Brian Jackson's Blog
June 11,2006 – World Cup fever
If you thought hockey was a popular sport in Canada, you don't know the meaning of the word "popular."
The World Cup is here and the country is in soccer frenzy. The city-wide euphoria of several international games being played per day is contagious. I had watched maybe one full game of professional soccer in my life before coming here, and now I can't wait to see the next World Cup game. I don't care if it is Iceland playing Timbucktwo – all that matters in that soccer is being played.
At The New Times, the sports section had a countdown running for 40 days before the World Cup began. That should give you some idea as to how much anticipation there was for the tournament. Yesterday, as the first soccer game of the day opened up ( England vs. Paraguay) the news room came to a grinding halt. Every chair in the office was arranged around the TV set and the staff submitted to the spell of a round, black-and-white ball darting about a green backdrop. If there was any breaking news in Kigali for those two hours, I guarantee you it was not covered.
Today we went to the Dutch embassy to watch the Netherlands play Serbia and Montenegro. I have heard the Dutch are often thrifty, but this was not the case for this event. The game was played on a high-quality projector aimed at a large pull-down screen. Next to this was a normal television set simultaneously broadcasting the same thing.
Orange was everywhere.
The first guy we met upon entrance to the embassy wore an orange jester hat, an orange button up shirt over an orange soccer jersey, orange shorts and orange socks. He dutifully reported that his underwear was unfortunately a different colour. The room was filled with orange balloons, orange streamers, orange napkins, and orange clothed people. Wearing a black t-shirt, I must have stuck out like a sore thumb.
It has become a common occurrence to hear a truck-load of screaming fans drive by our house on the main street. The first time it startled me, but now it has become such a common occurrence that I don't even raise an eyebrow. And I love raising eyebrows.
June 9, 2006 – Alex
Walking home from work one day I met a man named Alex. Upon seeing me he visibly lit up and upon discovering I spoke English, he unleashed a river of conversation concerning his life.
Alex is a man almost of 60 years old. He has a salt-and-pepper beard and greyed hair. Lines crease his face around his eyes and his brow if often furrowed above them. He wears dress pants and a button up shirt tucked into them, under a blazer. He carries a file-organizer binder with him.
Alex tells me about his life. He has lived all over the East African region, moving from one area to the next when his family didn't feel safe. He is the father of six and one of his sons is deaf, so he attends a special school in Uganda. Alex used to work for General Motors when he lived in the Congo because he is a trained automobile electrician.
Now he's living in Rwanda, looking for a job. He's just had an interview with a businessman named David who's opening a computer sales office in about 20 days. Until he hears about work there, he must wait. His family depends on him to be fed. They have no running water in their house and are waiting until next week when a local pump will be installed on the street where they'll be able to collect water.
Before parting ways Alex looked me in the eye. "I'm ashamed to ask this, but now I must beg from you so I can feed my family." I gave him 1,000 francs – about $2.
Two days later I was walking home with Hadeel. We met Alex again. He went through the whole story again. This time he had photos of his family and his wife. He pointed out his deaf son who lives in Uganda.
Before we parted ways he again asked for money. It broke my heart this dignified old man, so proud of his family, would be asking me for small change. But this time I said no. I didn't want him to expect money from me every time he saw me, or wait for me on my walk home from work.
It is a difficulty we face every day here in Rwanda. You will inevitably be asked for money by people on the street. Then if you question who you should give it to – who is in the most need? There are those who are disfigured. There are children who tell you they need money to buy a uniform for school. There are those who say they are hungry. There are those who thrust out their hands and say "umuzungo, give me money." Perhaps the only English phrase they know.
To avoid weighing who I should hand out money to or not, I decided I wouldn't give money to anyone. At the end of my time here, I'll make a donation to a charity that I feel is doing some good here.
For Alex, I couldn't say no the first time.
June 7, 2006 – Sunrise salutations
There's three women living in the house again.
Though we all miss Laura after leaving, I was at least feeling a little bit less outnumbered with just two girls in the house. Hadeel came this weekend, and all that ended.
