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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Monday, 07 Jun 2010

Location: Kigali, Rwanda

Monday, June 7th

Wow what a day! We just got back to the hotel after spending the day in a trucking yard. We finally laid eyes on the crate this morning, but after 9 hours of breathing in exhaust fumes, it now seems like ages ago After following up on our lead from Saturday, we were sent from one office to another, then another and then back to a trucking yard where we FINALLY saw the crate for the first time. (It was a joyful moment but I have to say, our expectations have been lowered to the point where we’re just glad that we still have a crate.)

I know it’s hard for those of you who have never been here, to understand just how things work (or don’t work sometimes.) It's hard to even describe what all took place today. The amount of people that were involved in the process, the red tape, the haggling, the shifting from one office to another, the language barrier, the culture barrier and the resulting frustration of having to work in this environment.

Eventually things progressed to the point where it was decided they would need to off-load the crate contents so they can check the cargo with the excel spreadsheets and decide if it can clear customs. We cautioned them about what an undertaking that would be and reminded them of our timeline. They compromised by agreeing to modify the idea. A small army of workers converged on the crate and created an isle down the middle by moving the necessary contents to an adjoining shipping container. They can now crawl around in the container and look at what they need to and they’ve made the rest easily accessible. In the morning, the inspection will take place and then if everything is OK, we can move to the next step.

During this process, we started the negotiations around moving the crate to Muhanga, which is about an hour away. (No one seems to know the actual distance; no matter how many times the question has been asked, everyone just says “it’s about an hour away.”) The first quote we got was $2200. I quickly pointed out to them the discrepancy in that quote and the fact that it cost around $17,000 total to truck it 400kms from Penticton to Vancouver, ship it half way around the world and then truck it from Dar es Salaam to here.

Rylan and I walked over to talk to Rananja, the guy from Inchcape Shipping that I met before the Tanzanian leg of the trip. He said he’d do what he could to help and asked me to call him back in the morning. (He’s a guy that’s going to be a big help to us when it comes to shipping in the future!!) Benoit and I haggled some more over the cost of a crane to off-load at the site and we all agreed to meet at 8:00am to go over all the options once again. I feel there’s a transparency in the people and systems here and I’m just glad at this point that we’re dealing in Rwanda and not Tanzania.

By the time we headed out to go home, it was just getting dark. The area we were in was down in the industrial area and on a very busy street. The air was thick with fumes, there were very few street lights. We knew it would be hard to get a cab. The motorcycle guys that we use during the days were everywhere so we took a chance and grabbed four of those. Driving on then during the day can be considered by some to be unsafe. At night, it was crazy. I don’t think any of us could see through the glare of lights on the cracked and taped-together visors and that was a good thing. At one point as we were weaving in and out of the traffic, there was an accident so our guys just rode up on the sidewalks around the jam. Rylan told me later that he even hit a car bumper with is leg. In the end we all made it back safe and sound with more PR material for blogging!!!