I have a month of adventures in Copenhagen to catch up on,
but I just arrived in Rwanda, so lets start there. In the past I have been
complimented on my, shall we say, ballsy-ness when it comes to international
travel. Spending two weeks in Rwanda
solo is definitely abnormal activity for a twenty year old. I am usually able to operate with high levels
of confidence and independence, but every once in while I get unsettled.
After twenty plus hours of travel, I arrived in the Kigali
airport last night. For the last hour of
my flight I spoke with my seat mate, who was Ugandan and works for the Rwandan
Secret Service. He is also finishing his
law degree. Our conversation about his
life, the events in 1994, and the current state of things in Rwanda assuaged my
nerves. He gave me his card and told me
to call him if I had any problems while I was in the country. Fantastic, I
thought, I may not have many contacts here, but I now have the secret service
at my disposal. We disembarked and went
through passport control, where I obtained a thirty day visa. Like many countries in the area, Americans
have the privilege of purchasing a visa upon their arrival to the country.
I collected my bags and walked out of the airport. Now my only similar experience to compare
this to, is my arrival in Entebbe (Uganda) airport two years ago. When I exited customs in Entebbe I was
swarmed by a mass o young men speaking English, Luol, and Lugandan offering
different taxis at different prices. It
was immense sensory overload and I was thankful to see my friend waiting for
me. The arrival in Kigali was the polar
opposite. When I exited customs, no one
approached me. I went next door to the
Bank of Kigali kiosk and exchanged currency.
Then I walked down to the taxi stand, where there was a queue of
licensed and uniformed taxi drives, just like you would see outside JFK or
Logan. I told him the address of where I
was going and we agreed upon a price.
It was totally dark, but he drove me to what looked like a
very nice neighborhood. I felt perfectly
calm. He got lost. I gave him the number of my host, who he called
and they sorted out directions. We
pulled into a gated community, the streets lined with manicured trees, and up
to the tall gate of a very nice home.
It has become a joke in my family that I am staying with the
“most well reviewed man in Kigali,” which is actually the best reviewed air bnb
in Kigali. Michael’s home boasts eight
five star reviews, some of which were from other single female travelers. Michael greeted me at the gate of the
property, he is easily 6’7” if not taller, with a very kind demeanor and a soft
voice. He carried my bags in and I paid
the cab. He then showed me to my room,
which is referred to in this part of the world as a self-contained room. This means it is a structure separate from
the main house. I have a large bedroom
and a bathroom to myself. Then in the
main house Michael lives with his two cousins.
He went to bed. I took a shower
and a melatonin and passed out.
I woke up this morning around 7:45 to the sounds of cooking
outside my window. I got dressed and went
to the main house where breakfast is served.
Michael and his cousin, were on their way out the door headed to their
respective jobs. I sat down for a
breakfast of toast and bananas. Then I
asked Michael’s cousin, Fidel, who manages the house, to grab me a SIM card for
my phone. I went back to my room and
waited. Sitting in my room the feeling
of panicked nausea started to take hold.
Here I was, siting in a bedroom in Kigali freaking Rwanda,
with no phone, no internet, and no plan for my day. I wanted to throw up. I could here the voice in the back of my mind
saying “stupid stupid stupid.” I lamented coming here and having this strange
inexplicable desire to see and understand these parts of history. I lay on the bed and shut my eyes trying to relax. Basically I threw a pity party for
myself. Then Fidel knocked on the door
with the SIM card and the minutes. I
loaded my phone and packed up my bag. I
did not come to this country to hide in my room.
I walked out of the property and could see down into
Kigali. There is a reasons it is called
the land of a thousands hills, and the place where I am staying is on the top
of one of those hills. I can see for
miles into the city and the suburbs beyond.
I knew there was a internet café about ten minutes walking, so I started
down the hill.
Prior to coming, I has been told by many people that Kigali
is one of the safest places to travel as a single female, but with my
experiences cat-calling and heckling in Uganda hanging in the back of my mind I
felt uneasy as I started out my walk. I
turned onto the main road and walked by a group of men in their thirties. They nodded at me and said good morning. I greeted them and kept walking. That was it.
The rest of the walk was equally uneventful, expect for a couple motos
(motorcycle taxis) asking me if I needed a ride. I arrived at the internet café, where I am
currently seated and in a mixture of French, English, and hand gestures ordered
a coffee and an hour of internet time.
This afternoon I will head to the Genocide Memorial Center. The feelings of nervousness, have mostly
subsided and I am ready to see what these two weeks will hold.