Rwanda Day 4 & 5: End of the Trip

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Kandt House.

Reading this week:

  • Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
  • The Looting Machine by Tom Burgis

After milking my COS for literally months of blog posts, my trip is complete!

Leaving Kibuye I got a little adventurous. After waking up early to watch the clouds change color as the sun rose, I wanted to explore some of the peninsulas that jut out into the lake. I was driving around and eventually I went down a road that was just someone’s driveway, and which ended at a gate with no way to turn around. I had to back some ways down a bumpy dirt road where if I went too far I’d fall of a cliff. I’m still alive, but decided to call it after that. The road to Kigali was perhaps the scariest so far for being a little pot-holed and right up against the tallest cliffs I’d seen in Rwanda. The weirdest sight (out of context) was a dude by the side of the road just holding up a catfish he was trying to sell. It looked like the only one he had and there he was standing near a bend holding up a catfish, staring at people driving by.

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On the way to Kigali.

I made it to Kigali in good time and decided to go to the National Art Museum. I had been using maps.me to get around, and it had been pretty good in Rwanda but failed hard in Kigali. The problem is that it contains a lot of “roads” that are more or less impassible dirt tracks, and also it wants to take you on the absolute shortest route. So first it lead me to the wrong side of the airport, trying to get me to cross over behind the airport via a dirt path. I didn’t go down because there was a motorcyle that wouldn’t move, and almost couldn’t make it back because the path was too steep. When I went on the other side of the airport it had me go down this side road and then up this dirt path that was also impassible, and I spent some time turning around again. Then I found another road, and it lead me to another dirt road, which I felt couldn’t be right because the art museum is in a the former Presidential Palace, but it lead me there. There is a tarmac road that leads straight there but I guess it isn’t the absolute shortest path so maps.me didn’t take me that way.

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Back yard of the art museum, because they don’t allow pictures inside.

The art museum was nice. I had the place to myself and was lead around by a rather nice lady. No pictures though which was disappointing, and being lead by a guide made it a little weird to see the museum. You can’t really stand there and contemplate art when she is explaining stuff and leading you around. There was one piece I liked, but maybe it was just the well-carved boobs. The president had some nice digs, but it was built in 1976 and looks like it. We also went to the Presidential Plane Crash Site, which is just out back. This was where the President’s plane crashed, sparking the Rwandan Genocide. There are parts of the plane strewn about, but more interestingly is the 17 or so crested cranes walking around. Apparently they use the place as a crested crane rehabilitation center, and the cranes are beautiful.

I drove to my B&B with relative ease, but driving through Kigali is a bit of a trip. Cars and motorcycles drive on the same roads and the same time, but they’re not really part of the same system. They both tend to both drive without regards to the other and it was my experience that the system worked best when you in fact drove your car more or less without regard to the motorcycles (I mean, don’t hit them). I had the whole next day in Kigali, so I wasn’t so pressed to fill up all my time, but I spent the evening on a walk around the neighborhood.

The next day, the first place I went was the Genocide Memorial. They search your car and give you a patdown before you go in; I wonder what threats they have had. The genocide memorial has a whole museum that is pretty well done. I have a lot of disparate thoughts here. First off the memorial also has a cafe which, I dunno. “We will never forget the horrible things that happened! Never again! Enjoy our cafe and free wifi!” One bit I found weird was a line in the memorial talking about the some of the benefits white people brought to Rwanda, including Christianity. The very next line notes the role in the Catholic church fostering racial/ethnic divides between the Tutsis and the Hutus, both helping to elevate the Tutsis more and then also telling the Hutus they were being oppressed. Again, there ya go. I exited via the Genocide Gift Shop. I bought a lapel pin.

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Leftover from the Natural History Museum.

