Friday, July 8, 2011

I can sleep when I'm dead.

Saturday, July 2

Sorry for my last blog; I know I can get caught up in details. (Believe it or not, I cut a lot out of that post before I published it. Journalism is going to be a hard life....) My other blogs from Rwanda will probably be just as long - at least for the first few days - but I'll try to make it easier to read by breaking it up with subtitles. So here goes!

First Impressions

After we went through customs (i.e. walked through an unguarded door), we met two Rwandans from the Interdisciplinary Genocide Studies Center who were waiting to drive us to our apartments. We had been told that a Mizzou student who had gone on the trip two years ago would be meeting us at the airport, but these men told us our professor sent them to pick us up. I found it ironic that within 30 minutes of arriving in Africa, we were breaking the universal law of never get into a car with someone you don't know, but it was a bus. Ha. Obviously, they were telling the truth, and we're all safe.

The exchange rate is about 600 RWF to 1 USD. Our program director got us the best rate, so I started
my trip with 60,000 Rwandan francs in my pocket.

As we drove to the apartments, the first thing I noticed was the traffic. I trust that the drivers here know what they are doing, but if I ever tried to drive a car here, I would probably get in an accident within 45 seconds. They don't observe right-of-way laws, as far as I can tell. It's like a game of who can squeeze into the lane the fastest. And our bus got so close to the motorcycles on the road. It made me very nervous for them. Some of the cars also had steering wheels on the right side of the car, which was odd because everyone drives on the right side of the road.

Also, while I was looking for a photo for my "Current Location" gadget on this blog, the only pictures of Kigali I could find were of houses on hills. Now, I see why. The whole town is buildings on hills! But overall, Kigali is pretty much like any other city. Obviously it has it's own architecture, food, transportation system, etc., but I've found in my travels that all cities are fundamentally the same. And most of the signs are in English, which is definitely a plus.

After we dropped our luggage off, we were served our first African meal: a "boiled Ugandan buffet." I think it was my first time eating yam - yum! The food was pretty simple - yams, potatoes, beef, etc. - but it was all well flavored. Of course, I had to be touristy and take a picture of my first meal here:

A Rwandan wedding.

After lunch, we had the option of going to sleep or attending the reception of a local wedding. Although sleep was all I could think about during lunch, I couldn't pass up the chance to see a Rwandan wedding (hence the title of this post). It was a gorgeous location, up in the hills at a primary school that was surprisingly pretty. We arrived late, which was made more awkward when we were escorted to the front of the reception close to the newlyweds' table. I felt like everyone was looking at us, and I was nervous my knee-length dress was too short when I saw the traditional garments all the Rwandan women were wearing. The ceremony was beautiful though, with lots of dancing and singing/rapping. The bride didn't smile much, which struck me as a little odd, but maybe that's a cultural thing? The reception on the whole seemed to be more about the experience; it wasn't as focused on the bride and groom as American weddings are. The bride and her bridesmaid did individually deliver slices of wedding cake to each guest, though, which was interesting.

It was hard to get a picture at night, but this was the reception. The big white tent is where the bride and groom sat.


After the wedding, we ate again! (Sometimes I feel like all we do is ride the bus from restaurant to restaurant.) This time we visited Kweta African Restaurant, where the television was tuned to E! I hope that's not the only impression Rwandans have of America.... The food here was even better, with avocados, rice, breaded fish, potatoes, delicious squash and some very thick passion fruit juice (not pulpy, just thick and heavenly).

After dinner, we went to the airport because two students had lost their luggage. Or rather, the airline had lost their luggage. One was able to get her bags right away, but the other is still waiting for his (and it's now eight days later). It makes me realize once again how lucky I was during my last luggage snafu!

Finally, we returned to the apartments and I had the best shower I'd ever had in my life. Planes make me feel dirty, so being on a plane for over a day was pretty horrendous. We went to bed around 11 p.m., which was great because I got right back on a normal schedule and didn't experience any jetlag.

No comments: