Its now April and I am still finding less time than ever to blog. Right now, however, I am trapped in a car for the next 4 hours, and I have my blackberry. Not the most ideal way to type but it gets the job done.
We - my Congolese driver and I - are shooting along a ridge-line road, half an hour outside of Kigali on our way north to Ruhengeri, then from there west to Goma, a large border town on the easten edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo (more commonly referred to by its acronym DRC). No commercial international flights to Goma exist, hence the brief visit to Rwanda.
Kigali seems about the same - warm and safe and green and sad. The two things I noticed as we zipped through that I had not noted previously: there is slum dwelling literally across the street from the shiny US embassy, and a few miles down the same road there's yet another huge dark church on the side of a hill where death once held court.
Damas the driver doesn't speak a word of English but his French is fluent and his Congolese version of Kiswahili is conversant. He knows a few basic phrases of Kinyarwanda - the Rwandan mother tongue, and that's it. I of course speak enough French only to apologize for not speaking it at all, but I have been suerprised how well I can get on with swahili when in a bind. So far, I have been.able to:
- determine what languages he does and doesn't speak, and how well
- exchange names and other pleasantries
- ask about which roads we are taking and how good they are right now
- thankfully accept his offer to stop to pick up a bottle of water
- explain that I am from the USA (and California, and Sacramento upon further inquiries), but that I live in Nairobi and hence the swahili
- point out the hotel I stayed in when I was last here and explain how many times I have been here before
- ask how long the drive is going to take (I had been advised 3 but Damas doesn't share such optimism)
I am still not nearly conversant but I suppose I am at least a tiny bit past the basics by now.
Rural Rwanda hasn't changed a bit - green and densely populated - sustenance farms clinging onto impossibly steep hillsides, one butted up against the next. Kids walking down the side of the road with farming tools or empty water containers, mothers carrying bags and buckets and whatnot heavy on their heads. Young men sharing a bicycle, another one carrying an entire bedframe upside down on his head. Brown rivers carrying mud away to places unknown. Trucks (lorries) and buses belching black smoke as they struggle up the next hill, us breathing it in until the next opporunity to try and pass (overtake). And did I mention the endless farms? Every inch of this hill-covered country appears populated.
Ruhungeri is the town from whence travellers set out to track the gorillas - as such I passed through there one day this past January. I suppose that's one of the many things I have failed to blog about recently, but it was a very cool experience and I made some new friends out of it to boot - pity I won't get a chance to see them while passing through this time.
One thing I have never quite figured out here that seems unique to Rwanda is the massive groups of farm workers - long lines down the side of the road, as many as 200 long - all walking who knows where.
Rain clouds ahead, so much for driving with the windows down.
Life so far this year has been spent bouncing back from home and the office in LA to Nairobi, but already this year I have been spending much less time in Kenya on average than I did last year. Rwanda, Malawi, Tanzania, now DRC and probably Mali soon too.
The road gets progressively worse in quality with each kilometer we put between us and Kigali. Beyonce's song from the Charlie's Angels soundtrack has now replaced the local music. Life goes on. Maybe I will nap a bit.
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