From there I went to the Kandt House Museum. The weirdest part of the museum was right before I arrived, because just up the road is a garage or something. As I was driving a bunch of guys jumped out and kinda surrounded the car and I was worried I was going the wrong way or something. Turns out they just had a car wash deal. The museum used to the be the natural history museum so around back they have a single, small crocodile and several snakes. Neat. The house itself is pretty nice and contains displays on the history of Rwanda. Some things I learned: Making a single traditional hoe from the ore requires 300kg of charcoal. This means that around 1907, when a bunch of pictures on display were taken, and presumably before that, the country was largely deforested. This was also beneficial to provide pasture for raising cows. The Kings all had like, one of five names, depending on what they needed to do doing their reign. These names were things like “Warrior,” or “Yari,” which means “Peace.” The museum had two wheels that had been used to transport a steam launch (I thought it was named the “Dampfbarkasse” but turns out that just means “Steam Launch” in German). They had a display on traditional courts, and the two punishments mentioned were making beer to provide to everyone, or death. Quite the delta there. The guide also related a story of how apparently the Rwandan people though the whole world was between the three hills of Kigali. Then the Chief climbed Kigali Hill, and saw, like, the rest of Rwanda, and that’s how they found out there was a whole world out there.

From there, off to the Campaign Against Genocide Museum. This is in the parliament building. Again, you gotta get patted down and have your car searched. The displays are interesting (in a “kinda weird”) sense. The museum focuses on the RPF’s actual military campaign against government forces. The museum is where it is because the 3rd Battalion (I assume that is what “3BN” means) of the RPF forces were stationed in the parliament building as part of the Arusha Peace Accords. So when the genocide began there was an RPF force in Kigali already. What clicked at the museum is that like, Kigali itself was a battlefield. They have a war painting of the RPF attacking the sports stadium. That put a new perspective on things. The interesting/weird part though was it was a bit technical. They had a display that they repeated a few times that looks like a powerpoint slide from some military strategy presentation, talking about phases of operation and arrows for things like “media efforts.”

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Gumboots.

The most stunning thing to see was the RPF’s uniforms, which included gumboots as combat boots. That amazed me. I’m not making fun of them for being poor, I am just impressed. I was stunned when all the rangers climbed Virunga in gumboots, and here are these people fighting a war in them. There are apparently some statues and stuff outside, but it was raining so I didn’t bother to look, and I wasn’t feeling great, so I just went back to the B&B. And except for the trip to the airport, that wrapped up my Rwandan vacation and COS trip.

After 24 hours or so of travel and a layover in Qatar, I landed at Dulles airport. Then I stood in the line for customs for 2.5 hours. Frankly if I had known the line for America was that long I might not have come. Me and the customs guy: How are you? I was good two hours ago. Where you coming from? Rwanda. Did you meet anyone there? Nope. Have any business or any friends or relatives? Nope. So you met no one at all? Nope. Why did you choose to go to Rwanda then? Because it is beautiful. What is your profession? Nothing at the moment. What did it used to be? Peace Corps Volunteer. Do you have any food or anything to declare at all? Nope. He let me pass but I don’t think he liked me. And so after 27 months I was back in the US of A. Dad drove me home and I napped.

Rwanda Day 3: Chimpanzees

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Reading this week:

  • American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

The big highlight of this day was chimpanzee tracking. I woke up early early in the morning and met up with the group at the Gisikuru Ranger Station. From there we drove about an hour and a half to an isolated patch of forest where a habituated group of chimpanzees live. The gorillas gave me high expectations for the chimpanzees, despite warnings. We parked our cars at the edge of the forest and set out on foot. The walk was farther than I anticipated, though not actually that far, though the guide kept saying things like “we are close” when our definitions of “close” differed significantly. Eventually we went off the trail, down a slick near-vertical portion of the hill. “Not far!” I was annoyed and the views of the chimpanzees weren’t that good. We kept shifting slightly over the cliff face there to try to get a better view, but it was only faraway glimpses of chimps through trees. Ugh. We eventually went back to the trail and things got better.

