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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 06 Feb 2008

Location: Kigali, Rwanda

MapNot much to talk about on our first full day in Rwanda, it was mostly a day of frustration. This morning our driver and guide arrived late to pick us up. Everyone here functions on ‘Rwandan time,’ which means it doesn’t matter when you do anything or how long it takes to do it. Shortly after we left nausea set in and we realized that the large gap along the side of the vehicle, where we could see the ground, was letting exhaust fumes in. Shocks don’t exist on a lot of the vehicles nor do the seats have padding so you quite soon realize just how bumpy and rutted the city streets are.
The first thing on our agenda was to exchange some USD to Rwandan Francs. Claude, our driver, told us he was going to take us to his friend’s house to exchange the $ so we wouldn’t have to wait in a line up. We went through a bit of a maze down some alleyways and pulled up beside a ram-shackled clapboard shack and another man jumped in. We drove around for another period of time and stopped in a busy part of the city where the third man jumped out. I guess he wasn’t doing our banking after all. Claude decided that we should try and find another friend but we were quite insistent that we would rather go to a real bank. After stopping a few other places and even standing in line at the National bank, (which apparently doesn’t exchange money,) we finally found a place willing to do business.
The next agenda item was to buy food and household goods to give out to the 14 World Vision families that we would be visiting in Nyamata the following day. This was a long drawn out process that took place between two rows of open stalls facing each other, each with sacks of various food items stacked open at the doorways or spread out on the ground. We wanted to buy 14 individual packs each of the rice, beans, flour, sugar, etc. 14 pots, 14 buckets and so on. Claude negotiated our purchases but I often wondered if he even knew what we were asking for. The same things had to be requested over and over and explained repeatedly, and he was supposed to be our translator! Wanting to get this over with, we all pitched in and helped measure and weigh. I kept thinking that the whole thing was like something out of a “Three Stooges” movie.
After a couple hours and visits to many of the various stalls we managed to purchase what we needed and we headed for the Kigali Memorial Centre. We thought. We drove all around the city and then suddenly realized that the van was turning into the lane leading to our hotel. Apparently Claude had decided for us that our day with him was over. We were confused but jumped out and unloaded our many buckets filled with the purchases of the day.
As we walked into the lobby, the desk clerk informed us that we would have to change rooms. Apparently, they put us in rooms that were reserved by someone else and they were arriving today. I left Wendy and MJ to deal with this problem, having found that the experience in the market was enough for me for one day. This very frustrating negotiating process, which was exasperated by the language barrier, lasted two hours but the clerks finally gave up and gave us what we wanted. A trip to the local cantina, where the only women were we “mzungas,” helped us get over the frustrations of the day. As we were drinking our beer and listening to a rooster crow (at night?) in the outdoor, concrete floored cabana we were reminded again what a different world we were in.
We are still trying to organize our ride to Kahama, Tanzania as Claude showed up unexpectantly with another vehicle and driver for us to consider. MJ offered to do the negotiations out in the parking lot and we are now optimistic that we might have a ride lined up for next Monday.
Tonight, we are spending the rest of the evening getting ready for our day of visiting the World Vision National office, visiting the Nyamata ADP office to get their overview on all ongoing programs, visiting 14 sponsored children and meeting the Women Headed household Association. (MJ and I are wondering if these women are any different from us and should we form and association?) Stay tuned for tomorrow’s adventures; I’m sure there will be some!