Saturday, August 4, 2012

First days in Rwanda

August 3, 2012, Kigali, Rwanda

Greetings from Rwanda! I'm sitting in my bedroom in my apartment in Kigali trying to cope with very slow internet. But at least I now have internet and a cell phone on which I can make calls anywhere. I'm sharing the apt. with two physicians, one an Internist and one a Pediatrician. The apartment is quite large and there is room for all our bags in our bedrooms. We will be here for two weeks or less, depending on when we can move into our housing.

Jeff Williams and family from Champaign/Urbana, myself, and Tina Anselmi, a midwife from Baltimore, and her family flew into Kigali, Rwanda from Amsterdam on Thursday evening, 8/2. Immediately, one of my bags was lost! Turns out the young man loading my baggage into the waiting van did not put it in with all my other bags. It got left sitting in the airport parking lot. Fortunately, either an airport police or some very honest citizen took it back into the airport where I picked it up from the Lost and Found late yesterday afternoon. It was the bag with almost all my clothing in it and I was thankful and elated that I found it.

After 16 hours in two airplanes, I was beat when we arrived. All I wanted was to get horizontal and sleep, and that is what I got to do. I slept very well, too. Upon arising yesterday, I dressed and went for a walk. People seemed very friendly and returned my greetings. Some did a little wave right beside their faces. An elder woman walked toward me, stopped me, shook my hand, and chatted in Kinyarwanda, seemingly oblivious to the fact that I could not understand her. Eventually, she finished what she had to say, shook my hand again, and we walked on in opposite directions. I like to think she was greeting me as one elder woman to another and saying, "Isn't it a fine day to be in good health and to be out and about."

The project is paying for us to have breakfast at a nice hotel next door to the apts. It is a lovely buffet with made-to-order omelettes and nice crepes, fresh fruit, etc. We are on our own for food the rest of the day. Last night all the recruits who are here now and their families went out to eat Ethiopian food. We had a big table and about 24 people. Good food and lots of laughter. The kids who are here are a great bunch from a three-yr.-old up through high school. I'm really enjoying them.

Yesterday during the day we were taken by van and driver to shop for all necessary electronics so we could set up our computers, phones, etc. We also each opened a bank account. We can only deposit or withdraw US dollars, then we go somewhere else to get them changed into francs, the currency here. Of course you get many franks for each USD. I have two big stacks of francs here. We were assisted yesterday by one of the Clinton Health Access staff members, Simon. Simon is doing a two-year fellowship with Clinton Health Access. He knows Kigali well and speaks both English and Kinyarwanda, the local lingua franca. It seems most people speak Kinyarwanda, so I think I am more interested in pursuing that than more French. Anyway, Simon could communicate for us when salespeople could not speak English and he did a great deal of the purchasing work. I just had to keep handing him more francs!!

Kigali is set within a nest of interlocking hills. It is not like any other city I've seen. The vegetation is probably subtropical and reminds me of Southern California or Charleston, S.C.: different types of palm trees, many bright flowers, and lots of bougainvillea. When I was walking yesterday AM, there were lots of women street sweepers out cleaning the streets and sidewalks. That reminded me of China.
I really would not want to have to drive here--pretty scary like China, also. And lots of motor scooters. Rveryone wears a helmet. I do not see entire families riding on one motor scooter with limbs dangling everywhere as I did in China and Jakarta. I am anxious to get out to see more of the city. Oh, and the weather has been lovely. It seems there is usually a breeze and the temps have been mostly in the 70s. I can easily take this for a year!

One very nice thing happened yesterday. Jerome Bushumbusho, the director of the nursing school where I will work, was in Kigali for a meeting. Simon invited him to join us for our shopping. Jerome and I had an excellent visit and the upshot is that I will go to Byumba to see my house and the campus of the school on Monday. I quickly got a lesson from the Passport officer at the airport on how to pronounce Byumba correctly. It should be pronounced, beyumba, and the "be" is elided together with the "yum" so that it is pronounced as one syllable.

Today I have just rested. There was nothing in particular planned except breakfast so I have napped, read, and tried to get e-mail downloaded with only some success. I really needed the time out. I expect tomorrow to be pretty much the same. I'm convinced that not all of me has arrived here yet. I hope the rest gets here soon!

My best to whomever reads this.


  1. Wonderful to see your pictures with President Clinton. Hello to you Carrol from my part of the world!

  2. So good to hear you arrived safe and sound. Your weather certainly is better than the 104 I've had to put up with for the past week. I cannot wait for Fall at this rate! Kigali sounds amazing. I am glad you have found it friendly and welcoming.

  3. It is good to hear that you have some rest. I will follow your blog and send you many good thoughts. Take Care G'Ma

  4. I love this story of the elder woman who greeted you. Awesome. Hope you post some pictures at some point! The area sounds beautiful and friendly!

  5. Hi, Carrol! Glad you made it safely! I'll try and keep up with all your adventures! Best, liz

  6. Hi Carrol, What a relief it must have been when that bag was found! I will enjoy reading about your adventures! Peggy