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A small group of the chimps (three or four) were walking down the trail and we were basically following them. I got some pictures of chimp butts. Eventually though the chimps climbed a tree to eat some fruit and we scrambled up the hill a short ways and were pretty level with the chimps and got some great photos. One of the dudes on the trek had this huge camera he had a porter carry. It was impressive. We hung out for a while watching the chimps eat and climb around some and then eventually they left and we did too. I was annoyed on the way back because some of the people were super slow and it took forever to get back but we got back.

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From there I set off for Kibuye. The drive is fantastic. Most of it is right along Lake Kivu, hugging the hills that descend into twisty bays all along the coast of the lake. I got to Kibuye and was hungry for lunch. I wound up at Home Saint Jean to get some food. I was trying to find another place but Maps.me lead me there and I was okay with that. It’s this gorgeous castle-looking place perched on a hill that juts out into the bay, maybe 100m up from the lake. I had a rather good lunch and the manager convinced me to get a room because it was only 15000 francs and a pretty nice room with a lake view.

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Continuing my collection of national museums, I darted off to visit the Museum of the Environment. The tour guide showed me around; it is a pretty nice museum though very small. The most interesting thing for me is the Apollo Moon Rock that Reagan gave the country back in 1973. They had a display on energy production and I found out a drill platform looking thing I spotted in the lake from Rubavu is the methane extraction platform so that’s neat. Also that Rwanda produces a good chunk of electricity from peat. The guide told me that the evolution display is kinda contentious in Rwanda, and that he has had trouble convincing people that butterflies come from caterpillars. They have some stuffed animals and I think their star display is of a crocodile found with some shoes undigested in its stomach (the shoes are also displayed). On the roof they have some native plants which were neat to see and then the museum was pretty much over. After that I came back to the hotel and just hung out because frankly I was pretty exhausted from all the traveling. I haven’t been to the Mediterranean but you could have convinced me the view was in the most picturesque chunk of Italy or Greece.

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Rwanda Day 2: Nyungwe

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The whole country is picturesque valleys like this.

After sitting in the car for a bit writing down all my thoughts to process them, I drove to Nyungwe. Nyungwe National Park is gorgeous. Most of Rwanda is cultivated. I kept stopped today before the memorial to take pictures of valleys, and they’re all amazing with these patches of farm and different terraces. But then you get to Nyungwe and it is just forest so it is very different (except for the national parks, Rwanda is almost entirely under cultivation). Plus I kept gaining altitude as I went west (or at least the hills are taller and so I guess the valleys deeper) and on top of a lot of the hills the clouds were touching them and seeming to rise from the forest itself. I kept wanting to take pictures but I was trying to get to Uwinka Reception Center before 1300 to make the Canopy Walk on time. It’s a pretty and fun slash scary drive because of all the curves and hills. Later on I passed a truck that had crashed right into the wall of the hill because it didn’t turn fast enough. Better than barreling over the side. The driver was cooking some food as I passed so he’s okay.

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Nyungwe.

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Jean D’Amour

I arrived at the visitor’s center there and arranged to go on the canopy walk tour. It’s overpriced frankly at $60, but I also arranged to see chimpanzees the next day for $90, and what I am telling myself is that chimps is actually a bargain at $150. Anyways. My guide was Jean D’Amour and he was very nice. I was alone; it isn’t exactly tourist high season here. We went down the trail and he told me some stuff about plants and things. He showed me a plant people use as toilet paper because it is soft, and a vine that is taking over the park because only elephant and buffalo eat it and both are extinct in the park. Plus a medicinal tree. Neat. But trouble was brewing. First he ran into a guide that told him the bridge was broken. But, he said, a Canadian was fixing it. Then we ran into said Canadian. He said he was off to get tools and it would be 1-2 hours. Jean suggested we just wait at the bridge. We kept going and then ran into more Canadians. One was named Ian and was very friendly. He told me about cool bridges like this one in Vancouver, and that he had installed a zipline going from the Foxwoods Casino in CT to the Foxwoods Museum, and also that the museum wasn’t doing so hot and only got 50,000 visitors a year despite the casino getting 1,000,000, and the zipline was a ploy to get more. He also said that the bridge cost $800,000 to build and the park gets $500,000/year from it, which is like 8000 something Non-Resident Foreigners. But he also highly doubted the 1-2 hour time estimate to fix it. So Jean made some phone calls and arranged for me to see the bridge the next day, provided it was fixed.

