31 May 2005


another new city... we've all been so warned and re-warned about the dangers of walking in the streets and how we'll get robbed that we can hardly enjoy walking around, but really it's just a small, bustling city. amazingly cheap - I paid $1.40 for breakfast. Nice. Lunch was much more extravagant - $4.00. So far the only Swahili I've used is "hapana" - no. People keep shoving things to buy into my face. hapana to the batiks! hapana to the fake perfume! hapana to the beaded spears! I'll buy some but not today - I don't even have a house to store them in.

Internet time is about to run out, so I can't stay long.

30 May 2005

off to tanzania!

My flight leaves at... actually, I don't know when my flight leaves. I have to go pay for my ticket to Kilamanjaro and then I'll know the time. Probably should get on that.

It took me forever to get a room for tonight in Arusha. The work people didn't get back to me... the phone number in the Lonely Planet didn't work... finally I googled the hotel and got a number (one digit different than the Lonely Planet number) which actually worked. So I have no idea how I'm getting from the airport to the hotel, but I have a place to sleep once I get there. And there is another intern flying in an hour after me, so I think I'm going to wait for her and we'll make our way together. Maybe the work people actually scheduled a pickup for her and I can hitch a ride.

Good thing I've done this all before. I can't imagine how scary it would be if I hadn't done the same "all I know is where I'm going but not how I'm getting there" in Nairobi and Entebbe and Mombasa and Kigali before.

27 May 2005

amusing incident of the day - Thursday, 26 May 2005

I got a ride from Kibuye to Kigali with B and he was kind enough to bring me out to D's house to drop off my stuff and then leave me in town to do some errands (although not that kind, really, since he had to stop at UNHCR and D lives close to that and then he had to go to his office in town and he just dropped me off on the way). Anyway, there is a big COMESA (Community of East African States) conference going on in Kigali right now and the city is all spruced up for the event. The primary side effect (other than abnormal cleanliness) seems to be police on motorbikes with sirens (which I've never heard in this country before) tearing through the streets clearing the way for supposed VIPs (like the presidents of all the COMESA countries), except that most of the time the people in the cars following look a lot like random people overly excited by the opportunity to stop everyone in the street and drive really fast.

On the way to UNHCR, we saw a set of three signs that said, "Kigali welcomes... Mauritius... COMESA." The next set said, "Kigali welcomes... Eritrea... COMESA." Fine, nice, very friendly. On the way back into town, as we approached the set of signs for Eritrea, we noticed that they also say the same (with a different country) in reverse. "Wait," B (who is Ethiopian, by the way) suddenly said, "does that sign say Ethiopia and is that the opposite side of the sign that says Eritrea?" We turned in unison to look. Yes, indeed. The sign says Ethiopia when coming from the airport and Eritrea when going to the airport, ON THE SAME SIGN, notwithstanding the fact that those two countries have been at war with each other virtually continually since Eritrea voted to remove themselves from Ethiopia in 1993. We both nearly collapsed with laughter, which was unfortunate since B was driving. But we didn't crash.

23 May 2005

kigali, rwanda ndaba kunda

I'm sitting in an internet cafe in Kigali (a much faster internet cafe than yesterday), near one of the main roundabouts, trying to send an email to my new work to tell them that I am arriving at Kilamanjaro Airport on Monday at 1900h, but for some reason the school website won't let me compose messages. Someone is yelling down on the street in a tone of voice that tells me he's either preaching or making a prophecy. I'm hungry, because I'm always hungry in Kigali in the mornings because I never eat any whole grains for breakfast here. I have to decide in the next few days whether or not I'm coming back to Rwanda before I go back to the US. I'm tempted to come back through Rwanda just because my plane back to Nairobi stops in Bujumbura and I've never been to Burundi. Maybe I can schedule a stopover. I'm carrying my entire life on my back (okay, just my clothes and stuff that I brought to Kigali from Kibuye). The air smells of exhaust and horns are sounding constantly.

