Just paid my VISA bill online. We can do it from Anywhere!!! That particular bill will disappear soon, however, as there are so few places here that one can use plastic. And sometimes a pretty hefty fee is attached to using it. Now it's cash time, and BTW I am out of it!! I am still awaiting my first wire transfer and I'm getting a little concerned. Unfortunately, today is a holiday here (The Feast of the Assumption, I think) so my bank isn't even open.
I've actually had to open two bank accounts here. The Clinton people struck a deal with Access Bank so that some of the usual fees were waived, and there is only a $2.00 fee on this end of a wire transfer. That is where I will keep most of my money. However, by the end of last week the CHAI folks realized I had no way to get cash when I am in Byumba, as the Bank of Kigali is the only one that operates there. So I opened an account there so I can obtain cash at a cash station in Byumba--at a cash station that is frequently out of order and for which I must pay a fee for each transaction!!
I thought I would try to record for you some random observations from about town. I do not mean any of them to be derogatory, but just what I have observed with my biased American eyes:
Little boys like to touch my hands and arms! I have now had two occasions on which a young boy (6-9) has sidled up to me and either taken my hand or stroked my arm. They are grinning from ear to ear when they do it. I can only guess that they want to see what my skin feels like, but it may have some other connotations as well. I've talked to one other nurse here to which a similar thing has happened. I imagine since I am a short and old white woman I may be less threatening to the children. I am now waiting to see if a girl will approach me!
Being a pedestrian in Kigali is literally taking one's life into one's hands. I have described the speed and density of the traffic, and note that everyone in a car or moto-taxi drives with one hand on the horn thus making it quite noisy. And I've told you how I jump when I am in a car and see many near misses. Yesterday I had the "opportunity" to walk from Access Bank to Bank of Kigali in the busiest part of the downtown shopping area--about 3-4 blocks each way (I can never tell what a "block" is here, as the streets all curve and there are rarely any intersections as I know them.) That was the most terrifying walk of my life so far! First, sidewalks are a sometime thing. You may be walking along one when it suddenly disappears into a construction site, or just stops. I have to look down constantly to insure my footing as there are many irregularities in the streets, curbs, and sidewalks. So I was looking down yesterday and almost got my head removed by a guy carrying two big four x eight sheets of wood on his head amidst all the pedestrians. He obviously thought everyone should be looking out for him rather than the other way around! There are also few traffic lights, and I have observed that they are only slightly attended to by the drivers. Running a red light is a common activity, at least among those who have driven my rides. This is all to say that pedestrians are on their own in crossing any street. It is much like it was in China; before you take the next step, look around 360 degrees as someone is surely coming at you from some direction! I am hoping upon hope that Byumba will be a little less dangerous; however I think the same rules will apply.
In Rwanda, people are the beasts of burden. I have watched at a few construction sites to see men slowly pushing huge carts full of bricks. (No cranes to lift the bricks up.) In the market men balance what look like 100 lb. sacks of rice on their heads. The human head is the most common means of conveying loads and sometimes I can hardly believe what is balanced up there.
The women who wear traditional dress set a fanciful variety of hats on their heads to match the dresses. The hats are made of the same fabric as the dresses and are folded or tied in unusual shapes. I hope to learn how to create some of those hats while here.
One final bit of information. If my $$ ever get here, I will be moved to Byumba; I am hoping that will still be this week. I will have about a week to get settled in my home. Then on Sat., 8/25, everyone on the project who is actually in Rwanda will gather in Kigali again--around 70 of us. Saturday is a community work day in which the whole country participates--The fourth Saturday every month. Then the 26th -29th, they will put us up in a place yet to be determined for the big general orientation. Once that is over, we officially go to work. There will still be some stragglers coming in after the orientation. Also, I'm finding that some folks are not staying the entire year. I do not know if replacements will come in their stead or not. That is not my concern. I will be glad finally to settle into my role and begin the work.
Enough for this time.