Canopy Walk

Sex appeal.

But we went to the bridge anyways because I could go to the first platform (there are actually two platforms and three bridges, with the big center bridge between the two platforms out of commission) and check it out. It was in fact pretty neat. Jean insisted on a like, full on photo shoot so I have 20 pictures of me on and around the bridge.

After the bridge I had a nice little lunch at the place. I was heading out and the receptionist guy asked for a lift to Gisikoro and I was happy to oblige. That was pretty neat because he answered some questions in the car. Along the road in the forest there is an army guy stationed every few hundred meters. I figured they were for poachers but he said they were also there because the forest is on the border with Burundi and there is fighting there. So that’s kinda scary? We saw a monkey along the way, and he told me that the name of the swamp in Kinyarwanda means “Swallows Elephants” because back when there were forest elephants in the park I guess they would get stuck in the swamp.

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The tea process.

I dropped him in Gisikoro and then went to the Gisikoro Tea Factory for a tour. That was very informative! It cost $10 and I was again alone so I had what I think was the foreman leading me around. The tour was of the processing facility. We went to the loading dock where the tea leaves are delivered from the fields. They are first tested for the proper ratio of good and bad leaves. “Good leaves” are the new tea leaf shoots, so the end of the branch plus one or two leaves. They require 65% of the incoming leaves to be “good” leaves. The other 35% are the “bad” leaves, which are any leaves other than the apical portion. Once they verify the ratio, they go on “withering” beds, which are large beds with screens on the bottom through which warm air is blown. This happens for 12 hours and the leaves lose 30% of their mass from water evaporation. After that they are loaded into bags and onto a hoist system, and then taken to a chopper. They are chopped very finely using first a regular looking cutter and then like shredder wheels. These wheels go so fast they make steam come out of the leaves. The smell in this portion of the process is a lot like fresh cut grass.

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Tour guide and fermentation beds.

So the leaves come out into very fine chunks and then go onto these conveyors that use paddles (and speed I assume) to control the heat and there the leaves ferment. They go from green to brown in this step. What makes black tea black is fermentation; green tea is just dried with no fermentation. After fermentation the leaves are dried using a steam drier. Then they are sorted and graded. Apparently tea bag tea is lower quality and contains stems. He showed me a tray with different grades of tea and you could really see the difference. It was pretty neat. We went out back to check out the machine shop which was very nice and used to maintain equipment like the cutting rollers. We also saw the wood-fired boilers that provide the drying steam. They are very large and there were dudes tossing in logs. They made sure I got some good pics. The boilers were made in England and have been operating since 1974.

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Tea grades.

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ATTENTION TO BURN. I always brake for boilers.

After that I set off and found a lodge. That involved me driving some places I shouldn’t have, and I very nearly got stuck in a bad spot of road where the necessary wheels of the car were not on the ground. At the lodge I ran into some people that knew a friend of mine, and some other people that climbed Nyiragongo the day after I did, which goes to show that Rwanda is I guess a small country. I spent some time reflecting on how one day could involve seeing genocide victims and then hiking through the most stunning natural beauty of Rwanda, and finish with a tour of a tea factory. Africa is a great deal more complex than most people give it credit for.

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Tea fields.

Rwanda Day 2: Murambi Genocide Memorial

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Murambi Genocide Memorial. They ask visitors not to take pictures at the site.