I got bitten by a dog for the first time last night. It wasn't very much fun, but it didn't hurt (didn't even break the skin), so it wasn't too bad. The story is this: I arrived in Kigali after a death-defying trip from Kibuye in an NGO car driven by a woman who was probably a great driver but who didn't know the road. YOU HAVE TO KNOW THE ROAD. This road anyway. The curves are often far tighter or wider than they look and you have to know when to slow down and when to maintain your speed. And the road was wet. In addition, every trip to Kigali is death-defying, in that every trip involves an average of one death-defying experience. This one involved two. The first one was in Gitarama, when a very large, very fast truck decided that he owned the middle of the road, no attention paid to people, bikes, or, say, oncoming traffic (us). The second was closer to Kigali, when a minibus decided to pass another minibus completely blindly and the road was not wide enough for three across. Anyway, we got here, alive, and I ate lunch at the most riduculously expensive restaurant possible because it was near where the people who drove me were going and it had the (aforementioned very slow) internet. But I was starving and didn't care about the price until I saw that they had charged me $2.50 for a bottle of water, which irritated me a lot and resulted in my vowing never to go there again. (This is the famous Hotel des Milles Collines, which you know of if you've seen Hotel Rwanda - why they raised the prices from the normal 50 cents to $2.50 for a bottle of water, I don't know. I don't know of anyone else who charges more than $1.50 for a bottle of water. Bad for business. Even an international movie cannot make up for that.)

So then I met B and some of the rest of the cadre of Ethiopians and we went to One Love restaurant, which is a Rastafarian sort of place that used to have camping and now has Ethiopian food because M bought it, but kept the Rastafarian theme because people associate Rastafarian-ism with Ethiopia. They chewed qat and I, for something to do while talking because I didn't want to drink any sugar or chew any nasty qat, sorted qat into piles of good, young, soft leaves and bad, old, stiff leaves. There was a lot of incense and in the course of blowing on the coals to liven them up, I managed to burn a tiny round hole in the front of my Manhattan Portage bag. We drank the best coffee I've ever had - M's daughter roasted the beans and brought them, smoking, to us to smell their freshness before grinding them and making really strong espresso-like coffee. I put milk in it and sugar and then this green little herb that didn't smell that great but turned the coffee into something so delicious that it probably ruined all other coffee for me for the rest of my life. Everyone else left out the milk, but I tried it without and with and the flavor of the little green herb was much magnified by milk. We played pool and I won both of my games, once pocketing four balls in one turn. Then we ate injera (finally - I love injera, also had been trying to leave to get to D's (my former boss) house before everyone went to sleep) and shro, which turned out deceptively to have smoked beef in it, but was really good anyway. I'm eating beef at the moment.

By this time, I knew that it was too late for anyone to be awake at D's house, where D is not right now, but his wife and daughter are and I was supposed to stay with them. R (his wife) told me that she left the small gate open for me and I could just come in. Now, they have a big scary dog, named Zulu. I'm not usually scared of the dog and the dog doesn't usually bite white people (another racist dog), so I assumed it would be fine, until I got to the gate, upon which I froze, completely. Zulu was at the top of the stairs and I had to walk up them and I had a vision of the dog leaping for my throat. I couldn't go it. So we (including the neighbor across the road and the guard next door) had to make a hideous lot of noise to wake R up, which I felt very bad about and which completely riled Zulu up. When I finally came in, even though R was there, he made a run for my leg and latched on for the second it took me to yell at him. He only caught my corduroys and didn't even scratch me, but it scared me but good. It was my first dog bite.

This morning, I learned all about how Zulu mostly just grabs a leg to stop you as a good guard dog should and doesn't actually sink his teeth in and I think I can walk in past him next time, even alone.

Something else to add to my list of all the things I did for the first time in Rwanda. It could go on forever: lived alone, drove in a country other than the US, had Ethiopian coffee, did accounting, got bitten by a dog, stayed in a hotel alone, drove across a border on my own...

22 May 2005

internet is terrible!

well, i'm writing from kigali. all is much better and much worse than you might have heard from me. right now, all is worse because the internet is UNBEARABLY slow. and i'm sure i'm paying one million dollars a minute because it's at a nice hotel. i forgot the stuff that i was supposed to bring to people in kigali and i'm getting bored. i need a job to keep me busy. but my frustration right now is not how i've been feeling for the last week... it's great to be in rwanda, still all green from the rains (it's raining today - probably about the last before the dry season). i love not having people need things from me... lots of relaxing, not enough writing my journal competition analysis! okay, gotta go, internet time is almost done. more when i have more reliable access...