The other night Susannah and Helen decided to have a yoga class in the middle of the living room. I dutifully stuck my nose into my book and avoided any glances at the body-contorting exercise. I fear my urge to laugh would have been too great if I'd looked up. Just what I heard was fascinating enough: "No, put your butt higher in the air," and "It's all about setting your own limits and feeling good about yourself." Certainly a different mindset than the rugby practice warm-ups I've been through. Though, at least we didn't have to do any "sunrise salutations."
Hadeel seems to slip into Rwanda as though it were a warm bath. She's quickly acclimatised herself to the newsroom and is already making a positive impact on the newspaper's quality. She's still a girl though.
Upon my asking her about working at CBC, she took it as a cue to show me about 8 billion photos of her beloved one-year-old niece. Each photo was coupled with commentary affirming how cute she is. "Look at her, don't you want to eat her?" was a popular remark.
Last night they actually held a girl's night. Faced with the prospect of being outnumbered not just three-fold, but by the entire female staff at The New Times, I stayed out until I was sure the house was cleared. I planted myself at a table of the bar directly behind the newspaper office and sat there for six hours. I played chess and talked about women and business opportunities with the guys while chewing on meat that had been cooked on an open fire and drinking Mutzug (a local brew, pronounced MIT-zig). Somehow I imagine the night had at the house was quite different.
June 4, 2006 — Butare whirlwind
Thursday morning I hopped on the famed Volcano Bus and went down to Butare. I was chasing a story about refugees returning to Rwanda from Burundi, and the place to find them was near the border — about 20 km south of Butare. Though I was hoping to venture there on Friday with Willy (the New Times Butare bureau chief) we had to delay until Saturday, which turned out to work perfectly.
While I stayed with Kanina, Robert, Amanda and Kayla in Butare I was well treated. Their house has the first drip coffee maker I've seen in the country. They put me up in a bed and gave me everything I needed – a shower, a towel, meals, and all the beer I could drink. Lucky for me I'd gone down the same day they were throwing a party for their students to mark the end of the 3-week television news class. The party was great fun, most of it taking place outside with dancing on the patio.
I felt a bit like a spy peering in on these Canadians in Butare. Their students thanked them for their hard work in the course and even presented each of them with an individual gift. My favourite was Robert's — he got a straw hat that said "Canada" on it and it was way to small to fit his head. He looked like he was ready to lead the a three-ring circus.
The next day I went with Team Butare to the school for their last day of class. The goal was to shoot all the links needed for the show, then to edit it together. I was assigned to a team with two other students — Eugene was the host, reading the intros to the news items, and Patrice helped me with shooting. It was really great to get my hands on the TV equipment again and a bit strange. To be working with the same camera and tripod that I was so used to complaining about at Carleton seemed like a real luxury here. At the end of the day, I think we were all amazed at seeing a full half-hour newscast played. It was the first one ever produced at the university, and something for Team Butare to be proud of.
Finally on Saturday it was off to the village. Much to my surprise Robert wanted to accompany me — he had been pining to explore a small village and see how the majority of Rwandans live every day. I was glad to have another person along the way since I was venturing into uncharted waters. It was also nice to have the company of a dude, after a month living amongst females.
Despite our driver being sick all day, and his car being a Toyota Corolla taking on roads I wouldn't dare in a Hummer, the day went off without a hitch. We even made it back to Kigali the same evening. All my interviews went as planned and I collected my material for the story. Now I just have to write it.
May 31, 2006 –
A sizeable goat
Today I met the eating champion
Someone here wrote a story about him a
couple days ago. Then just before lunch he was in our parking
lot – I'm not sure why. He is about 5'3" in height,
and slim. His baggy shirt gave no hint of the slightest belly.
He wore a little circular hat on the top of his head, and
spoke no English. But my kind colleagues translated for me.
He can eat a full sack of irish potatoes.
He can eat a sizeable goat – not some kid (baby goat)
mind you, but a "sizeable goat." For breakfast this
morning, he claims to have eaten 300 chupatis (flatbread).
