Madeleine Otto spent her Christmas vacation in Rwanda, traveling and interning for their leading newspaper. Below is an excerpt from her blog describing one day in Kigali.
Today I took public transportation in Kigali for the first time. Since Anchorage’s only form of public transport, The People Mover, is frequented by homeless heroin addicts, I generally try to avoid it. But in keeping with my attempted #wheninrwanda mentality, I decided to try it. As my sister, our friend Sheryl and I piled into the back of a small rickety van, I eagerly anticipated the ride. Would this be like taking a sleeper class train to Varanasi [in Uttar Pradesh]? It wasn’t.
There is no real time schedule for buses in Kigali; when enough people get on the bus, it eventually leaves. So half an hour later, when we were squeezed into our decaying seats like unhappy sardines, the driver took off for Kacyiru. The packed vehicle was hot and stifling, and wedged between a grimy window and an unfriendly Rwandese woman, I began to wish I’d opted for a moto. When we neared our destination, a complicated version of telephone ensued when Sheryl (who was sitting in the row behind me) told me to tell the guy in front to tell the driver to stop the bus. Eventually, the driver took note and the bus came to a grinding halt. Because there were no aisles, the entirety of the vehicle had to disembark in order to let us off, and we were given a few dirty looks. One leg on Kigali’s public transport is enough for me.
Sheryl offered to take us to a smoothie joint in Kimihurura. After taking ‘moto’s (mototaxis, a standard form of transport in Kigali) to the nearby landmark Mr. Chips, we walked downhill to Hero, a small hole in the wall. There we met Antoine, the friendly Dutch owner. Antoine had abandoned his unfulfilling life as an IT specialist in Amsterdam to move to Rwanda, where he got a tan, found love, and opened a smoothie shop. Now in his second marriage and with two young Rwandese kids, Antoine seems to be one of the happiest men I’ve ever met (and my mango-pineapple-coconut smoothie put Jamba Juice to shame).
This morning I had an interview with The New Times. Unsure what a mere blogger such as myself would have to offer Rwanda’s leading daily, I was astonished when they hired me on the spot. Starting tomorrow, I will be interning for Rwanda’s biggest newspaper for the next two weeks, and then hopefully returning this summer.
To celebrate my new job, my dad and I had lunch at my new favorite cafe in Kacyiru, Shokola Lite. The first time I’d gone to Shokola, I’d missed the first step and fallen flat on my face in front of the entire staff. Because of this I had vowed never to return. But then I realized that with the amount of embarrassing things that happen in my life, if I ran away from every proverbial Shokola Lite, I’d never get anything done. Also their goat cheese wraps are amazing.
I probably would not describe myself as the most computer literate individual, but this reached new heights today when I had to tell the nice Indian man at the Apple store that I couldn’t actually find the CV on my own computer. To be fair, it’s not actually my computer, and Raghu knows me pretty well now, as this is the third time I’ve come in. Fortunately he didn’t seem judgmental, even after learning that a 21 year old St. Andrews student didn’t know how to use the spotlight function on a Macbook.
Excited for my first day at a legitimate newspaper and hoping I’ll have something to contribute. Time to get up on East African politics.
Image Credits: Madeleine Otto
If you would like to read more, follow Madeleine’s travels here.