11 May 2005


so... guess where i am?

IN AN EXAM. I finished it, I sent it in (via the "upload softest" button), but I'm still sitting here because I thought it might be really distracting to people to have me pack up and leave, obviously done, from a silent room 20 minutes before the end of the exam. But I was sick of the exam and didn't want to look at it anymore, so I sent it in. I couldn't think of anything else to say. And it wasn't like a right/wrong answer question. The last question was a "what other problems can you think of with this proposal?" question, and I came up with about ten of them and then said ENOUGH and sent it in. I just wanted to be done. It's been so so so hard to care about this last exam - while the weather gets nicer and the traveling gets closer and I never really liked the class anyway.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am now a second year law student (go 2Ls!).

I should have left... 20 minutes is unbearably long when you have to sit looking at the clock and cannot leave the room and really really have to go to the bathroom, due to a frappucino that your roommate bought you at the corner bodega because you gave her a bottle of vitamin water when she was running late for her last exam.

Still five minutes to go. Hm. Let's see. I'm sure you don't want to see my lists of crap to buy at CVS. I'm sure you don't want to see my lists of things to bring to Africa.

Oh, here's a fun tidbit. M (my other roommate) and I have to pack up all our stuff today because my amazingly wonderful friend T is going to DRIVE into New York City tomorrow (come on, round of applause, who wants to drive in this city? - actually, maybe she'll make me drive. huh.) to help us move all our apartment stuff from our law school apartment to the apartment that M is going to stay in this summer in Brooklyn. This means lots of boxes, stairs, tiredness, crabbiness, donuts, you know, the whole moving gig. Plus packing for Africa.

The next 48 hours are going to be madness.

But my exams are done!!! Unbelievable. I made it through one year.

One minute left. Better post this so i'm not typing when they make us stop (hah, i stopped typing on the exam a long time ago!)

10 May 2005

panic, panic, panic

i have this terrified feeling in my stomach about all that must be done before friday at 3, when i leave this apartment for the airport (LESS THAN THREE DAYS). i'm never going to get through it all, never. plus this admin exam tomorrow morning, which i don't care about much because it's the end of the year (my whole apartment watched will & grace instead of studying tonight), but it's another thing to do. then the whole list of things to do, the whole list, the whole list.

i'm trying to remember that at the end of it all is a sunny plateau in central africa and a drive down one of my favorite roads in the entire world to one of my favorite towns in the entire world: kibuye, rwanda, where, yes, i'm going to have a chance to rest. a little bit. before i have to start the writing competition brief to be on a journal next year (sigh). and immediately after that, i have to start thinking about the rest: buying a plane ticket to arusha, getting presents to the people i'm supposed to give them to... wait a second. presents. i'm supposed to have presents for people and i DON'T. blast. and no time to buy them.

okay, bed. better than worrying. admin will take care of itself and then i'll be a 2L. then i'll pack and move and fly and sleep, in that order.

09 May 2005

i'm going to be broke

after i finish buying all the STUFF that i need before i leave. good thing i won't have to buy most of it all summer...

coming together

things are finally starting to come together on this africa trip (four days before i leave). a is expecting me to stay in her house (yay! house!). she's going to ask b if he's going to kigali this weekend so maybe he can drive me back to kibuye right away (yay! kibuye!).

it looks like i'm really going back to africa. unbelievable.

this whole trip is a bit disconcerting because it is so disconnected from what i'm doing right now, this minute, which is continuing to get ready for one last exam. new york and kibuye seem so far apart that it's impossible to imagine that they inhabit the same planet. i can't believe that a few planes and car ride will take me from one to the other. we should still be required to take ships. that would give us so much more time to figure out where we are going and to be ready for it. (then again, who would be able to go for just a summer if it took weeks to get to africa?)

07 May 2005

more countdown...

6 days until i get on a plane in newark heading to amsterdam.