The man is a living legend. At his last
eating competition, his Burundian competitor died from overeating.
So I'm told. This guy didn't gain a single pound.
He will travel to Washington in July for
his next eating competition. The man he will face off there
reportedly weighs over 200 kg. The Rwandan eating champion
doesn't even weigh 60. He is confident he will win.
He says he eats for his ancestors. When
he is feeding himself, he is feeding the ghosts of his family
that came before him.
I get full just thinking about it.
Chasing a story at snail's pace
Back home my friends know me as
laid-back. They even describe my demeanour as relaxed,
or slow. I would never acquire the nickname "flash"
or "speedy" that is for sure.
Here, it is a different story.
My colleagues have commented on how uptight
I seem. I have actually been told to "relax" and
"loosen up" – not advice I usually hear. Yesterday
I was walking with my friend Sunny: "Man, you walk too
fast," he said. If I slowed down any more, I swear I
would have been standing.
Chasing a story can also be tedious. Trying
to arrange a meeting with someone can literally take weeks
to find a time. When you go to the meeting, there is a good
chance the other person will not show up.
Patience is a virtue. Here, that is very
The advantage is that when you do meet
someone they are happy to talk for a long time. There is no
compunction about spending over an hour to have a simple interview.
Back home, if my interviews were 15 minutes I consider that
long. Here, that would just be warming up.
Then there is restaurant service.
Back in Ottawa, I did an internship at
The News EMC, a community weekly newspaper, during the last
two weeks of April. Up the street was a Wendy's restaurant
that I ate lunch at a few times. It had the fastest drive-through
I'd ever seen. You would pay at the first window, and then
literally see an arm holding your bagged lunch out the second
There is no drive-through Wendy's in Kigali.
If you go to the fancier restaurants – Chez Lando or
Sole Luna for example – you'll wait a minimum of half
an hour for your food. It is delicious when it comes though.
The fast-food equivalent here, traditional lunch restaurants
are faster. Maybe a 10 to 15 minute wait there, not bad.
May 28, 2006 —
A voice for a print
and a face for radio
The last few weeks held a number
of firsts for me.
Most recently, my first time on a radio
show. I was invited to be on a show called "Rock City"
on 89.7 CFM by my friend Sunny, from The New Times. With my
only previous radio experience being an embarrassing attempt
at reading the news in my third year at Carleton, I was a
bit nervous. Add on to the fact Dallaire describes radio as
"the voice of God in Rwanda" in Shake Hands with
the Devil, and I was feeling the pressure. It seemed I could
only tarnish the revered medium.
But it was easier than I thought. Sunny
is a great host and guided the conversation well, and put
me at ease during the show. He was even kind enough to lie
to his audience and tell them I was a Brad Pitt look-alike.
Ah, the power of radio.
While the "Rock City" host is
great, their musical taste could be improved. It seems like
the worst pop-music dregs are sensational hits here. One incomprehensible
favourite is Nickelback. I never imagined I would be tortured
by their cliché lyrics, predictable power-chord rock,
and gravely voice in Kigali, of all places.
Earlier the same day I visited the Kigali
Genocide Memorial. It is the main center in the country for
remembering the atrocities just 12 years ago. The tour through
the memorial took me about two hours, but it seemed to stretch
on forever. In each room, all I wanted to do was leave, but
at the same time I was transfixed in place. One display showed
the personal belongings found with genocide victims when their
bodies were found. A child's set included Superman bed sheets
and a t-shirt reading "I love Ottawa." For some
reason that shirt really brought it home for me – to
think a shirt could be transported from Canada, all the way
here, but then we would allow for its wearer to be brutally
May 27, 2006 –
I've discovered a horrible injustice in this country.
The gorillas visited by tourists every day of the week are not getting a cut of the profits from the permit purchases. Can you believe it? These poor primates are being exploited without recompense. While the Rwanda tourism company (ORTPN) grows fat off the profits flowing in from those wanting to see the giant apes, the main attractions are left to forage for themselves, chewing on bamboo and the occasional snail for sustenance.