Reading this week:

  • Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein

My first major observation on my second full day in Rwanda was that if you don’t like passion fruit, you should just leave. They serve it for breakfast and dessert and all the time. After my passionate breakfast, it was some errands and souvenir shopping. I stopped by a Huye coffee to buy some souvenir coffee for friends, and as happened often to me in Africa there was a dude “sneakily” taking selfies where I just so happened to be in the background. After I said to him “you could just ask, you know” (I did a whole photoshoot with two dudes while I was at Great Zimbabwe because they asked) he sheepishly put away his phone and walked off.

The major destination for the day was the Murambi Genocide Memorial. I got a little turned around, but eventually came across it. I had the place to myself, tourist-wise. I could have parked closer but I didn’t know that and it felt more appropriate to walk up to the memorial. The memorial, which was going to be a technical school, is perched on top of a picturesque mountain surrounded by other picturesque mountains and farms. It’s really stunningly beautiful and the grounds and so peaceful and serene. I walked in the front door and the lady working there gave a short explanation and I was off into the exhibits.

The first part is an explanation of the history of the genocide. It’s really well done though a little abrupt (I feel like they skip some details), but then again they do it in three languages so every time you add anything you add triple. The biggest thing I learned I think was about the participation of the French. The French troops were supporting the government which was initiating the genocide. At Murambi specifically they repeatedly gang raped the girls there and played volleyball pretty much on top of a mass grave. They fought to repel the RPF, who are credited with ending the genocide. At the end of these exhibits there are two “burial chambers” where bodies were supposed to be on display. I knew they had bodies at Murambi and so I steeled myself but when you go into the rooms the chambers are empty. So I was somewhat relieved, frankly. That was the end of this part and for the next part the lady took you around the outside.

Outside, they have an uncovered (and empty) mass grave to give you a sense of the scale of the killing (as numbers go, approximately 50,000 people were murdered, which makes it 5% of the total victims of the genocide). Then you go back into the former dormitories. In the first few rooms they have clothing that was removed from some of the bodies and used for identification by the families. She took me to the location of the former volleyball court and where the French had installed rockets to repel the RPF.

Then she took me to the bodies. I thought I had “gotten out of” seeing the bodies, but before you know it she is showing you the rooms. It was not what I expected. I kinda figured they would be behind glass or something because I had glimpsed glass cases through some windows. But you turn the corner and you are just in the room with the bodies, with nothing between you and them. You can smell them. Some of the people still have hair and some still have clothes. They are laid out on platforms and are skeletal. On some the skin has broken and ribs are exposed. There are adults and children and babies. I went into all the rooms in the first block because I felt I had to. There were maybe 20 people per room. I think there were four or five rooms. After those rooms were the rooms I had seen with the glass cases. In the first two rooms the cases were filled with just femurs, sorted by age and sex. “Female over 30,” “Male under 30.” I tried counting but couldn’t. I think each case represented something like 30 people. Then the next few rooms had skulls, neatly laid out in rows and again sorted by age and sex. Some of the skulls were smashed or had whole chunks missing. Somehow to me the femurs were more impactful than the skulls because skulls are people but femurs are just kind of the anonymous tolling of death.

In that block I think there were the remains of 200 or so people, which is such a tiny fragment. There were two more blocks but I couldn’t bring myself to go look. The last stop was the mass grave where the people were re-interred. She said that there were 50,000 people in it. It’s just a white tiled platform on the top with flowers laid on it, but it’s where 50,000 people are. And then with that tour is over and you are walking down the driveway of the memorial looking at those picturesque mountains again.

Rwanda Day 1

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The Rock of Kamegeri. I don’t know why I made this expression.

