by Hannah Frantz
I am safely in Kigali, Rwanda.
I’m sitting here in my room at the hotel listening to soft thunder and watching pouring rain drench the city that spreads out in front of me. I spent the last two days in a guesthouse connected with St. Paul’s, a small church in Kigali. I say guesthouse mostly because I don’t know what else to call it. I suppose if it was in the United States we would call it a motel, but considering it’s connected to a church I’m not sure how to describe it. Anyway, it was definitely a simple set up – very small beds with a sink and communal showers/ toilets. Now we’re at Moucecore which is basically the same idea, but a little bit nicer. Both here and at St. Paul’s they’ve kept detailed logs about who enters/exits the compound, and there are regularly guards that remain at the gates and keep them locked. Today the rest of my program arrives, and we will stay here through orientation and then meet our host families on Thursday.
Yesterday, since the program hadn’t started yet, we had a free day to do whatever we wanted. We got up kind of late and found an internet café in the large market at the center of the city (at least I think it was the center…) Afterwards we had some breakfast we went to a juice bar called “Juicilicious” – and yes we all sang “Fergalicious” a little bit to ourselves when we got there. We sat down, ordered ourselves a mint hookah and just had a nice, long, relaxing chat. Needless to say, I definitely picked the right study abroad location for me.
After sending a few e-mails home, we wandered over to Milles Collines and got a tour there. We met a very nice (and very flirtatious) Rwandan man named Jean Pierre who was kind enough to offer us a quick tour of the hotel. Jean Pierre took us up to the top of the hotel and let us take a look at the city. I hope to load those pictures soon because they are absolutely beautiful.
I haven’t experienced full-on culture shock yet, but I would bet it’s coming. Yesterday we encountered a small boy who appeared to getting beaten by his brother outside, but kind of hidden from view. Not wanting to really get involved, we talked to a policeman that was nearby. He basically told us that these people, and others, do that a lot and then ask passersby for money to stop. Once the kids saw that we were talking to police, they did stop, but I’m not sure just how much of that I can handle.
The police are another matter. They stand on nearly every corner holding giant guns – like, half the size of me. I know they do it mostly just to scare people into behaving (I have yet to see anyone even appear like they were about to use their gun) but it’s definitely intimidating. I’m not in the U.S. anymore; that’s for sure.
Driving is crazy. People mostly just honk at each other to communicate, and little motorcyclists zip between cars carrying people who pay for rides. It seems really dangerous…but also kind of fun. I’m sure I’ll try it at some point. I’ve only been in Rwanda a few days, but I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it. We went on a tour of Kigali today and rode around packed in like sardines into this itty bitty minibus, but it was really fun. I can honestly say I absorbed next to nothing from the tour, but hey – that wasn’t the important part was it?
I’m feeling a bit like a fish out of water with all of the other people in my program because they all have really relevant majors (international studies, political science, etc.) and here I am, the lone English major. I’m starting to wonder why they let me into the program if my interests don’t seem as relevant. But I’m sure it will all work out because they wouldn’t have brought me here if I couldn’t make it work, right?
I’m looking forward to hopefully keeping this up to date on my journeys. Tomorrow the real stuff starts!