They don't get so much as a blanket for comfort from the coldness of night.
This is why I've decided to start the Gorilla's Association to end Segregation (GAS). We should reach out to our brothers in the forest and welcome them into our society – after all they are 97% genetically similar to ourselves. Here are some other similarities between gorillas and humans:
• We both eat plants.
•We both get sick.
• We both don't like to sit in the rain.
• We both drink water.
• We both have opposable thumbs.
I know this list is shocking, but trust me it is all true – I've observed the gorillas with my own eyes. At times, I was hard-pressed to tell the difference between the animals and my human companions.
Clearly, as gorillas are brought into the economic community they will need to be educated on how to use money. To avoid having them blow their weekly wage on bananas and banana beer alike, we'll need to have a bank set up a branch in the mountains. Gorillas and perhaps golden monkeys can be hired as bank tellers to easily deal with their customers. Then the primates can save their earnings up for a proper retirement.
Including the animals in the democratic process is the next step. We can start by having a referendum on whether they want to join our society or not. A "Yes" vote can be indicated by yawning. A "No" vote by taking a bite of bamboo. Beating of the chest will be considered a spoiled ballot.
It may be seen as a far away goal now. But ending gorilla/human segregation will be accomplished in baby steps, not primate leaps.
May 24, 2006 – Blown away
You know a guy is important when arrives in a helicopter.
Today I accompanied Dan to Gitarama, a village near Butare. The president of the African Development Bank was paying a local school a visit, and so The New Times was on the case. We caught a mini-bus to the school and had some time to kill before the president's arrival. It was an impressive school by any standards, and a public one at that. There was a loaded computer lab with a high-speed network, a fully outfitted automotive garage, a carpentry workshop, and a bio-gas chamber outside. Simply put, the student's crap is put to use to produce methane gas, which in turn is used to cook in the kitchen and power lights in a few buildings.
The president arrived by landing a helicopter on the soccer field. It was my first experience photographing a chopper landing up close – and I was the closest person as it landed. I was amazed by how powerful the winds blowing towards me really were. As it neared the ground, I turned my back and crouched down to protect myself, and my camera from flying debris.
In the end, the newspaper ended up using a photo of the president looking on at some carpentry work.
I admired Dan's attitude during the outing. The president was on a tightly-scheduled tour of the school with no room for anything spontaneous to happen. He wasn't even going to give the media a comment on the event, but Dan was persistent. Eventually we both just ran up beside him as he was about to board the "bank-copter." We were able to coax him into a giving a quotable comment, though he was obviously wasn't keen to do so.
"Umuzungo is a catchy word"
Here in Eastern Africa, a white person walking in public is guaranteed to hear the word "umuzungo" about 20 times a day. I'm sure you've read about this at length if you've read the other blogs. It becomes a fact of life that you'll hear this on a daily basis from the locals – mostly from the kids.
The strange thing is that white people hear it so often they actually start to think of themselves as umuzungo.
I went to interview the external communications director at the UNHCR – a French woman. When I stepped into her office, she said that she was surprised to "see a umuzungo working for The New Times."
Today at the school, the head master was an Australian. Giving us directions to his office, he told us how to navigate around buildings and through hallways to arrive in the right place. Then he added: "failing that, just look for the umuzungos."
I feel as though my own psychology is changing too. I've gotten used to people staring at me, or even gawking. But now when I see other white people in trouble I find I am staring at them! I wonder "What are they doing here?"
It is quite a strange situation to find yourself in, looking at a white person and wondering what business they could possibly have walking down the street or riding a bus.
May 21,2006 – Up,
up, and away
The stars were aligned for us Canadians
as we set off on our weekend adventure to see the gorillas.
After throwing a party for our New Times
staff Thursday night, we woke up Friday morning with our gorilla
trekking permit up in the air. After charging downtown, we
were able to successfully negotiate for a discount (saving
us $175) and catching a bus up to Ruhengari, the northern
city of Rwanda from where we'd set off on our gorilla trek.
The bus there was almost two hours of going constantly uphill.
