If you need to get from point A to point B in Kigali, you have a couple of choices. First, you can walk. No matter where we have been thus far, the streets have been filled with people traveling by foot. It is the slowest, but most economical way to get around. Second, You might be fortunate enough to have acquired a bicycle. The single speed bicycles are no match though for these grueling hills. Most often when we've seen a bicycle it has been loaded down with water or produce was being pushed up a long hill. More of a hand cart than personal transport. Next, throughout the city there are motorcycle taxis. The passenger limit is one, but this is perhaps the fastest mode of transit because the agile bikes can weave in and out of stopped traffic. You final choice short of owning a car (100% tax on imported cars, by the way) is to hop a mini-bus. Bus is a bit of a misnomer. They are smaller than 15 passenger van, but can still hold upwards of 20 people crammed in 4 or 5 to a row.
This has been our mode of transport throughout the week. Jen and Serge hired Jean, a member of their church, to drive us from place to place. Jean is a middle aged French-speaking Rwandan. His wiry frame nestles in to the upholstered seats as he expertly navigates Kigali's tricky and steep streets.
I've been riding shotgun for the past several days and with just a few words of English have been able to learn quite a bit about each other. Jean lives in the Nyamirama neighborhood of Kigali. We were near his house on our second home visit the other day. He proudly pointed out where his house was as we drove past.
He told me that when he drives most of the time he makes only a little bit of money, but when he drives for Jen and Serge he makes a lot. (All this communicated primarily in hand gestures.) I don't know what he is being paid, but I'm sure that it is a very small part of this week's budget.
Jean is our sentinel. He will drive us to a place, then keep watch of the pile of extra stuff we brought along in the bus. He watches everything around us, quietly, but fiercely protecting us. He seems to know many of the other drivers we meet and they know him.
We compared driver's licenses and talked about what is required to obtain a drivers license. The driving test in Rwanda has one additional element that I've never seen on the test in the flat-lands of Illinois. You have to start the vehicle moving forward without rolling backwards on a steep hill. It's a strange 3-pedal maneuver that involves brake, clutch, and gas all at once. I've watch Jean execute it many times, but am still baffled by how to pull it off.
We've shared our mutual interest in music. He has a CD loaded with church music that was playing constantly in the bus. He let me copy his music and I loaded up a flash drive with the best of the American church music I had on my laptop.
As we drove near Jean's house the other day, I started to ask him about his family. He gently shook his head no. Then he uttered the one English word that everyone in Rwanda knows: Genocide. He pulled out his cell phone and showed me a picture-of-a-picture of his son. Dead at age 3 in 1994.
No one in Rwanda is untouched. No one.
Tomorrow we visit the church memorials of the 1994 Genocide. Please pray for us as we set out for a day that will not leave us untouched.
|The moon over Kigali|