Someone told me that the derivation of mzungu is "aimless wanderer." I was that person today, managing to find my way to the bus from Gisenyi, which was disappointingly empty of chickens or the need to sit on a stranger's lap. The 3 hour bus ride was cheaper than the 8 minute taxi ride from my hotel to the bus station, but I can't figure these things out.
Kigali is a fairly sleepy, green city, awash with aid money and expats, surprisingly free of the exhaust fumes and dust of other african capitals.
It's just as cobbled together in some ways, despite the rising office "towers." I asked for directions to my hotel at the bus station, suspecting it was about a 5 minute walk away, but no one seemed to be able to read my map or know the hotel. I picked a driver who claimed to know where he was going, but he was grasping at straws, thinking I wanted the airport because my map had a little arrow indicating where it was. We went the long way around to find a hotel that indeed turned out to be about 500 m from the bus station, and abashed, he told me I only had to pay what I thought was fair. That was novel.
I am a bit stupefied and numbly tired, sleep consistently interrupted by different people. (It's a fairly loud country, radios blaring constantly, even on the bus, so loud that it irritated even through earplugs). It's also a cash-only country, and I had to pay for my plane ticket back to Kampala in cash. I managed to successfully get a cash advance on my visa (I'm running out of money), which involved a complicated series of steps and the nether regions of a bank.
I'm also running out of books, so I looked fruitlessly for a bookshop my guidebook noted for about 45 minutes, until I managed to piece together that it had moved to a suburb. I found an alternative, a christian french bookshop where I bought a Time and a Newsweek for about $20.
My only reason to be here, really, is to see the city (seen) and visit a couple of genocide memorials, so I'm trying to negotiate how to get to this one, about 125 km away, tomorrow or friday. Minibusses would involve a lot of shifting and switching and I'm running out of energy, so I'll probably end up paying a taxi driver. Who won't, I hope, want to talk to me.
I don't think I'll be able to say anything meaningful about this, in any way. I came across this excerpt from an abstract of a Philip Gourevitch piece in the New Yorker last year, and while I know he's been criticized as being Kagame's hagiographer, it's fairly consistent with the story I've heard so far. Our kids like Kagame, credit his rigidity and efforts to create one unified rwanda as contributing to a safe and vibrant country. (People are all banyarwanda -- rwandese -- not identified by tribes; anyone contributing to hate speech or prejudice can be fined or arrested).
...President Paul Kagame’s attempts to rebuild Rwanda after the genocidal violence fifteen years ago. In the course of a hundred days, beginning on April 6, 1994, nearly a million people from the Tutsi minority were massacred in the name of an ideology known as Hutu Power. On the fifteenth anniversary of the genocide, Rwanda is one of the safest and most orderly countries in Africa. The great majority of prisoners accused or convicted of genocide have been released. And Rwanda is the only nation where hundreds of thousands of people who took part in mass murder live intermingled at every level of society with the families of their victims. “So far, so good,” Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame tells the writer. Kagame led the rebel force that stopped the genocide. He has presided over Rwanda’s destiny ever since. He is unapologetically authoritarian, and Rwanda’s stability has come at the expense of internal opposition and dissent, while its security is owed in large part to the exporting of its violent conflict into the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I can't pretend to understand any of it. All I know is that you see aid money everywhere, in the shiny tin roofs of rural homes, well projects that children bring yellow jerry cans to, refugee and genocide survivor camps, tiny community initiatives along every road, from tailoring cooperatives to community banking co-ops. Women from different tribes given shares in the same goats and cows. A big city supermarket catering to ex-pats in kigali, a coffee shop with free wifi filled with expats that could be transplanted to Yonge and Eglinton. More people beg on the streets than in kampala, and more aggressively hawk clothing, pens, maps.
A liminal moment, where "Bill Clinton's roads" between towns are smooth and slick, if too narrow, and the roads inside towns like Gisenyi are barely roads at all, just potholed, stoney, bumpy dirt.