Winding roads would give a view of the vast valley below us
on one side, and the sheer cliff going upwards on the other.
No matter how many hills we drove up, there was always another
one right around the corner that was taller still.
The climb upwards continued when we woke
up bright and early Saturday morning to locate some gorillas.
Departing the park entrance to track the " Susa"
group – the largest with 38 gorillas – we drove
for an hour (uphill) until we could travel no longer in a
Then we hiked five kilometres on a steep
hill, over grass and mud, rocks, and through bush. The hike
was gruelling with the incline seeming to be at 45 degrees
at its easiest, and the air at this altitude virtually empty
of oxygen. Once we reached the forest (jungle?) wall, a four-foot-high
wall made of sharp rocks stacked one each other, we climbed
it an entered the thick wilderness.
Within 10 minutes we came across our first
gorilla. To actually see it just sitting there in the clearing
was surreal. It crunched on bamboo and looked at us with a
bemused expression. In a couple minutes it was bored and moved
off into the brush, coming within feet of us. The next hour
was similarly filled with one unbelievable experience after
another. Now that I look at the photos I took, I can hardly
believe I was actually there.
Once a gorilla that was munching on some
bamboo in a pit a few feet from me was interested enough to
reach out and grab loosely at my ankle. I was in awe at the
same time that I was terrified – knowing it was strong
enough to toss me about like a rag doll. In fact the male
gorillas can weigh up to 200 kilograms. I take that as proof
that a vegetarian diet doesn't necessarily keep you slim.
The gorilla visit was the high point of
my weekend literally and metaphorically. After seeing them,
we walked back down the hill (which I thought was a mountain).
After our weekend was complete, the bus we took back to Kigali
drove continually down the twisting and turning mountain slope.
May 17,2006 – Oh
right, I'm in Kigali
Sometimes I forget I'm in a different
I'll catch myself using phrases and slang
that no one could possibly fathom here. The other day I dragged
my colleague along on a story I was chasing that just didn't
work out. I used the phrase "wild goose chase" to
describe it. He looked at me like I'd grown a third arm, and
I had to explain what I meant, but I don't think he fully
Today I ran into a colleague on the walk
to work. I greeted him: "What's going down?" In
response, he stared at me blankly and said "yes, Brian."
It's not just the slang. Yesterday I caught
myself looking for the string to pull on the minibus to signal
my stop was coming up. When it wasn't there, I remembered
the Rwandan etiquette and hammered my fist against the roof.
May 15, 2006 —
Look up in the sky
I had my first full weekend off of newspaper tasks to explore and have some leisure time. Last night I took in some traditional dance at a national competition, the winners of which will continue on to a Pan-African competition.
It was intense. Though I mostly had no idea what was going on, at least I know that it was very exciting. The dance programs lasted 20 minutes each, enough time for a variety of flare and style. There seemed to be some sort of story portion of each dance, as well as one part where the males would don long flowing blond wigs and then headbang on stage. I'll tell you, these guys could show Wayne and Garth a thing or two about rocking out. Then, my favourite part was the drums. It reminded me of the Blue Man group, but without the blue paint or skits involving chewed-marshmallow art. About 8 guys would just go out and hammer on the traditional drums with wooden clubs, the result being an awesome percussive sound.
The last dance troupe of the night, and the winners, had a unique gimmick. They opened up a basket and released a dove that went flying into the audience. I don't know who had that hair-brained scheme, but the result was exactly what you might think. The disoriented bird tried to perch on a rafter, but missed and crashed into the cement wall and fell to the ground. I lost track of it after that happened.
The national park on Saturday was a blast. I love the zoo. And this was way better than the zoo. Being able to ride in an SUV through the park, off-roading whenever we needed to get closer to the animals, was a great experience. My personal favourite were the hippos. They stay grouped together, and because of the hot weather, they were mostly submerged in the lake. Their heads would bob up and down playfully, and infrequently they'd spit out a spray of water.
The most common sight in the park was the exotic birds. Namely, the storks. The storks here are ugly. Like some sort of bastard-child between a vulture and a naked mole rat, they were ironically the best models for photos – paying little heed to us humans and remaining mostly still.
