Thursday, February 25, 2010

French-Rwandan Relations

Sarkozy is in town, and French flags have sprouted all over Kigali to welcome him. I doubt I'll get anyting more than a glimpse of his car as it rides by (it will undoubtedly pass my house), but it's comforting as a French citizen to see that the two countries have officially renewed diplomatic relations. Even though I didn't vote for Sarkozy, I am definately glad to bear witness to this move he's making. It'll be intereting to hear what he says to Rwandan political leaders.

I'm definately not proud of what happened here in 94, and I know the past can't be buried. I'm sure a lot of people are still understanably very angry with France, but lets hope that this is a step in the right direction.

I'm not sure when the embassy will officially open, but I definately want to go! They're going to re-open the French school and my Belgian friends are telling me there's going to be a lot of rivalry between the Belgian school and the French school. I'm discretely rooting for the French school, of coure. I'll end this post with the official slogan, "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite"!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


So I just got back from 4 days in Uganda, and needless to say it was an awesome experience! I'm so sore from rafting I'd kill for a massage.

Having not left the country since my France trip back in August, I felt like it was high time I break out of Rwanda for a bit and see what else Africa has to offer. Living in a small country with few vacation days has been waring on me, and since I'll be crazy busy March until July with the theater festival (including and especially weekends) I felt like I needed to get Uganda done with a quickness.

I really like Uganda and wish I could have stayed a little longer. There's a lot to see there and the culture is pretty different from Rwanda. I saw people kiss in public (NEVER see that here), bump and grind in clubs, and witnessed more outgoing behavior in general. The Ugandans I met in the 4 short days I was there were outgoing and loud, in contrast with the quiet, more reserved Rwandans I know.

We (Emma and I) left for Uganda at the butt crack of dawn (6 AM) and arrived around 4:30 to Kampala. It was a hell of a long bus ride, but was bearable due to the scenery and fully charged ipod. Emma and I were really impressed with Kampala-we had no idea how big it was! It really felt like being in the United States: Big buildings (including the Sheraton hotel) wide sidewalks, and variety galore. I'm assuming Uganda does a lot more international trade, because there were definitely way more products than I could ever find in Rwanda. Shopping was a fun experience--there was just such a huge amount of clothes, shoes, everything! I'm not used to that. I really liked the hustle and bustle of the city, the noise, the livelyness, the well lit streets. Of course, I don't want to completely diss Rwanda. Rwanda's definitely cleaner, but I had been warned about this so I wasn't suprised by all the litter in Uganda. Also, people drive like maniacs there-every time I crossed a street I feared for me life! It's seriously unreal how many times it feels like you're going to be smashed by an oncoming vehicle.
The food wasn't that different, just more variety readily available, like watermellon, chicken and fish. I'm told that it's illegal to cook food for sale outside on the street in Rwanda-- when you're hungry you usually have to settle for tiny bags of peanuts, hardboiled eggs, or the occasional popcorn. It was nice to be able to walk down almost anywhere and find barbecued chicken, sausuage, and a variety of other items for cheap.

Emma and I were supposed to go rafting the next day with Nile River Explorers, but were unfortunately uninformed that the time zone in Uganda is one hour ahead of Rwanda. We woke up at what we though was 6 AM and were ready and waiting outside for Nile River Explorers to pick us up at 7 AM to take us to the campsite in Jinja. After waiting for a good 15 minutes a few of the other people staying at the hostel nicely informed us of the time difference. At first we were worried, since we didn't have much time to spare, and it would have been extremely expensive to rent a car to take us all the way to Jinja. We therefore postponed our rafting for another day, but since we'd reserved the campsite for that night, we decided to leave for Jinja that evening.
So we walked around Kampala, did some shopping at the huge markets, and went to the tombs of the kings and the kings palace. The tombs were kinda cool (even if you don't get to see the actual tombs, they're covered by a curtain and only family members can look), mostly just to meet the decendents of Ugandan royalty and learn more about Ugandan history. I definitely wouldn't recommend the king's palace, since you can't even go inside.
After looking for and failing to find Ugandan crafts, we jumped on a bus headed to Jinja. Jinja's a nice place with a cool nightlife as well. It also reminded me of America--of a nice, suburban neighborhood. The next day was the big day we'd been waiting for for so long! We got in the raft and the guide gave us safety instructions. With us in the boat were a Dutch couple, a Yastonian couple, and a 62 year old British woman. We had met her at the hostel in Kampala the day before and had convinced her to go rafting with us. She used to be a traveling photagrapher and now she writes for guidebooks in Africa. I love meeting people like her because it lets me know that when I'm that age, I can still travel the world and do all the same things I do now. I hate when people use age as an excuse to not do things. People who don't travel don't do it either for lack of funds, fear, or medical problems. Everything else is just an excuse in my opinion. I love bouncing around from place to place, seeing new countries, discovering new cultures and trying different adrenalin-filled activities. Hopefully I'll be able to do that periodically throughout my life.
After hearing how terrifying rafting on the Nile was from several people, I was a little dissapointed. 70% of the time was spent just rowing, and the rest involved rapids (most of which were not that intense), and a few minutes of swimming. It could be due to the wheater-it was raining so they may have felt they had to keep us warm. The most fun part of rafting was falling out of the boat. The very last rapid was pretty intense and all of us flew out. I let the river water bounce me and move me wherever it pleased-it was like a water park. I would love to take a day and just swim down that part of the Nile (with kayakers there for safety of course).

Our last night in Kampala we went clubbing with some people we met. Kigali is quiet on the weekends-there are 3 clubs and they all equally suck. Kampala has so many different clubs with really good DJs. I haven't gotten clubbing out of my system, I just have no desire to dance if I'm not feeling my surroundings.
The bus ride back took about 12 hours due to two accidents on the road. Both times, we were in stand still traffic for over an hour a piece. The roads weren't that bad, but I guess accidents there are pretty common. It really is tragic. I spent that time walking around, talking to people, buying food, playing with kids, peeing on the side of the road, and reading. It felt like a lifetime.
I definately want to go back to Uganda, and spend a good week or more there to get a real feel of the country. I highly recommend it to anyone.