East Africa Day 15 – Rwanda (Kigali)

No joy from Access Bank when I tried to get my money over the counter from my credit card.  My email from DBS confirmed the fact – I can’t draw cash out with a Master Debit card.  No ATMs accept my cards.  Reluctantly, I would have to leave Rwanda sooner than expected.  I met Tabitha for coffee and told her that I would be leaving.  She was disappointed, and tried in vain to phone friends working in banks to do me favours.  It was no use.  I’d already been to the bus station and booked a seat on the 7:30am Jaguar Express Bus to Kampala.  Still, she invited me to her friend Sheila’s house for tea later.

We were joined for coffee by her friend, who was due to marry a Rwandan guy, and had moved from the US to Kigali for love.  Nice – but I thought I’d never make such a sacrifice, unless my heart told me too.  After yet more coffee – I spent more time in Bourbon coffee than anywhere else – Tabitha and I went back to my hotel as I needed to get changed before heading to a Rwandan home for dinner.

One of Tabitha’s friends picked us up and took us up and down some hills and out into the suburbs of Kigali.  We arrived at Sheila’s house – a lovely big home set behind an imposing gate with leafy gardens in a nice area of Kigali.  Tabitha’s uncle, Steve, was there, his wife, Sheila from Bourbon coffee, and a later a couple of young American guys who were volunteering at schools.  I felt a tremendous respect for Tabitha and her 2 friends.  They were helping to make a difference to the lives of many Rwandans.  Tabitha worked in a centre for children with AIDS, giving injections and teaching them.  The American guys worked in an orphanage too.  All these kindly, selfless souls, living in hostels and working only to help.  I felt small in their presence – who then was I?  Some young man working for the cultural outreach programme of the British government in a centre called the British Council – itself a charity, but only one that the richest could afford to be schooled at.  What did I do to help people?  Why am I wasting my time teaching spoilt, rich kids, when I could be helping the underprivileged?  These were some of the questions the situation forced upon me.  I had nothing to be proud of.  I have taken much, but given little.  Being in Africa gets you thinking like that.

African tea was served with cookies in the spacious living room, with a large wooded table in the middle, and the TV in the corner.  We all gathered around chatting to each other.  It was nice.  Homely.  I really like Kigali, its people and its little aid worker and NGO communities.

I left by car and was dropped off at my hotel.  I went to the bar downstairs and had a small Primus and some fried plantain, as I hadn’t had any ‘proper’ dinner.  ‘Destroyed in Seconds’ was on the small TV. Typical trash, along the line of ‘When Nature Fights Back’ or ‘When Disaster Strikes!’  The World’s Strongest Man was next.  It was just me and 5 African guys drinking Primus, nobody talking, all transfixed with the challenges on World’s Strongest Man.  I felt a little detached, so went to bed, very disappointed I had to leave the next day.

Author: Neil

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