On the road down coming back from the park, we had a flat tire. Our driver quickly jumped out and began changing it. I think he has superpowers, because it was changed within minutes. During the short time we were stopped the villagers gathered around to take in the spectacle. Some of the men helped change the tire, and a woman showed off her newborn baby. Others just observed.
We live across the street from the parliament buildings here. Today, on the walk back from work there was a large, curving rainbow in the sky ahead of us. At the bottom end sat the parliament. The building is full of bullet holes, and larger bits have been blown clear away by mortor shells. The damage received from fire during the civil war. Yet the rainbow, perfectly visible as it hung in the sky, remained untarnished.
May 11, 2006
— Women are from Venus
Living with three girls is weird.
Don’t get me wrong – Helen,
Susannah, and Laura are all fantastic, and have been very
helpful in my settling into my role in Rwanda here. Their
advice and concern for my well-being has been an invaluable
But still, girls are weird.
Yesterday, Susannah asked Laura if the
shirt she was wearing was the same one she’d worn the
first day of school. The answer was yes. Now I can’t
remember what shirt I wore yesterday – hell, I’m
lucky if the shirt I’m wearing right now isn’t
inside-out. And Susannah can remember a shirt her friend was
wearing on a day more than eight months ago? I suppose the
“shirt memory” section of the brain is just larger
Chocolate is another thing. Whenever a
chocolate bar is opened, the scene at the house is reminiscent
of a pack of wolves descending on their prey.
But I joke – the girls are great.
They always think of the small details that I might overlook,
and I really appreciate them.
I’m supposed to be writing about
Rwanda, I think, so back to that. Yesterday I interviewed
a local artist and wrote a profile story on him. I was sitting
in the newsroom, bored, and finally brainstormed this idea
to give myself a task. I marched down the street to the Kigali
Business Centre, and spoke some broken French to the person
working at the gallery to get the artist’s contact information.
I promptly phoned him and set up an interview time for later
in the day, and returned with Dean, the entertainment editor,
to help me with the interview.
It turned out to be an interesting story
– the artist has travelled to Germany and Los Angeles
to show his art and has lived around Great Lakes region of
Africa. He returned to Rwanda a month after the genocide and
now his art adorns the wall of some genocide memorials and
other government buildings. I love his art too, he uses sand,
ficas tree, and wood shavings combined with paper and paint
to create some very textured abstract canvasses.
The other day, I was sitting in the office
and working (or watching TV) and some workers came in and
starting hammering away at something. I figured they were
making some small repairs, perhaps fixing an electrical outlet.
Then they busted out saws and before I knew it the whole wall
adjacent to me was demolished. Now, the office is an open
space awaiting new partitions.
Today, I am writing about racism in sports
at the request of my editor. Our house has some plans in the
works to visit either the Gorillas or the savannah this weekend.
May 8, 2006 — 'GOOOOOAAAALLLL!!!'
Being among 30,000 screaming soccer
fans is quite the experience. Particularly when you
are right on the playing field’s edge; as I was taking
photos of the action for The New Times, I had to dodge a couple
of soccer balls that came flying my way.
Amahoro stadium (which I gather is Kigali’s
version of the Skydome) was used as a UN safe-zone for refugees
during the genocide. But now enthusiastic fans cheer on their
favourite soccer team. And they are enthusiastic – fans
of the zebra-stripe jersey military team would dress in skeleton
outfits, or as pirates. In each section of the stadium, there
is a horn player to rile up the crowd. The military has a
team in each of the major sports leagues here. That means
a high military presence at any sporting event featuring their
team. I saw them making their way to the stadium, piled into
the back of olive-green military transport trucks. During
one scuffle during the match, they streamed out into the field
– thankfully to break up the brawl, not to help their
Yesterday, I went for lunch with two other
guys from the newspaper. On the way back to the office, we
spotted a white man – his face round and red, tucked
under a beret – driving a large SUV. One of my colleagues
muttered “I hate those Belgians.” On further inquiry,
he elaborated: “They just watched people die during
the genocide… they could have stopped it so easily.”
