6.21.2011

Africa: Day 1 (Rwanda)

This is a little bit boring, as Abacaxi Mamao posts go, but hopefully later ones will be more interesting. I am mostly writing this up for myself, and for others, in case they are interested. But mostly for myself.

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I arrived in Rwanda on Tuesday evening, after a 5 am flight from TLV to Amsterdam and then another flight from Amsterdam to Kigali. The 1.5 hour layover in Amsterdam was lovely—just enough time to stretch my legs and gape at the library (!) and little fireplace area (!) in the airport, as well as the sign directing travelers to the casino. I took my first anti-malaria pill of the trip while in the Schiphol airport.

The only notable things that happened at the airport were, first, that I met the wife of the ambassador from Stockholm, who pointed out the American ambassador to me, as well as his second-in-command, whom he was going to the airport to pick up. He looked very tall, white, and American to me, among the international travelers arriving in Kigali. The second-in-command was a smallish white woman with fiery red hair.

Then, as I was walking through the “nothing to declare” customs line, the customs official pulled me over and told me that I couldn't bring plastic bags into the country. I knew that plastic bags were not used in Rwanda, from my sister who is living (and working) there. But I didn't think that they would forbid people from bringing plastic bags into the country. My plastic bags were full of some snacks from the US (peanut-butter-filled pretzels, pretzel chips) and some last-minute things that I bought at the airport in Israel (Israeli chocolate, halva), or from a grocery store in Israel (petit buerre (sp?) chocolate tea biscuits). It was a lot of small stuff, and they were taking my bags away! I stuffed what I could into my retrieved baggage (my carry-ons were full) and stacked the rest precariously on top of my suitcases.

My parents (who had arrived a day earlier and stayed in Kigali overnight) and sister met me at arrivals and we went to the Jeep that Mollie had hired to take us and all of our stuff to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, near Ramagana, Rwanda, and about an hour from Kigali. The driver was a very nice man named Irena. When we got to the end of the paved rode and the beginning of the dirt road, at Ntunga, my mother, as prone to motion-sickness as I am, said, “Uh oh!” as the ride went from silky smooth to slightly bumpy. Had we only known how much more bumpy pothole-filled paved roads would be in parts of Kenya and near Nyungwe National Park, we would have, instead, been grateful for the dirt road! We also marveled at how people walked by and even rode bikes in the pitch blackness, along the dirt road.

After that bumpy start, or, rather, end, we pulled up to the gate at ASYV and moved out stuff into the guest house, which seemed lovely, until we tried to turn on the water. There was none. “Oh, yeah,” my sister said. “Sometimes there is no water at night. Don’t worry, though. There is always water in the kitchen and we will go to the kitchen to get filtered drinking water tomorrow morning.”

We settled into our mosquito-net-laden beds for the night. I was comforted by the fact that I had some water left from a water fountain at the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

2 comments:

The Wandering Jew said...

No joke, I have been reading this blog for years. At one point, I might have known who the author was, but had since forgotten. It wasn't until seeing this post that I had an "aha!" light bulb go on.

Safe travels, and say hi to the lovely folk at ASYV for me. (Ask if they remember the Israeli, Rwandan, hip hop dance party last summer.)

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