7.5 days until i arrive on the ground at kanombe international airport, kigali, rwanda.

i wish...

what i wish is that i was going back, in a week, to what i had before.

two nights ago, after turning off the light and laying down in my (uncomfortable dorm) bed, i listened to the yelling out on the street below and watched the light that seeped around my blinds and remembered nights in my house in kibuye. i remembered locking the doors to the lake and closing the curtains, turning my living room into a cocoon of warm candlelight, reading books and calling people from my uncomfortable wooden couch. i remembered the night that i parked my car facing out because there was trouble between rwanda and congo and said to sara, who was staying in my house, "if you hear any shooting, meet me in the hallway. try to bring some pillows or something because we might be there a while." i remembered the night that two friends and i decided to sleep out on the patio. we dragged our beds out there, then hung up mosquito nets and slept under stars that i couldn't see because i didn't have contacts in. i remembered the night, two nights before i left, that the last of the goodbye party people didn't leave until 3 am and a random vso volunteer with no place to stay helped me clean up by the light of lanterns.

when i go back, i will not belong in that house. how is that possible? so many days when i shared my four extra rooms with tourists or strangers or vso teachers. how is it possible that i won't have my prado? so many rides to and from kigali behind the wheel of that truck, one hand on the cd player to keep it from skittering across the passenger seat into the space between the seat and the door, where i couldn't reach it while driving. i drove that road so many times - well over 100 each way. i know every curve, every place to slow down and speed up, every scenic spot where the mist rises in the mornings. i could drive it asleep. i could drive it right now in my mind if i closed my eyes.

and it's going to make me so carsick and so heartsick to have to sit in a seat other than the driver's when i'm there in a week and a day. i can't believe that i won't belong there.

buying up the drugstore

i went to the store last night after dinner with my friend rachael. well, first i went to barnes & noble, where i spent my $25 gift certificate that i won for being one of the two best negotiators in the first year. i bought two books that are fat and full of tiny letters (so they take as long as possible to read) as well as well written. these are going to be two of the four books that i plan to bring to africa. the third is going to be youth by j.m.coetzee, which i am going to buy at the cheap bookstore because i saw it there the other day for $6.98 hardcover (but light). the fourth i don't know about yet. i'm still thinking. four books won't get me through the summer, but it will get me through the beginning and then hopefully others will have good books.

then i went to the drugstore and bought so much stuff. ridiculous amounts of stuff. shampoo, face soap, lotion, for the whole summer. the whole time i was there, i kept thinking that something smelled funny, like garlic. yuck, i kept thinking, i'm trying to smell lotions and there is this garlic smell. turned out to be the remains of my mediterranean platter in the carryout box. hummus, baba ganoush, and all the other yummies. not surprising, then, that the smell followed me around.

03 May 2005

march 29, 2004: stories from my last time in africa

1137 am, Rwanda/Amsterdam time (somewhere over Sudan)

I've sworn off of backpacks for international travel (I'm a professional, after all...) but was not about to lug my black suitcase on the plane all the way to the US. So i bought a tiny black and tan plaid suitcase for 3000 FRw at City 2. A wanted one of them last summer and I may end up passing it on to her. It is cheap, flimsy, and poorly made. I love it. I think it's cute. It even has a shoulder strap.

There seems to be an opinion, however, a wealthy African opinion, that such a suitcase is not up to rich white person standards. "You can't use that! You should have a good suitcase." Everyone standing around agreed.

Max said, "It's a very African suitcase." Very diplomatic.

The girls in the corporate duty-free at Kanombe Airport loved it. "It's good! It's so Rwandese." This is the ultimate goal. I'm often told, "You could take Rwandese citizenship! You could marry a Rwandese! Then you would never have to leave!"



I love the suitcase. I wonder if I can somewhere find a tiny, sturdy suitcase. One that will last a few years. Plaid. I like the plaid.

this camping idea is ridiculous

i've been thinking. how can i be expected to pack as if for a three and a half month long camping trip when i'm expected to dress nicely for work every day? it's impossible. it means that i need decent shoes, for example, instead of just planning to wear tevas all the time. it means that i need a suit and possibly extra suit-like outfits. it means that i need a whole other set of clothes for the days that i'm not working. it means that i need a blow-dryer, of all ridiculous things to bring to africa. one suitcase is not enough. getting separate tickets was cheap, but it's going to kill me with the excess baggage charges. must remember to pack lots in my carry-on - the flight from amsterdam to nairobi only allows you to bring on 10 kilos, so i'll just overpack my carry-on and they will check it for me there. old, old strategy for foiling luggage allowances. ack! too much to do, too little time, too much to bring, too little space.