Apparently there is still some bad blood between many Rwandans
and the Belgians – I have been told that during the
national day of mourning marking the anniversary of the genocide’s
beginning, the Belgians go into hiding.
I’ve noticed my fellow Rwanda-bloggers
are titling their posts with something more exciting than
“Day #” so I will follow suit.
Another note – if you are an intern
coming here later in the summer, there is just one thing you
should bring with you: a good shower.
May 6, 2006 — Day
3 in Rwanda
Settling into the newspaper has
gone as smoothly as can be imagined. My first morning
in the office, I approached the Sports desk about helping
out and I’m now up to my neck in Rwandan sport.
My reasoning for beginning at the Sports
desk is as follows: I know next to nothing about this country
aside from what I’ve read. I may not be able to tackle
emerging social issues, but I can understand a game of soccer.
(The social issues analytical feature has to wait for at least
Today I went to cover a volleyball game
with Julius, a regular New Times reporter. It was the furthest
I’ve ventured yet from my residence, involving two rides
in the public transportation here. That involves cramming
as many people as possible into a Volkswagon Westfalia sized
van and going. Have you ever seen the “way-to-many-clowns-to-fit-in-a-car-coming-out-of-that-car”
gag? This doesn’t fall too short.
The game was exciting – the two top
teams in the Rwandan league were facing off for top spot in
the standings. The players were incredibly skilled and the
game featured endless spikes, saves, and rallies. It was also
driven to the maximum five sets, with the winning team barely
eking out a victory. To keep score of the game, a fan of one
team counts their points, while a fan of the other team counts
the other team’s points. The score is made available
for all to see with markings on a chalk board. The spectators
crowd around the court, standing, and the referee often has
to stop the game to whistle at the crowd to move back. I should
point out the National University of Rwanda was the game’s
victor, and should now finish in first for the first of a
three phase season.
After Julius and I wrote the story, it
was time to head home. To complete my experience with different
forms of transportation for the day was a motorcycle-taxi.
It was a much smoother ride than I expected, and also much
cheaper than a conventional taxi would have been (I paid ~$0.80
USD). I might do it again, so long as the distance is no too
great and the roads not too bumpy.
You know the movie “Planes, Trains,
and Automobiles”? I could be the star of “Planes,
crowded vans, and motorcycle taxis.”
Tomorrow, I visit my first soccer game
in the country.
May 4, 2006 – Day
1 in Rwanda
Wow, what a day. After taking off from Toronto, it seemed like a short 23 hours before I reached my final destination. It was my first trans-Atlantic flight and I have to admit that with my combined anxiety and exhilaration, it was all I could do to maintain bowel control upon taking off from Pearson International Airport. Nonetheless, I persevered.
My nerves were calmed somewhat when I met Diane – Peter Bregg’s wife – at Heathrow Airport. Having a travel companion made me feel less isolated. She also was observant enough to point out we shared a plane with Adrienne Clarkson on the way to London.
It was also comforting to find Laura awaiting my arrival at the airport, which was right on schedule. From there, it was the start of a non-stop day. One of the first things I did upon arriving in Kigali was meeting the staff at The New Times – there must have been 30 of them in the building. They were all incredibly welcoming and friendly. One fellow even gave me an interesting compliment. “I wish I could be your size,” he said.
Experiencing the delirium of a six-hour jet lag at the same time as absorbing the sights and sounds of Kigali was close to overwhelming. The city seems to have a strikingly beautiful view at any location, with gently rolling hills leading to a mountain in the distance.
The two streets I walked on today were rather busy with pedestrians and cars. A troupe of three white people dodging amongst the traffic and weaving through the crowd, we drew a lot of stares. Younger children will shout greetings and giggle when you respond. Older children will pester you for money. People cram into mini-vans that serve as the city’s public transportation. In one parking lot, a drunk man lay unconscious in the dust.
I’m excited to start work at The New Times tomorrow. I think I’ll see if they need any help in the Sports section.