Yesterday our frustration boiled over. We saw the third day in a row gradually passing us by as we waited for our internship contact to show up and take us to look for housing. Emails and phone calls went unanswered and times to meet were pushed back or completely missed. This finally forced us to take matters into our own hands…in a third-world country, mind you. There is a tremendous amount of backstory that I will not get into, but it involves sore arms from people being thrown under the bus, among other entertaining aspects.
With zero contacts in Kigali outside of our initial point man we were left to either remain in the hotel and wait, or brave it and explore without both a literal and proverbial guide. To avoid being like the people below we decided to “do it live” O’Reilly style.
Kigali is not an easy place to navigate. There are no street numbers, names or identification of any kind. And we’re just talking about the streets that are paved, not those made of clay and dirt. You cannot easily map out Kigali, either. Google Maps is not a big help. Try it when you’re here and it will make your head spin. Even trying to read directions that someone provides you can prove worthless. One of our best guides has proven to be a declassified military map from 1994 prior to the Rwandan Genocide, which we found online. So, our best source for direction is approximately 15 years old and Kigali doesn’t exactly look the same as it did then.
Traveling around Kigali is typically done either through a taxi bus which seats 16, an equivalent of a cab (these appear rarely), or mototaxis. Taxi buses travel one way, as we understand it, and it’s hard to even determine where the places are that they end their trip, let alone how you get off if you don’t know exactly the route the bus is taking. Think a subway train that goes a certain direction, without you understanding which direction, and you don’t know where or when it will stop to drop you off. Awesome. Our best bet was either a taxi cab or mototaxi because we could just tell them a destination and they’d go directly there.
We decided we needed to score a phone first in order to contact places about housing and to generally keep in touch with any contacts we make or need during our stay. The problem was phones are sold downtown and we aren’t downtown, but instead we’re in an area called Remera. We got a cab ride just outside our motel/hotel to go downtown for 3000 Rwanda francs (about $5-6). We were dropped off right outside of the Bank of Kigali and expected to just wander around and find a place that sold phones. As luck would have it, we ran into someone who took the same plane in from Nairobi, Kenya and she showed us around a local mall and we were able to easily pick up a phone. We then phoned a real estate agent we previously found online and we hope to meet with him on Monday to secure housing that is both reasonably priced and closer to where our internship is located.
After walking around we were feeling bold and decided in the spirit of Bill O’Reilly we should “do it live” and hopped on the back of mototaxis to deliver us safely back to our temporary home. For about $2 you not only get transportation to your desired destination, but you also get the adrenalin rush of being plugged into any great chase scene you’ve ever seen at the movies. The mototaxis do a decent speed (probably 45-50 mph), but the drivers are maniacs as they cut each other off and challenge cars and trucks for position on the roadway. After about a 5-1o minute thrill ride we were returned to our motel.
All-in-all, it was a very productive and satisfying day. We’ve taken things into our own hands here in Kigali and we expect to push forward with gusto. Upon our return to the states I fully expect three orders for the shirt found below.