Sunday, August 7, 2011

RWANDA

They finally got our water back on after a week and the shower installation was completed.  They have to get an electrician to repair the hot water heater, since something has apparently chewed up the wires.  Between rats and no cooking or bathing facilities, I was ready to get away again.  We have a holiday Monday for "Farmer's Day" so I decided to travel to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.  Bree is staying in Ngara to get her room in shape and paint it, hopefully making it habitable after the rat took it over temporarily.

I left around 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.  One of my neighbors helpfully gave me a ride to town, which otherwise is a 40 minute walk.  I found a taxi going to the border.  He already had 3 people in the back seat, but wanted to charge me 40,0000 shillings (about $26) for a "special rate."  I thought that was too much for a shared taxi, and asked others what it should be.  Some of the other taxi drivers backed him up, but one guy on a motorcycle said it should be about 10,000.  Finally, one of the taxi drivers told me it would be $26 if I hired the taxi to go to the border by myself, but a shared taxi should be 3,000 shillings to the transfer point and another 3,000 to the border.  I agreed to this.  Meanwhile, the driver kept stuffing more people in the back, until there were 5 adults and 3 children in the back seat, two in the hatchback space, and a girl sharing my seat in the front.  He picked up two more along the way, and for awhile he was sharing the driver's seat with a teenage boy, so that he had to reach around both of their legs to get to the shift, while my seatmate was sitting halfway on the emergency brake.   When we got to the transfer point, I was told that that was as far as he was going, so I gave him 3,000 shillings and got in a different car, a 1980 Toyota Corolla.  We had to wait about an hour to get the 5 people he needed to make his trip worthwhile. A bus came and he ended up with 5 people plus two children in the back seat, and I had a boy on my lap in the front.  About halfway to the border, I smelled burning and smoke was coming out of the dashboard.  The driver said he had an "oil leaki."  I thought he was stopping to put oil in, but he picked up 3 more people and put them in the hatchback space.

We got to the border and I walked through, checking in with Tanzania and Rwanda immigration.  I was able to change money on the other side and get a minibus to Kigali for 3,000 francs, or about $5.  We had to wait about an hour to go and it took 3 hours to get to Kigali, with a few brief stops.  The land is very mountainous and greener than Tanzania.  The cows are much fatter.

I had no guide to Rwanda and the only hotel I knew of was the Milles Collines, famous from the "Hotel Rwanda" movie.  Someone pointed a hotel out to me an told me that was it, but it ended up being the Top Tower hotel.  At that point I was tired an decided to stay there the first night.  It was $120, more than I usually would pay but less than the Milles Collines, and they took my VISA card, which is pretty unusable in Tanzania.

I actually enjoyed the hotel.  My room is on the 6th floor and has a great view of the city lights.  It is like a moderate hotel room in the USA, with table, chairs, desk, flat screen TV (5 channels), and nice bathroom.  The big thing is free high speed wifi, which is why I am able to catch up on my blog for the first time in a month.  The hotel restaurant was nice, and I enjoyed chicken curry and salad, unobtainable in Ngara.  They had a top floor disco, bar, restaurant with 360 degree views.  I was planning to have crepes and wine the first night, but was just too full after dinner, even though that was my only food the whole day.  I am pretty much used to starving by now, and have probably lost ten pounds.  The second night I skipped dinner and went to the top floor restaurant and had wine, but my craving for salad won and I never did have crepes there.

Transportation here is mostly by pikypiky (motorcycle).  Every trip I took cost 1,000 francs ($1.60).

The big tourist attraction in Kigali is the genocide museum, a memorial for the big genocide in 1995.  I had not realized until I went there that the genocide actually started around 1959 and Tutsis were killed intermittently since then.  It was more a result of colonization as the Germans and Belgians required identity cards and made racial and economic distinctions.  The French government actually underwrote the financing of $12 million for weapons for the ruling party, which used propaganda to marginalize or remove the Tutsis and formed a special militia to annihilate them.  The lists of names were made up well before the major genocide began and one million people were killed out of a population of 6 million.



Many different kinds of roses at the Genocide Museum depict the many kinds of people killed


It is sad to note that I see things like this on almost every trip I go on: the near annihilation of the Incas in Peru, as well as the guerilla wars there; the desparecidos in Argentina; the Cultural Revolution and persecution of Tibetans in China; the Hanoi Hilton in VietNam; the Killing Fields in Cambodia, and the River Kwai with its mass graves of soldiers and civilians who died building the railroad there during WWII.  I will skip the concentration camps in Europe.  Man is a terrible animal.

A highlight here was a trip to the supermarket downtown.  Such wonders that you would never see in Tanzania!  I stocked up a bit, since I don't know when I will make it back here.