The rest of my COS trip I spent driving around Rwanda and looking at stuff. To drive around Rwanda I of course rented a car. This was fantastically simple. I called up this car rental agency and 30 minutes later they showed up to my hotel with a car. They didn’t even look at my driver’s license or anything. We drove together to an ATM so I could get cash to pay them, and then they left on a motorcycle taxi. So there I was in the middle of an African city in charge of a car when I hadn’t driven in 27 months. I can happily report that I never crashed and only got pulled over once. I did several times find myself driving on the left side of the road instead of the right, but thankfully there was no one else around.

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Some lumps of clay that will be pottery someday. I took this picture just to justify my trip to this pottery place.

My first destination was the Rock of Kamegeri. I stopped in town first to get some lunch. Due to my lack of French I only got fries and a salad, but it was pretty good and I went off for the rock. I blew past it at first because it didn’t have the promised sign, but went back, took a picture, and I was on my way to Gatagara Pottery. My usual shtick when left to my own devices on vacation is to look at as much stuff as possible, and in Rwanda I was going hard and fast. Gatagara is supposed to feature local artisans you can see at work. When I arrived no one was there, but the guard at the next door hospital called a dude for me. No one was potting that day, and the dude just opened up the gift shop for me. I bought a bowl and a cup (they both look pretty cool) mostly out of guilt for dragging the guy out there, but it was only about $6.

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Outside of the King’s Palace.

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The roof of the palace. The place was fantastically sturdy for being grass.

After that I was bound for the King’s Palace Museum. I went to three of Rwanda’s eight national museums that day. The King’s Palace Museum was pretty amazing. So the king (and according to the guy at the Ethnographic Museum, most Rwandans) lived in a giant hut made of grass. It’s woven like a giant basket and seems pretty darn sturdy no matter what the three little pigs taught me. It was amazing just to see the structure. We also met the small herd of royal cows with gigantic horns. The cows are just decorative though; they don’t eat them, and bury the cows when they die. They also had the “palace” built for the king by the Germans (It’s a rather nice and airy house) which was neat.

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Royal cows.

Then I was off to the nearby Museum of Rwesero, which is housed in the new palace the King was having built after a tour of Europe and seeing the other king’s digs (he died before it was finished). The museum used to be the art museum, but is now kinda nothing, and housed on the ground floor some iron smelting products (kinda neat actually) and upstairs an exhibit on fashion, but that was only bad pictures. I didn’t spend long, though I admired the banisters made out of spears. After this it was off to Huye.

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The Rwandans were big into spears, the king especially so. I asked the lady working there and she confirmed the spears were original to the new palace and thus at the King’s own behest. I liked his decorating style.

I arrived at Huye at about 1630 and wavered as to go to the Ethnographic Museum, since it closed at 1800. I decided to go and it was enough time. I got a guided tour by an extremely knowledgeable tour guide who was able to answer some random esoteric questions I had about the artifacts. There’s nothing too crazy in the museum (by which I mean I’m not new to the concept of a winnowing basket) but it is very nicely done and has a lot of stuff and like I said the tour guide was excellent and I was alone in the museum. The tour took an hour and I poked around by myself for a few more minutes and then head out. A whirlwind first full day of my actual Rwanda vacation.

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Displays from the Ethnographic Museum.

Travelling to the DRC

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Nyirogongo from Rubavu.

Reading this week:

  • Endymion by Dan Simmons

After my jaunt to Zimbabwe, my next destination was Virunga National Park in the DRC. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Kigali, Rwanda, and then head to the border from there. Getting to the airport in Harare and flying to Kigali all went very smoothly, and I arrived in Kigali a little after the sun had set. I had arranged to stay at the Teahouse B&B in Kigali, and they sent a taxi to pick me up. First impression of Kigali was that it is beautiful. It was just warm enough to be very pleasant and seeing all the lights on the hills during the taxi drive was amazing. It reminded me of landing in Guam for the first time and driving down the beach with the weather and the lights reflecting on the water.

