Monday, November 12, 2007

Rolling through Rwanda - The African Adventure Begins

Motorcycle "Taxi" in Kigali, Rwanda from Mutcluck on Vimeo.

In case people don't read the entire pseudo diary account. Which hosting site do you prefer?

For those of you who knew about my plans for South Africa, they got thrown for a loop last week. My travel companion, who lives in Rwanda, got two freelance jobs this month and wanted to switch around the trip. Since I'm free from any real restrictions, I was happy to make the change. So Rwanda first, the rest of Southern Africa in December.

So I arrived 2 nights ago in Rwanda. Met an interesting nurse, Eli, from Belgium on the plane, had some good conversation during the 8 hour flight. Music, politics, culture and languages. I never knew Flemish was just Dutch with a thick accent. Waited around for over an hour for my bags in Kigali. Luckily they eventually showed up. I was worried for a little while. As I exited the baggage claim....
I saw Pedro, who then wisked us off on an adventurous night.


NIGHT 1: We dropped off my bags at P's house, which is down a rutted bumpy dirt road and then headed to "Hotel Rwanda" where they were having a brand relaunch party of a Rwandan Beer, Mutzig via the Heineken Company. It is delicious going down, but P and his roomies said it doesn't bode well for the next day. It treated me fine though.

We met some really interesting people at the courtyard party & barbeque, including J, a Ugandan born Rwandan, who went to grad school at Pepperdine and now works for Heineken and M, a Security officer from Blackwater, yes that Blackwater. He works at the US Embassy in Iraq. He's on vacation and decided to do something a little different with his time off. We also met a young Rwandan named JP, who rides motorcross here in Rwanda. How weird is that. He said it isn't big in Africa, but he really wants to get to the US and Canada to train with the best. It was an interesting mix of Westerners and Upperclass Rwandans. Definitely a place to be seen.

We all piled into J's truck later in the night and headed to a bar, Carwash, which doubles as a carwash during the day to hang out with some of J's' friends. What a great collection of people. Some pretty amazing conversations at Carwash. J's cousin, E, is in fact an aid to the president of the country. It was a great networking opportunity for Pedro and his various interests, but more so it was incredibly fun. JP, got way too drunk, and became a little irritating to just about everyone, but he was young, only 21. The other Rwandans were pretty fed up with him and he eventually staggered his way out of there.

We then headed to Cadillac, a local dance club. Even though it was Saturday, we were still the only Westerners in the place. We danced for awhile and then had to avoid/reject some ladies of the night that had zeroed in on us. I never realized how obvious a target I'd be in a country with so few whites. It was annoying and funny all at the same time. Eventually we grabbed a bite to eat and walked up the road.

DAY 1: We headed into Kigali to do some shopping for the week with the house cook Matilda. Headed into town on a little crowded mini bus then walked the city in search of the grocery store. Unfortunately the best stores were closed on Sunday and the only store open was a more modern supermarket built in a new mall complex. Pedro said everything was unfortunately almost double the price here.

NIGHT 2: I cooked a lamb stirfry with rice that night for P and some of his roomies. Great stirfry with marginal meat. It was better today for lunch once it had softened a bit. That night, P's friend Greg dropped by. We ended up having some amazing conversations that bridged politics, culture, bogus pharmaceuticals, virtual economies, the coexistence of past, present and future in a single place. Quite a whirlwind of ideas.

DAY 2: Didn't fall asleep till 3:30 AM, so I was tired in the morning, but we had some errands to do. Pedro had to pick up a couple books for a doc filmmaker he works with in the states, and get a couple keys copied for me and I needed to get some cash as well. Let me just say, things take a little longer in Rwanda. We ended up going to 3 different floors of the bank for P to do his money transfer at his bank, then my card wouldn't go through and they couldn't put it in manually. So we went to a 2nd bank whose network was down, and then to a 3rd bank that was able to make it happen; but that took nearly 45 minutes. I didn't mind. It was an adventure just to see how things worked. Next,off to the bookstore which took an hour and a half, since they kept disappearing to look for a book in the back room/down the street and wouldn't return for 20-30 minutes. We still weren't able to find a Rwandan proverb book that fit what he was looking for.

Then we headed home on motorbike; the quickest way to get around. You jump on the back of a bike for a little less than a dollar, with helmet on and hands holding tight to the back of the seat you weave through the streets, cars, and people of Kigali. I have a little video captured from my still camera. Nothing special, but kind of fun. I also discovered a new site: Vimeo. I think the quality is better here. Hopefully it plays for everyone no problem. The upload took hours though, since the internet here in Rwanda is only a little faster than dialup.

Today I went into town by myself. Despite my lacking/nonexistent French, I bounced to 3 stores on an errand run; some books for Pedro, and groceries for the house. I promised the roomies I'd make Chocolate Chip Cookies, since they don't really exist here. If you have a good recipe, email me. Unfortunately they don't have chocolate chips, so I'm going to cut up several chocolate bars.

Next post will be a London Recap in a day or so. I just have been slow to do it.


Anonymous said...

Good stuff Adam.

mlsurfs said...

yeah i likey.
1) that is a motorbike (not cycle)
2) v. dangerous, i hope you don't do that a lot
3) i prefer dailymotion to the other one.... because dailymotion will load the video before you watch it, but the other one kept freezing and waiting to load (as i'm on shitty wireless).

post more!
i miss my mutcluck!