more from Henry in Rwanda


Kigali, Rwanda from Wikipedia

I finally realized that I can call Henry for $.17 a minute using Vonage. The probably best thing that it has been good for. Henry enjoyed hearing my voice even if it had a double-echo. I am calling him back in just a minute, but I thought that I would add his latest update.

Kigali is a city of ridges and valleys. Up high are the ministry buildings, the matatus, flat-front Toyota vans serving as city buses and packed with dozens of stacked-up passengers, the women sweeping the bus stop lanes with dried pom frond brooms for change. Down below are the banana and corn fields, cement-covered brick houses with rusted-out tin roofs, and barefoot children. The French call Rwanda the “pays des Mille Collines” – land of a thousand hills. Kigali life is oriented around those collines, even for a city that’s so spread out. Ask for directions and you’ll get either an “up there” or a “down there.”

There are four transportation options in Kigali, listed in descending frequency of use: SUV; the aforementioned vans; motorbike taxi; foot. To my eyes, it’s still random. Other than the roads lining the outside of the city, for the most part there are no sidewalks, stop signs, and certainly no street lights; roads curve, climb and dip unpredictably; packs of kids cross the busy streets one lane at a time. When I walked downtown for the first time, I stayed to the left of a gutter that ran along the road, and my shoes got caked with rust-red mud. But six- and seven-year olds, women with babies wrapped to their backs, and teenagers selling phone cards walk alongside and in between the cars, vans and motorcycles fearlessly. I have yet to see an accident.

Tomorrow we’re visiting Butare, home of the National University of Rwanda and the only journalism program in the country. It’s about two hours to the southeast.

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