The next day confirmed my first impression over and over. After a fantastic breakfast at the hotel they called me a taxi and took me to the bus station. Rwanda took some getting used to though after two years in Zambia. In Rwanda they drive on the right side of the road, as opposed to the left in Zambia, so for a while I kept thinking we were driving on the wrong side of the road. I also had to get used to the currency. It’s 900 francs to the dollar, but I would just think of the 5000 franc note as five bucks. Then, when something was five bucks, in my head I’m like “five bucks?! It’s practically free!” But in Zambia in Kwatcha I would hesitate before spending 50 Kwatcha (aka $5) on something. The taxi ride to the bus station was 8000 francs which I felt was pretty cheap, but that’s a 80 kwatcha taxi ride.

The bus station went smoothly with the taxi driver finding me a bus. I got on the bus and we actually left pretty quick. It didn’t really matter though; I thought this trip was supposed to take no more than three hours but it took five. I think this is because we were more or less following the president of Rwanda and there were roadblocks that slowed us down. Some thoughts I wrote down on the ride: First off Kigali is like, so so nice. It’s nicer than American cities. I wonder what the hell Peace Corps volunteers do in Rwanda. If things were this nice in Zambia I’d be thinking to myself “development complete.” At the bus station a guy was walking around selling magazines, and offered me the English-language version of The Economist to give you a sense I guess of what people are reading around here. I was excited to see people growing cocoyam in the gardens I could see by the road. I was also very impressed by the cushions on the bike racks. In Zambia and here people ride around on people’s bike racks. But no one in Zambia has ever apparently thought of putting a cushion on the bike rack, and when I saw that here I was like “oh man that’s genius.” A lot of the buildings also have these super sweet tile roofs, like the Italian (I guess) tile that’s semi-circular. It looks super nice and cool. I also saw sheep along the way which I thought was unusual (also goats and cows). The whole country is comprised of gorgeous valleys, some terraced and others covered in banana groves. I spent the whole bus ride staring out the window mesmerized by how gorgeous it was.

After arriving in Rubavu I checked into a hotel and then set off to check out the town. I went by this crafts co-op where I spotted a knife that looked like a shona knife in Zimbabwe I had wanted to get for my brother. It’s wrapped in what I think is goat hide and is perfect because it is super dull. I bought it, fearful I would never see another like it (this fear was misplaced). When I went into the crafts shop next door they had more of the same. Walking up that street was cool because the street frames Mt. Nyirogongo and man it is imposing. It’s like, 2000 meters above Rubavu and has smoke coming from the top. I can’t wait to climb it. I wandered around Rubavu and eventually bought a black market sim card. Sort of. I stopped by a sim card stand and asked how much. There was a language barrier. He eventually said 3000 which I think it actually about 10 times too much. He asked if I had a passport and I said no. I handed him 5000 and he thought for a bit and gave me the sim card. I asked for change; he said we were “finished.” So I think I bribed my way into a sim card and I think I paid 100x too much considering they are 5 kwatcha in Zambia but oh well.

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Lake Kivu from the bar.

I kept walking and got to the lakeshore, eventually stopping by a gorgeous bar where I had two beers (Turbo King, which I initially figured was motor oil or something) and dinner and another beer. It was lovely and had great views of the lake. The bar also played country music (and “Hotel California”) which, I can never decide how jarring it is to be so far from America, really in the deepest part of Africa (I mean Wakanda is supposed to be nearby) and hear American pop culture. After that I walked back to the hotel. I passed a number of guys working out and a pretty enthusiastic basketball game, both of which impressed me a lot because I never saw that sort of thing in Zambia.

After I got back to the hotel it was slightly jarring to read a news article in Al Jazeera saying a town in North Kivu (Virunga National Park is in North Kivu) was attacked and captured by guerrillas, severely hampering efforts at fighting ebola. I checked and the epicenter of the outbreak was only about 200km to the north of me. Disease and fighting was raging 200km to the north of me but everything where I was felt and looked amazing. I wondered how close it had to get before they close the park?

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