After months of anticipation and a hectic week of packing, Meli and I are finally in Rwanda, “the land of a thousand hills.”
Kigali is a beautiful city – well, perhaps more of a large village. The nights are cool, days warm and sunny. People are smiley, kind and (coming from Asia) very tall. I’ve already found my fruit lady at the market down the street. I should graph fruit prices: I am confident that as my level of Kinyarwanda increases, mango and passionfruit prices will decrease.
From our balcony I like to watch the graceful white-bellied birds circle the valley and the small, curious blue ones bounce around in our garden. I’ve never seen more or such a diversity of birds in an urban area.
Coffee is strong, delicious and plentiful: a perfect accompaniment to bird watching.
The small plaster buildings have bright, hand-painted signs and drawings. It reminds me of Mexico.
Lonely Planet quips, “In Kigali, It is a sorry child indeed who’s given a bicycle as a gift…Unless you have the inclination of a goat and thighs of a mountain gorilla, jump on a moto.” Even in my crazy Cardamom Mountain cycling days, my thighs never progressed much beyond spanish mastiff. However, I will take on a goat any day.
Today I woke up early and tried to bargain at the market for a secondhand bicycle named “Strongerman.” It is, the seller proudly announced, from China. It weighed as much as a vintage American car, though, so I declined. The hunt continues.
Demoralized, I hopped on a moto-taxi to go buy our trekking permits to see the mountain gorillas later this month. I’ve been riding and driving motorbikes for nearly ten years, but I can now see why my wife (who works at the US Embassy) is barred from riding them. The name of the game is acceleration, whether uphill or down. The goal is to be close enough to smell fellow drivers and to lean as steeply as possible when rounding traffic circles (like a MotoGP racer). I decided that my humble bicycle helmet was insufficient protection when the jet stream from a passing minibus nearly twisted it sideways.
I am wrapping up one consulting project, which affords me the privilege of a bit of free time. Free time can be a scary thing – I often rush to fill it as quickly as possible with more work, cycling trips, or what-have-you. Based on the advice of a friend (encapsulated in the poem below), though, I’ll be thinking a bit more deeply about how I want to use this gift.
If you have time to chatter
If you have time to read
Walk into mountain, desert and ocean
If you have time to walk
Sing songs and dance
If you have time to dance
Sit quietly, you Happy Lucky Idiot
-Nanao Sakaki (1923-2008) from How to Live on the Planet Earth