To Kigali and Back
Trip Start Dec 27, 2009
75Trip End Dec 04, 2010
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
I didn’t get to Kigali until late afternoon and walked straight to St. Paul’s to claim my reserved room. The nice man at reception smiled when he saw me and said, "West, you are welcome. Room 22?" Very funny, nice man, but I’ll pass on the roach-infested room! He gave me room 25 which was NOT completely roach-free, but I only saw 4 on my first night, none near the bed and none on the following nights. More importantly, I had a hot shower three days in a row! Whoo hoo!
Thursday night I took it easy, grabbing some dinner at St. Paul’s Economat and then taking a huge stack of exams to Bourbon. I drank tea while grading them, then turned in.
Friday was a really fun day. I slept late, had breakfast at Economat, walked to the only bank in the entire country that accepts international ATM cards, got some dough and took a moto to Cercle Sportif – an outdoor sports complex that feels like a Rwandan country club! The place has a huge swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, ping pong tables, aerobics classes, rugby pitches, a restaurant/bar and more! I met my Field Director and her fiancÚ there, and we spent the day swimming, eating goat brochettes, and working by the pool (OK, I brought work but didn’t actually do any of it). What a find! I can’t wait to go back.
After having a (hot!) shower at St. Paul’s, I hung out in town before meeting some fellow volunteers. I did a little internetting, shopping, and enjoyed a beer on an outdoor patio while chatting with the owner of the place. It was a beautiful night out. When I got a text from my fellow volunteers, I hopped on a moto and met them at Papyrus, a very cool bar that I’d never been to. Love it! It’s more expensive than the other places we’ve been to, but it’s hip inside and out, and has a cool mixed local/ex-pat crowd. I sat outside and talked to my friends for a while, but eventually moved to the little area where people were dancing. I boogied with a group of UN workers and tagged along with them to Cadillac, my favorite dance place of all! I have no idea how long we were there. It wasn’t as crowded as New Year’s Eve, but it was just as awesome! It was a super fun night.
I got a predictably very late start on Saturday which was fine because it was Umuganda – the last Saturday of the month when the entire country spends the morning cleaning around their communities. The streets are empty and no one is out and about so I laid low until around noon. Once I got going, I went to Bourbon for lunch, graded another stack of exams and waited out a huge downpour. I ran into a few volunteers and we made plans to watch a movie at their house in Kigali that evening. A handful of other volunteers were also in town -- most of them staying at the house rather than St. Paul’s, as I’m the only one that spends the money for a bed and a key of my own so I can come and go as I please. I met them all at the house and we gathered around someone’s laptop to watch “Good Will Hunting” and eventually resorted to reading the subtitles as another massive rainstorm drowned out any sound at all.
It was still pouring when the movie was over and most were going to bed, and of course I’d left my umbrella in my room at St. Paul’s. Luckily Loren was meeting some other volunteers at a bar in the neighborhood, so I shared his umbrella to get there, stopped in to chat for a bit, then took an incredibly overpriced taxi to St. Paul’s. I rarely if ever take taxis, as they are almost the same price as cabs in NYC! I took one to Cadillac on Friday night, but the UN guys paid for it. Saturday night was a real rip-off, but I couldn’t walk in that downpour and motos don’t run in that kind of rain. So there you have it. I still got pretty wet standing in the rain, pounding on the gate for the guard to let me in after 11:30 p.m.
Saturday night I already felt a bad cold coming on, but I hoped I could will it away. Not this time. Unfortunately I woke up Sunday morning quite sure that I was getting sick. My glands were swollen and I was sneezing hard. I guess I can’t complain…I’ve been here exactly three months and this is the first sign of any sickness at all (aside from the elephant man-like rash/allergy that ravaged my arms for 2+ weeks). After many tight bus trips and living with 400 students, I’m lucky I haven’t been sick before this! It’s not so bad, it’s mostly just a head cold with lots of sneezing, runny nose and a sore neck from swollen glands.
Sunday morning I met five other volunteers for breakfast at Simba, and lingered for a while over food and fun magazines that people have had sent to them. It took all my willpower not to rip open MY fun package from my dad and Peggy that I was carrying around! But I didn’t want it to be difficult to transport home so I held back. Shortly thereafter I took a 12:30 p.m. bus back to Musanze and ripped open said package as soon as I walked into my room! Thanks to Dad and Peggy for all the great stuff I asked for – kitchen supplies, office supplies, toiletries, etc.!
Going to Kigali is such a double-edged sword for me. On the one hand, I just love it there. Let’s face it, I’m a city girl and always will be. It’s where I can go clubbing, shopping, visiting with fellow volunteers that inevitably congregate there, I always meet new people, etc. On the other hand, I spend too much money and truthfully I never feel like coming back to Musanze when I’m there. Yet…when I’m in Musanze it’s exactly where I want to be. I wasn’t dying to go to Kigali this past weekend, but I felt I had to get out of Musanze for a few days and I had an absolute blast. So the bottom line is that I’m happy wherever I am in Rwanda. Who’s luckier than me?!
Well, it’s not all roses. If you’re reading this you may be close enough to know that my Auntie Jean passed away early on Friday morning. When I said goodbye to her on Christmas Day I suspected it would be for good, but you always hope for a miracle, right? I’ve been in close touch with my mom recently regarding her condition and it was clear that it would be soon. I got the email with the news on Friday afternoon (my time) and I started crying in the internet place. I really can’t imagine life without my Cuma, my most precious aunt, my second mom….and the strangest thing is that I don’t have to imagine it yet. In one way, it’s hard being so far from home and my family when we lose someone dear. In another way, it makes it so much easier. Absolutely nothing here reminds me of home so it’s easy not to really believe it. I just keep teaching, talking to my new friends, going to the market, taking bucket baths, etc. The unreality of it all will change when I do go home (whenever that is) and it will hit me that she’s not there. Look out for that day, it’s not going to be pretty.
But in the meantime, my thoughts have constantly been with my Uncle Tony, my cousins Kit, Mary Beth and TJ, and also my mom. My Cuma was my mom’s best friend and as she reminded me, the one person who has known her her entire life. How many people can we say that about besides our parents? It’s pretty special. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to lose a big sister…I only wish I could. Anyway, I’m so sad for my family and myself, but trying to be happy for Auntie Jean who no longer has to suffer from the illnesses that have been plaguing her. And I’m really grateful that I got to talk to her on her birthday a few weeks ago.
Gotta look at the bright side, and there’s always a bright side. Or so I’m told.