checked twice for weapons, but very politely.

After the museum we are starving, so we get yet another local bus back into the town centre and eat at the “Simba” café. The food here is good and relatively cheap, too! At Simba we bump into Nidhi and Steve, two of the Kigali based VSO volunteers. By now Catherine has met about a quarter of the entire VSO contingent in Rwanda! Nidhi is off to India on Saturday for a week to see her parents. Then, just as we’re nearly finished, who should come in to Simba to eat but Soraya. She has done three schools this morning on the Mineduc exercise and is falling apart with hunger: she’s nibbling a croissant while she waits for her food to arrive. We catch up on all the gossip. Herrman, her Rwandan partner for the Mineduc work, seems a bit of a character and from a starting point where he told her “You will die!” after seeing how little she ate, he has now come over all, protective. His driver insists on picking up and dropping Soraya from the AEE hostel where she’s staying, and they seem to be treating her like their teenage daughter.

After lunch we take another matata back up towards Kimironko, this time to Gishushi, and walk a kilometre down to the MTN centre to meet Kersti. Kersti insists on treating us to ice cream at the Bourbon café – real ice cream, with lots of flavours to chose from….. I think it’s my first ice cream since arriving in Rwanda. Who should also be in Bourbon but Sonya again, so we sit and catch up on everyone’s gossip for another hour. Kersti’s flying to Italy on Saturday to be bridesmaid at a relative’s wedding, and then going on to England. She’s really excited about going home for a while, and I hope the trip goes well for her.

Unfortunately we spend so long chatting that we’ve left ourselves too little time to get back top the town centre for our bus home. We try to get motos back up to the Gishushi bus stop; we find one straight away for Catherine but I have to walk almost the whole distance before anyone stops for me. I’ve forgotten that by now its rush hour and every moto, big or small, is in business. We get our bus home by the skin of our teeth, but I’ve had to rush Catherine hard up the hill from the local bus stop and it’s knocked her out. The combination of altitude, heat and sudden intense physical effort is very debilitating and I’ve forgotten how much I’ve adjusted to it here.

Back in Gitarama we all muck in to cook ourselves an evening meal and then we’re ready for bed.

Best thing about today – a touristy day today, but I’m really happy I’ve done my blogging. I’ve put several pictures of Catherine at Kibuye and in schools on the site, so people can see what she’s doing here and how she’s spending her time with me.
Worst thing – having to dash through a Kigali evening rush hour to make our bus home. Not cool.

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